On Jan. 8, 1790, George Washington stood before a joint session of Congress to deliver the nation’s first State of the Union address. In his speech, Washington reflected on the first year of his presidency and laid out his policies for the still-new United States. In so doing, he set the tone for all future presidents to discuss pressing domestic and foreign issues of the day and promote policy ideas to combat those problems.
At the heels of President Obama’s final State of the Union address, here’s a look at the history of the speech along with its various traditions and rituals.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly implied that John F. Kennedy was the first president to use the term, “My Fellow Americans.”