The State of the Union address is a constitutional requirement… Article 1; Section 3- He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient…
The speech varies from executive monotony to… rousing patriotic oratory. Lincoln declared the Civil War had to be won to preserve the “last, best hope of earth” and Franklin Roosevelt reminded the free world of its “Four Freedoms.”
“We cannot escape history…”
Today, the speech is more spectacle than requisite… the purpose is more political than constitutional. Bill Clinton is the modern record holder, averaging over 1 hour and 14 minutes per speech. All but one of Barack Obama’s were over an hour. (Washington’s first message is acknowledged as the shortest, just over 1,000 words.) Thomas Jefferson had all eight of his hand delivered to Congress; Woodrow Wilson was the first President to address Congress directly. The last President not to give a speech was Jimmy Carter in January of 1981. Donald Trump’s should be an event made for television amidst a presidency too easily confused for reality programming.