State of the Union, by the numbers
Jimmy Carter’s 1981 State of the Union address holds the record for lengthiest speech, in terms of words – it had 33,667 of them. That’s only about 10,000 words shy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby.” President Obama’s 2014 speech was a relatively concise 6,989 words. George Washington’s 1790 address holds the record for the speech with the fewest words, 1,089.
In 1923, Calvin Coolidge’s State of the Union address was the first broadcast on the radio. The New York Times predicted that Coolidge’s voice “will be heard by more people than the voice of any man in history.”
Since George Washington’s inaugural speech in 1790, a total of 228 State of the Unions have been delivered. Some were delivered in the form of letters, not speeches. Thomas Jefferson was the first president to present a State of the Union in a letter format, with some historians claiming that Jefferson believed in-person delivery too closely resembled a British monarch addressing parliament and others attributing the outcome to his shyness.
Of the proposals delivered during a speech, 43.3 percent, on average, actually are enacted during the following year, according to data collected from 1965 to 2002. But the actual legislative success varies from year to year.
Since 1972, presidents have mainly worn colored ties along a blue spectrum. Over the ensuing years, the American public has witnessed 26 State of the Unions in which a president has worn a tie in shades of blue and 16 in shades of red. President Clinton must have missed the memo on colored neckwear, pulling off a dark and yellow polka dot number in 1998.
Marketplace live coverage of the 2015 State of the Union address:
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