State of the Union Famous Firsts: Washington to Obama

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama will fulfill his constitutional obligation to “give to the Congress information on the State of the Union.” The format of the State of the Union address has evolved over time. In the electronic age, the evening of the President’s message is an opportunity to rally support for policy items, a forum to honor heroes and equal time for the opposition party to level a response.

Published Jan. 27, 2014

Photos: Dirksen and Ford photos Library of Congress; Bush and Obama photos by Bloomberg, all other presidential portraits by White House.

Sources: The American Presidency Project at UC Santa Barbara, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, The White House, Congressional Research Service

GRAPHIC: DAVE MERRILL / BLOOMBERG VISUAL DATA