President Donald Trump will deliver his 2020 State of the Union address on Tuesday, which senior members of his administration are calling a “relentlessly optimistic” speech geared towards working families. Whatever Trump’s goal is for this year’s speech, viewers of the previous year’s address most likely can’t help but think back to the president taking his time speaking to the nation in 2019.
Trump now famously spoke for a record 82 minutes in 2019, and this was the longest State of the Union address since former President Bill Clinton addressed the country back in 2000 for 89 minutes. So, with over two centuries of presidents under this country’s belt, who had the longest State of the Union address in history? That honor goes to former President Jimmy Carter, who, in 1981, sent a written State of the Union Address; it clocked in at 33,667 words and was the final address of his presidential career.
Although Clinton's 89 minutes count as the longest speech, Carter's, erm, wordy address is still counted as historically the longest. In his SOTU, Carter spoke on a slew of topics at length, from health care cost control to a commitment to nuclear safety and security, leading to his substantially long address.
With each State of the Union address varying in length and presentation over time, the only hard and fast rule that each address sticks to, according to the House of Representatives’ History, Art & Archives, is that each address must also include a Budget Message and an Economic Report. There's also no specific allotted amount of time that the President is confined to when delivering the SOTU. Many estimate that on average, the speech takes about an hour, but this factors in introductions and applause.
Each State of the Union address has changed year-to-year, from Calvin Coolidge’s radio broadcast of his address in 1923 to George W. Bush’s webcast of his address in 2002. All article II, section 3, clause 1 of the Constitution states is that the president “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.”
As for the shortest State of the Union address? At only 1,089 words, it was delivered by George Washington in 1790, the first full year of his presidency. Perhaps we can forgive this one for it's brevity, though it seems that the precedent Washington set back in the day has certainly morphed into an hour-and-a-half speaking contest in decades since.
Knowing Trump’s track record of speaking at length not only during the 2019 address, but during his many rallies, there’s no chance we’ll see another speech of that length during the rest of his presidency. In any case, tune in at 9pm EST to hear what Trump has to say about the impeachment, the caucus conundrum, and everything in between.