From Johnson to Trump: Compare their first State of the Union speeches

by Carrie Dann /  / Updated 
Image: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Jim Wright
President Ronald Reagan holds up a 14-pound continuing resolution for the budget as Vice President George H.W. Bush, from left, and House Speaker James Wright of Texas listen behind him during his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill on January 25, 1988 in Washington.Bob Daugherty / AP file

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Of all the speeches given by presidents of the United States, their State of the Union addresses are among the most meticulously planned and exhaustively analyzed. Their language is meant not only to tout an administration’s accomplishments and lay out a laundry list of priorities for the future, but also to build a narrative about that president’s legacy and role in American history.

So, we can learn a lot from the words that each president emphasizes when they address Congress. For example, George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech in the months after the 9/11 terror attacks included a hefty dose of words like “weapons,” “security” and “terror” — and an even greater focus than unusual on the unifying concept of “America.”

In 1994, when Bill Clinton gave his first official State of the Union address, the words “health” and “care” stood out, as well as an emphasis on “people.” This year, Donald Trump's first State of the Union address was added to the mix.

Use the tool below to compare the most frequently used words for selected presidents in their first official State of the Union address.

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