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2019 State of the Union address: What you need to know

State of the Union address history, designated survivor, notable addresses

What is the State of the Union address?

The State of the Union address is an annual speech by the president to a joint session of Congress. Including President Donald Trump’s first address last year, there have been 95 addresses, according to the U.S. House of Representatives archive.

When is the 2019 State of the Union address?

Trump's second address was initially scheduled for Jan. 29 in the House of Representatives but after a back-and-forth between the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for weeks, amid a partial government shutdown, the two agreed on Feb. 5, 2019, as the new State of the Union address.

How to watch the address

Live coverage and real-time analysis of the speech begins at 9 p.m. ET on NBC and 8 p.m. ET on MSNBC. Other major network and cable channels will also be airing the speech, in addition to social media platforms. A live stream will be available on

Why do presidents give State of the Union addresses?

The address fulfills Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, which requires the president to periodically “give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

Initially, the annual messages included information on various budget requests and general reports on the health of the economy.

In 1913, Woodrow Wilson revived tradition by delivering the speech live to Congress, instead of in writing, giving the president a platform for presenting an agenda and rallying support for it in Congress.

As technology advanced, first in radio and then television, the address became a way for the president to speak directly to the American people.

How long is a State of the Union address?

There is no specified length, but some presidents have spoken longer than others. Bill Clinton holds the record for the longest State of the Union address, his last in 2000, at 1 hour, 29 minutes, according to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. (He also made the second longest, in 1995, at 1 hour, 25 minutes.) The shortest since 1966 was Richard Nixon's in 1972, at just under 29 minutes, according to the project.

Who attends the State of the Union?

Members of Congress, of course, and Supreme Court justices, if they choose to. The president may also issue special invitations, a practice that began with Ronald Reagan in 1982.

This year, two Democratic members of Congress will be bringing undocumented individuals to the address. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., invited Victorina Morales, an undocumented worker who was fired from one of Trump's golf clubs. Jin Park, the first DACA recipient to receive a Rhodes scholarship, will also attend as a guest of Rep. Grace Meng D-N.Y.

Other guests will include the wife of a California man detained in Vietnam since July, who will be accompanied by Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., in an effort to bring light to the detention of U.S. citizens in Vietnam.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be bringing Ana Maria Archila, a woman who infamously confronted Sen. Jeff Flake in the elevator during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The former governor of Florida, Sen. Rick Scott, is reported to be bringing the father of a student who was killed in the 2018 school shooting in Parkland - in an attempt to address the issue of gun violence in the U.S.

On Monday, at least four Democratic members of Congress announced they will be bringing transgender service members or veterans to draw attention to president's transgender military ban.

Notable addresses

1923: Calvin Coolidge gives the first radio broadcast.

1947: Harry Truman gives the first television broadcast.

1974: Nixon speaks addresses Congress at the height of the Watergate investigation.

“I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and other investigations of this matter to an end,” Nixon said. “One year of Watergate is enough.”

Nixon resigned that August.

1982: Reagan, in his first State of the Union, remarked on the historical significance by quoting the first address by George Washington and making a joke at the news media's expense.

“For our friends in the press who place a high premium on accuracy, let me say, I did not actually hear George Washington say that,” Reagan said.

2002: George W. Bush gives his first address, four months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

What is a designated survivor?

The person next in the presidential line of succession in the event both the vice president and the president are unable to serve (because of illness, death, etc.).

The designated survivor is taken to a distant, secure and undisclosed location during events at which others in the line of succession gather in one place, like a presidential inauguration or a State of the Union address. This protocol is mandated by the Presidential Succession Act of 1792.

Who is this year's designated survivor?

His or her identify is not usually revealed until hours before the address, but it is usually a Cabinet member. Last year, it was Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.