Over the centuries, some State of the Union addresses have proposed ideas that continue to influence American life.
The Top 6
1. The Monroe Doctrine (Dec. 2, 1823)
a written message to Congress, President James Madison warns Europe to
stay out of the political affairs of the Western Hemisphere
"We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations
existing between the United States and those (European) powers to
declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend
their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace
2. Gold in California (Dec. 5, 1848)
James Polk helps trigger the California gold rush - "the '49ers" - by
broadcasting the valuable discovery in a written message to Congress.
"It was known that mines of the precious metals existed to a
considerable extent in California at the time of its acquisition. Recent
discoveries render it probable that these mines are more extensive and
valuable than was anticipated."
3. The Civil War (Dec. 1, 1862)
President Abraham Lincoln, in a written message, eloquently outlines the stakes of the then-raging Civil War.
"Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and
this Administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No
personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us.
The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or
dishonor to the latest generation ... In giving freedom to the slave we
assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give and what
we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of
4. The Four Freedoms (Jan. 6, 1941)
months before Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tells
Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan that the United States will stand up for
freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom
Quote: "In the future days, which we seek to make
secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human
5. The War on Poverty (Jan. 8, 1964)
President Lyndon Johnson previews a raft of social legislation to be known as the Great Society.
Quote: "This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America."
6. Axis of Evil (Jan. 29, 2002)
year before the invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush sends an
unmistakable warning to Saddam Hussein, as well as the leaders of Iran
and North Korea.
Quote: "States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world."