John F Kennedy giving a state of the union address
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BBC Archive: State of the Union addresses through the ages

The State of the Union address has given US presidents through the years an opportunity to communicate to the nation.

Abraham Lincoln spoke of the need to free slaves. The longest-serving president, Franklin D Roosevelt outlined four essential human freedoms - freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear - to make a case for more global involvement as World War 2 raged in Europe.

Richard Nixon tried to use the State of the Union to dismiss the importance of Watergate but his successor, Gerald Ford, spoke of the poor state of the nation thanks to Watergate and its fallout.

Presidents Clinton and Bush have used it as an opportunity not only to outline their plans for the future but to reflect on the true state of the nation as they see it.

On Tuesday night, Barack Obama will deliver his final State of the Union to the US.

Produced by Ciaran Daly

  • 12 Jan 2016
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