Things You May Not Know About the State of the Union

Tonight at 9 p.m., millions of Americans will gather around their television sets to view history in the making. Granted, 50% of the audience will likely stem from the "American Idol" lead-in, but they’ll hopefully stick around to watch President Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Address. In related news, here are some interesting facts about the history of the speech, courtesy of CQ Politics:

The State of the Union is steeped in ceremony, but the tradition has changed quite a bit over the years.

As Congress prepares to hear President Obama’s first address this Wednesday, here are some facts to lift the curtain on this annual tradition:

  • The president’s annual message has its origins in the Constitution and was modeled after a British tradition.
  • Senators are seated towards the front of the House chamber. Only Congressional leaders and the administration can bring guests.
  • Thomas Jefferson broke with tradition to deliver his address in writing. Subsequent presidents followed suit until Woodrow Wilson delivered his 1913 message in person.
  • Harry S. Truman delivered the first televised speech in 1947. George W. Bush’s 2002 speech was the first to be streamed live online.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson moved the speech from daytime to the evening to increase television viewership. Over the years, presidents have tailored their speeches more towards the American public than simply to Congress.
  • Along with one member of the president’s Cabinet, two Members of the House and Senate skip the event should tragedy hit during the event. The tradition of lawmakers staying back started after the 9/11 attacks.