State of the Union Address
The State of the Union Address is an annual address in which the President of the United States speaks to a joint session of Congress (consisting of both the Senate and the House of Representatives) on the status of the nation.
Article II, Section 3 of the United States Constitution states: "He [the President] shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." There is no specific format as to how this information must be presented to Congress: for most of the early portion of American history, the requirement was fulfilled in writing. The current tradition of an actual speech before Congress began in 1913 with Woodrow Wilson. With the advent of national radio, and later national television, the Address is used as an opportunity to outline the President's policy proposals for the coming year. Beginning in 1966, the tradition of a rebuttal from the political party opposing that of the President started; it immediately follows the Address and is also nationally broadcast.
More recent traditions include attendance by members of the United States Supreme Court along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the President's Cabinet. One Cabinet member (the "designated survivor") is notably absent from the Address, taken to an undisclosed location in the event of an attack killing the President, Vice President, and all persons in the line of succession.
Obama's 2011 Speech
Barack Hussein Obama's speech was unique in that it was judged to be lacking facts. Three Supreme Court justices refused to attend what they called a politicized "pep rally". Obama failed to adequately address the nation's crushing debt burden and from the time he spoke until the time he finished, the national debt clock moved an additional $100 million in the red.