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10 Most Pivotal State of the Union Addresses -- PICTURES 10 Most Pivotal State of the Union Addresses -- PICTURES

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2012 State of the Union

10 Most Pivotal State of the Union Addresses -- PICTURES

January 20, 2012

Not all State of the Union addresses -- either in whole or in part -- have been memorable, effective in promoting the president's policies, or game-changing in some other way.

But some have. Below we list 10 State of the Union addresses, arranged chronologically, that are noteworthy, based in part on information from RealClearPolitics.

1790: A constitutional provision requires the president to give Congress information on the state of the union "from time to time." George Washington set the precedent of presidents giving an annual report to Congress either in person or in writing. [full text](AP Photo/National Portrait Gallery)

1823: Many of the policies presidents propose during their State of the Union addresses are soon forgotten. However, James Monroe's address in which he warned European powers to stay out of western hemisphere affairs gave us "the Monroe Doctrine," which still plays a role in U.S. foreign policy and thinking. [full text](National Archives)

1862: Early in the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln used this State of the Union address to explicitly link the abolition of slavery with the war and the preservation of the Union. [full text](National Archives)

 

1913: To make his first State of the Union address, Woodrow Wilson was the first president since John Adams to go to Congress to read his report in person. A century earlier, Thomas Jefferson, who felt that making the address in person was too monarchical, submitted his in writing, a practice that following presidents continued until 1912. [full text](AP Photo/Keystone/File)

1941: At the start of his third term in office, and less than a year before the U.S. entered World War II, Franklin Roosevelt used his speech to outline what he termed the four human freedoms: freedom of speech and expression; freedom of worship; freedom from want; and freedom from fear. The speech inspired Norman Rockwell (right) to paint his Four Freedoms series. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas (left) and Treasury Undersecretary Daniel W. Bell admire the artist's work Freedom of Speech. [full text](AP Photo)

1947: Although few Americans owned television sets yet, those who did have access to one had an opportunity to see the first televised State of the Union speech delivered by Harry Truman. [full text](AP Photo)

 

1965: Some State of the Union addresses contain provisions that seem almost designed to be forgotten the next day. Lyndon Johnson's speech, though, outlined the principles that would be dubbed the "Great Society" and is notable for the programs later enacted, including Medicaid and Medicare. [full text](AP Photo)

1975: Gerald Ford's first State of the Union address was notable for being the first one after Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in the wake of the Watergate scandal -- but also for Ford's straightforwardness. He noted that the "state of the Union is not good," a position he held based on a $30 billion deficit and a $500 billion federal debt, among other examples. [full text](AP Photo)

1996: At the start of an election year following a GOP takeover of Congress, Bill Clinton started out his speech by noting that the "era of big government is over," which he qualified by saying that "we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves." Later that year, he signed legislation to reform welfare and won reelection. [full text](AP Photo/White House)

 

2002: George W. Bush outlined the principles that would define a decade of war and counterterrorism actions following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In the his address, he labeled North Korea, Iran, and Iraq "the axis of evil." [full text](AP Photo/Luke Frazza, Pool)

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