Word Cloud

Before Obama's address to Congress, The Daily Beast wondered what the 20 top State of the Union speeches of the past century would look like as Word Clouds. View our gallery.

StreibL

StreibL

Woodrow Wilson

December 4, 1917
3,918 words
28 minutes (est.)
America was more than six months into World War I when Woodrow Wilson, the first modern president to turn the State of the Union into a speech rather than a written report, addressed Congress for the fifth time, and it shows in Wilson’s words: German, War, Peace, and Purpose loom large.

StreibL

Warren G. Harding

December 8, 1922
5,745 words
39 minutes (est.)
Where would the country head after World War I? Warren G. Harding had a vision for normalcy, a return to life before the war, which in practice meant a federal program to expand the nation’s highways, a conciliatory attitude toward labor groups, support for anti-lynching legislation, and a “Voyage of Understanding” in 1923 that saw an ailing Harding attempt to reconnect with Americans and become the first president to visit Alaska and Canada.

StreibL

Calvin Coolidge

December 6, 1923
6,703 words
48 minutes (est.)
For a president who advocated for smaller government, Calvin Coolidge sure let Government play a prominent role in his first State of the Union address. This speech by “Silent Cal”—so called for being a man of few words in private—was the first to be broadcast nationally on the radio.

StreibL

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

January 3, 1934
2,230 words
16 minutes (est.)
Still lurching out of the Great Depression, Roosevelt provided guidance on how citizens could find jobs and, most of all, how they could come together and recover as a nation from a devastating economic crisis whose repercussions were still felt.

StreibL

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

January 6, 1942
3,511 words
25 minutes (est.) 

This speech, one of the most significant State of the Union addresses ever, took place just a month after Pearl Harbor as evidenced by the dominant word of the speech: WAR.

StreibL

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

January 7, 1943
4,588 words
33 minutes (est.)
More war talk, but this time, the word clouds reflect the arsenal of democracy’s transformation into the world’s industrial superpower.

StreibL

Harry S. Truman

January 9, 1952
5,368 words
39 minutes (est.)
After entering the U.S. in the Korean War in 1950, Truman’s eighth and final State of the Union address emphasized war—and peace.

StreibL

Dwight D. Eisenhower

January 9, 1958
4,929 words
35 minutes (est.)
A few months after Sputnik, Ike’s sixth State of the Union address reflected the Cold War.

StreibL

John F. Kennedy

January 11, 1962
6,573 words
48 minutes (est.)
America’s dashing young president exemplified all that was exciting about the still-new decade in his second State of the Union address.

StreibL

Lyndon B. Johnson

January 8, 1964
3,208 words
23 minutes (est.)
Just two months after the assassination of JFK, Lyndon B. Johnson was about to embark on the most extensive legislative agenda of the past 50 years. Tellingly, the overbearing “Johnson Treatment” came through in this speech, and in one word: “Must.”

StreibL

Lyndon B. Johnson

January 12, 1966
5,547 words
50 minutes
The Vietnam War escalates—and eventually takes down Johnson’s presidency.

StreibL

Richard M. Nixon

January 30, 1974
5,170 words
42 minutes
At the height of Watergate, one world was barely mentioned: Watergate. “I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough,” Nixon said, in the second of two Watergate mentions in this speech. Six months later, Nixon left the White House permanently.

StreibL

Gerald Ford

January 15, 1975
4,130 words
41 minutes
“The state of the union is not good,” Gerald Ford, The Accidental President, said in his first State of the Union address. Besides Watergate fallout and inflation, America was caught between two energy crises.

StreibL

Jimmy Carter

January 23, 1980
3,423 words
32 minutes
When Carter gave this address in 1980, Americans were reeling from the Iranian hostage crisis, as well as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which Carter called “the most serious threat to peace since the Second World War.”

StreibL

Ronald Reagan

January 26, 1982
5,230 words
40 minutes
Reagan used his speech to defend his tax cuts and the federal government’s total fiscal responsibility for Medicaid that would take effect in 1984.

StreibL

George H.W. Bush

January 29, 1991
3,968 words
48 minutes
In 1990, Bush announced a “New World Order”—Nelson Mandela was freed from prison, the USSR was on the brink of self-destruction, the Berlin Wall tumbled and Iraq invaded Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War.

StreibL

Bill Clinton

January 25, 1994
7,455 words
1 hour, 3 minutes
Holding the mockup for a health-care card aloft, Clinton promised that 1994 would be the year “we will make history by reforming the health-care system.”

StreibL

George W. Bush

January 29, 2002
3,778 words
48 minutes
Just four months after the September 11th attacks, Bush declared Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an “axis of evil.”

StreibL

George W. Bush

January 28, 2003
5,417 words
59 minutes
Bush laid the case for invading Iraq, including the infamous “ 16 words” he never should have said.

StreibL

Barack Obama

February 24, 2009
6,095 words
51 minutes
Though the country was embittered and bruised by the Great Recession, President Obama was riding the initial wave of popularity with a 69 percent approval rating. On his agenda: jobs, tax cuts and increased accountability from banks and housing lenders.