President Nixon addressing Congress with his State of the Union Message on January 30, 1974
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
-Article Two, Section 3 of the United States Constitution
Tonight marks the 93rd time a President of the United States will deliver an in-person State of the Union address. While President Barack Obama addresses Congress with his State of the Union message, we pay homage to the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s 1974 address, of which he delivered to Congress on January 30, 1974. As it is with President Obama, it was with President Nixon a precursor to his sixth year in office. It would be President Nixon’s final State of the Union Address in his tenure as Commander in Chief. It would also be emblematic of his resolve in rallying Congress to work together in unison two years before the nation’s bicentennial.
It was an uncertain time for the Nixon presidency in lieu of the Watergate judiciary proceedings.
The urgency with which the administration viewed this particular address is reflected upon in memoranda dated from September through October of 1973. Four months prior to President Nixon’s address to Congress, plans had already begun to take shape.
While a more comprehensive, 22,000 worded message on the State of the Union was being prepared for formal submission to the Speaker of the House and the Vice President by his speech writers, President Nixon spent some private time working up a more concise message that would eventually be presented to office-holders and the people of the nation. Below is a compilation of RN’s notes:
His notes convey a genuine concern over the State of the Union because of what the partisan debate over Watergate had done to the fiber of this nation. He begins the address:
We meet here tonight at a time of great challenge and great opportunities for America. We meet at a time when we face great problems at home and abroad that will test the strength of our fiber as a nation. But we also meet at a time when that fiber has been tested, and it has proved strong.
Knowing that America would overcome the great problems of its time, he channeled this faith in his administration. There were matters to be addressed, not grievances. In his notes, President Nixon charted his discussion on America’s energy, welfare, healthcare, and transportation futures. He also wrote of his plans to reform Federal aid to education and of how he would make sure government would be more responsive.
Despite the hardships, the President had a positive message to convey, and that was to assure the nation of the opportune times ahead. The foundation for prolonged peace was laid at the conclusion of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The U.S. was no longer at war with any nation in the world. The draft had been abolished. It was a time to begin America’s longest peace and a time to build new prosperity. Watch the President’s 1974 State of the Union Address below.