President Biden will deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress tonight.
Since this is Biden’s first address, it’s not technically called a “State of the Union” speech. It is an “annual message.”
Since 1977, new presidents have not called their first speech before a joint session of Congress a “State of the Union.” They are often referred to as an “annual message” or a message/address on a particular topic.
Former President Jimmy Carter delivered a message on energy policy in 1977 and economic addresses were given by Ronald Reagan in 1981, Bill Clinton in 1993, George W. Bush in 2001 and Barack Obama in 2009.
George H.W. Bush gave a speech titled “Building a Better America” in 1989. President Trump’s speech in 2017 did not have a specific policy focus.
A “joint session” of Congress is an official, working session of Congress. All State of the Union/annual message addresses are delivered before a “joint session,” not a “joint meeting.”
A “joint meeting” of Congress is a less formal gathering and is not an official working session of Congress. Over the years, various prominent Americans or foreign leaders have addressed joint meetings of Congress.
Generally, only US presidents address joint sessions of Congress. However, there were two occasions in 1934 and 1948 when a foreign dignitary addressed a joint session, but in both cases the US president also spoke.
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