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Analyzing Truman's State of the Union Messages

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
Several Weeks
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Ways to use Truman's State of the Union addresses in teaching

This unit is designed as a list of ways to use Truman's State of the Union Messages throughout your curriculum. The unit includes 3 lessons:

  1. Group work analyzing content of State of the Union messages
  2. Lesson pertaining to the 1945 Address to Congress Upon Assuming Office After Roosevelt's Death
  3. Lesson titled From War to Peace - The Year of Decision (Summary of 1945 given by Truman in his State of Union Message in 1946.
Rationale (why are you doing this?)

This is a series of mini-lessons to incorporate into major teaching units on public speaking, government, the presidency, or national/world events that took place during the years 1945-1951.

Lesson Objectives - the student will

Students will be able to analyize President Truman's State of the Union (1945-1953)

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met

Missouri Standards

1. Principles expressed in the documents shaping constitutional democracy in the United States

2. Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world

3. Principles and processes of governance systems

6. Relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions

7. The use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)


Kansas Standards

Benchmark 3: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points in the era of the Cold War (1945-1990).

1. (K) explains why the United States emerged as a superpower as the result of World War II.

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time

Benchmark 4: The student identifies and examines the rights, privileges, and responsibilities in becoming an active civic participant.

1. (A) examines the role of political parties in channeling public opinion, allowing people to act jointly, nominating candidates, conducting campaigns, and training future leaders.

7. (K) explores issues regarding civic responsibilities of American citizens (e.g., obeying the law, paying taxes, voting, jury duty, serving our country, providing leadership, involvement in the political process).

Technology Required

Access to a computer

Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?

Background Information on State of Union Messages:

Compiled from: Facts About the Presidents by Joseph Nathan Kane, H. W. Wilson Company, NY 1981.

Presidential Messages are not required in any specific form or at any specified time. The annual State of the Union messages are either read to Congress or a written message is delivered by the President in person. Presumably, they fulfill the requirement of Article 2, section 3 of the Constitution, which provides that the President "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union." The term "State of the Union Message" came into use on January 6, 1941; before then, the messages were generally call " annual messages".

Until the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, there were 141 messages. Of these, 125 were delivered in December, one in January, one in September, three in October, and eleven in November. Since the inauguration date was changed to January, most messages have been made in January but a few have been made in February.

The longest State of the Union message was sent (not orally delivered) by President Harry S. Truman in 1946. It consisted of 25,000 words and combined his economic report with his state of the union information. This message focused on critical issues regarding the return to a peace economy from a war production one. The foreign policy section regarding European recovery also was a lengthy focus.

Information on Truman’s State of Union Messages:

Truman’s first address to Congress, which is listed on this web site (Truman’s 1st address to Congress) was not a State of the Union Message. It was quite short and Truman delivered it four days after assuming office after the death of Franklin Roosevelt. The message was basically an assurance that he would continue to pursue the goals of the former president and continue to push for a complete victory over our enemies. This address is not a standard State of the Union format.

The remaining addresses and messages in this collection are more focused on a standard State of the Union format. The 1946 Message to the Congress was released on January 21, 1946--it was not orally delivered. Actually, that was probably best. The Message was very long and would have probably put everyone to sleep; it combined both his State of the Union Message and the Budget. Note that the Law does not require an oral report - only a report, from time to time.

The 1947 Annual Message to Congress, however, was, delivered in person before a joint session on January 6. It was a combined speech on the State of the Union and on the Budget. It was followed the next day by lengthy written Economic Report (not on file on our site).

In 1948, Truman delivered his State of the Union message to Congress in person follow