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State of the Union past moments

5 of the most unforgettable moments from past State of the Union speeches

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The State of the Union address has been around since the beginning of America.

Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution says that the President "shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

The Founding Fathers may have been vague on the details, but they made it clear the address was essential to the country's democracy.

According to the National Archives, George Washington first fulfilled this particular presidential duty on January 8, 1870, when he addressed the new Congress in the Senate Chamber of Federal Hall in what was the nation's capital at the time, New York City.

Before radio and TV, the speech was shared with the public in writing via newspapers. Harry S. Truman was the first president to deliver a televised address in 1947, but it wasn't until 1965, after Lyndon B. Johnson moved the address from the daytime to the evening that it became a prime time must see TV event.

Here are five of the most memorable moments in the history of the State of the Union address:

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1. Nixon Calls For an End to the Watergate Investigation.

"I would like to add a personal word with regard to an issue that has been of great concern to all Americans over the past year. I refer, of course, to the investigations of the so-called Watergate affair. As you know, I have provided to the Special Prosecutor voluntarily a great deal of material. I believe that I have provided all the material that he needs to conclude his investigations and to proceed to prosecute the guilty and to clear the innocent. 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. - President Richard Nixon, January 30, 1974

Nixon resigned eight months later on August 9 to avoid impeachment.

2. Obama Blasts the Supreme Court's 5-4 Ruling on Citizens United.

"Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests including foreign corporations to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong." - President Barack Obama, January 28, 2010

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr, who was sitting in the audience with the other justices, appeared to shake his head and mouth "not true, not true" in response.

3. The "Axis of Evil" is Born.

"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic." -President George W. Bush, January 29, 2002

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His speech has been described as the catalyst to the "War on Terror" and laid the foundation for the start of the Iraq War.

4. Clinton Calls For a Crackdown on "Illegal Aliens."

"We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it." - President Bill Clinton, January 23, 1996

While his words on immigration are seemingly more relevant now than ever, his address is most remembered for the line, "the era of big Government is over."

5. The Space Shuttle Challenger Explodes the Morning of Reagan's Address. He Gives a Speech From the White House About the Disaster Instead.

At one point Reagan spoke directly to the nation's children who watched the explosion on television, ''I know it's hard to understand that sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery, it's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons." - President Ronald Reagan, January 28 1986

The address was re-scheduled for February 4 and he again honors the seven crew members in that speech.

"Thank you for allowing me to delay my address until this evening. We paused together to mourn and honor the valor of our seven Challenger heroes. And I hope that we are now ready to do what they would want us to do: Go forward, America, and reach for the stars.”

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