Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011

Woodrow Wilson Appears Before Congress

In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson decided not to read his State of the Union address aloud, a tradition that subsequent Presidents followed for 112 years. In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson took up the practice again as a way to increase communication between the executive and legislative branches. The Washington Post described an "astonished" bunch of Senators and Representatives frantically researching the long-forgotten custom. Although we are now accustomed to annual addresses from the President, Wilson's decision to dust off the old practice struck people as shocking and strange. Think of the confusion that would greet, say, President Obama's decision to challenge John Boehner to a duel.