Admit it. When you saw that headline above, the word "strong" popped into your mind.
The Constitution requires the president to "from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union." George Washington made it an annual tradition. In recent years, through good times and bad, presidents have solidified another tradition: including some variation of the line "The state of our union is strong" to sum up where we stand as a nation. Read through recent presidential assessments below, culled from The American Presidency Project Web site of the University of California, Santa Barbara. As you'll see, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were especially fond of the construction.
When President Barack Obama delivers his first State of the Union speech tonight -- last year, weeks after being inaugurated, he gave an "address to Congress" that was not an official State of the Union address -- what will he say about the current condition of the country? What should he say? What adjective should he use, whether it be "strong" or something else? Post your comments below. Then listen to the president's speech tonight at 9 p.m.on WNYC and WNYC.org. Join Brian Lehrer and your fellow listeners for a live chat during and after the speech to share your reactions.
President George W. Bush
2008: "And so long as we continue to trust the people, our Nation will prosper, our liberty will be secure, and the state of our Union will remain strong."
2007: "Yet we can go forward with confidence, because the State of our Union is strong, our cause in the world is right, and tonight that cause goes on."
2006: "Tonight the state of our Union is strong, and together we will make it stronger."
2005: "Tonight, with a healthy, growing economy, with more Americans going back to work, with our Nation an active force for good in the world -- the state of our union is confident and strong."
2004: "In their efforts, their enterprise, and their character, the American people are showing that the state of our Union is confident and strong."
2003: "In a whirlwind of change and hope and peril, our faith is sure; our resolve is firm; and our Union is strong."
2002: “….As we gather tonight, our nation is at war, our economy is in recession, and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers. Yet the state of our union has never been stronger.”
President Bill Clinton
2000: "My fellow Americans, the state of our Union is the strongest it has ever been."
1999: "My fellow Americans, I stand before you tonight to report that the state of our Union is strong."
1998: "Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our Union is strong."
1997: "My fellow Americans, the state of our Union is strong."
1996: "The state of the Union is strong."
1995: "I came to this hallowed chamber two years ago on a mission, to restore the American dream for all our people and to make sure that we move into the 21st century still the strongest force for freedom and democracy in the entire world. I was determined then to tackle the tough problems too long ignored. In this effort I am frank to say that I have made my mistakes, and I have learned again the importance of humility in all human endeavor. But I am also proud to say tonight that our country is stronger than it was two years ago."
1994: "Tonight, my fellow Americans, we are summoned to answer a question as old as the Republic itself: What is the state of our Union? It is growing stronger, but it must be stronger still. With your help and God's help, it will be."
President George H. W. Bush
1992: "Moods come and go, but greatness endures. Ours does. And maybe for a moment it's good to remember what, in the dailiness of our lives, we forget: We are still and ever the freest nation on Earth, the kindest nation on Earth, the strongest nation on Earth. And we have always risen to the occasion. And we are going to lift this Nation out of hard times inch by inch and day by day, and those who would stop us had better step aside. Because I look at hard times, and I make this vow: This will not stand."
1990: "Let me say that so long as we remember the American idea, so long as we live up to the American ideal, the state of the Union will remain sound and strong."
President Ronald Reagan
1988: "Tonight, then, we're strong, prosperous, at peace, and we are free. This is the state of our Union. And if we will work together this year, I believe we can give a future President and a future Congress the chance to make that prosperity, that peace, that freedom not just the state of our Union but the state of our world."
1986: "I have come to review with you the progress of our nation, to speak of unfinished work, and to set our sights on the future. I am pleased to report the state of our Union is stronger than a year ago and growing stronger each day."
1985: "I come before you to report on the state of our Union, and I'm pleased to report that after four years of united effort, the American people have brought forth a nation renewed, stronger, freer, and more secure than before."
1984: "Once again, in keeping with time-honored tradition, I have come to report to you on the state of the Union, and I'm pleased to report that America is much improved, and there's good reason to believe that improvement will continue through the days to come."
1983: "As we gather here tonight, the state of our Union is strong, but our economy is troubled."