Mapping the State of the Union

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tags: State of the Union



“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union,” stipulates Article Two of the Constitution, “and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Since 1790, every president has made an annual report to Congress, highlighting the challenges and opportunities facing the nation. Presidents from Jefferson to Taft dispatched lengthy written addresses to Congress; since Wilson, most have emulated Washington’s example, and delivered shorter remarks in person.

Using natural language processing algorithms followed by hand corrections, we have combed through these 224 State of the Union addresses and identified 16,408 mentions of 1,410 different places. Plotted on a map, the results reveal how American presidents have seen their nation and their world.

We invite you to explore these speeches. Click the arrow on the maps below and observe how the priorities and concerns of our presidents have evolved over time. Pause the map and click on any of the circles to see the passages from each speech that refer to the locations beneath the circles. Then scroll down below the maps and discover how our team of historians interprets what these maps show and what they conceal.




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