A list of five State of the Union addresses that changed the course of world history.
Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address tonight. Will it be a run-of-the-mill SOTU, or will it affect the world like some of the most memorable addresses? Some of these addresses have, of course, changed the course of world history. Let’s take a look at some of the most significant State of the Union addresses that have had global repercussions.
When George Washington stood up for knowledge
George Washington set a precedent for many of the things the following presidents did later on, some of which have survived to this day. So, while the Constitution did not legally bind him to make a State of the Union address every year, Washington thought it was best to deliver it annually. On his first annual address in New York City, Washington told Congress in person that "there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature." You could argue that the US is now a stranger to both of those, but it hasn't always been the case. This inspiring message is somewhat forgotten, so it's always nice to remember that the first Commander-in-chief and Founding Father didn't say "America First" but "Science and Literature first". Enough said.
When James Polk kickstarted the Gold Rush
On December 5th, 1848, James Polk corroborated the Nation's wildest dreams about California: "The accounts of the abundance of gold in that territory are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief were they not corroborated by the authentic reports of officers in the public service who have visited the mineral district and derived the facts which they detail from personal observation." Thus began the California Gold Rush.
This was not only significant to the US, or to the miners who became wealthy from gold. What really happened was a massive migration to California, both within the United States and from the world, with around 300,000 flocking to the Golden State. California became a refuge for the gay community in San Francisco, African-Americans fleeing from slavery, and a myriad of people looking for better living conditions. California is currently the 4th largest economy in the world, and it all started with Polk's SOTU.
When James Monroe sealed Latin America’s fate
The Monroe Doctrine, which Latin American is acquainted with all too well, was born from a State of the Union address. On December 2nd, 1823, President James Monroe announced that Europeans had no business neither in North nor South America, by then made up almost entirely of independent countries, and went as far as saying that European meddling in the West would be considered "the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States."
This doctrine is often summarized as “America for the Americans,” and it’s a turning point in everyone’s worldview. The globe, thus, became separated into two spheres of influence, one of which had the United States step forward as its leader. The rest, as they say, is history. Say what you will, but is there a Latin American country that hasn’t fallen, for better or for worse, under the United States meddling? The answer is no. There isn't.
When FDR declared war on fascist ideology
Franklin D. Roosevelt came up with essential freedoms on January 6, 1941. These were, in his view, fundamental freedoms for "everywhere in the world:" freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Roosevelt delivered the speech almost a year before Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, but he clearly set the US apart from the totalitarian powers that were devastating democracies in Europe, China, and Greece.
His Four Freedoms speech also set the stage for reflecting on rights that were not considered in the US Constitution, and the freedom from fear would be essential for the creation of the United Nations.
When George W. Bush said his most famous line ever
When George W. Bush spoke before Congress in 2002, it had only been a few months after the United States had suffered its worst attack on US soil. Obsessed with declaring war on the Middle East, Bush specifically mentioned North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as States or regimes that represented a real threat to the United States. "States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world." “Axis of evil” sounds ludicrous enough for it to be fun and laughter.
Until, of course, you create a vacuum of power, destabilize the entire region, inflame anti-American sentiment, and give way to a massive humanitarian crisis. Lol.
The effects any of Trump's SOTUs will have on the world remain to be seen, but rest assured everyone will be watching.
Cover by The New York Times