On December 6, 1923, President Calvin Coolidge took one small step for a president and one huge leap for digital communications at the White House. On this day in history, President Coolidge became the first president to address the American people on broadcast radio.
President Coolidge delivered a message about national priorities and the state of the nation to a joint session of Congress. Nowadays, that speech is known as the State of the Union address.
Over the years, technology has greatly changed the way Presidents deliver the State of the Union address. We've moved from broadcast radio to television, and now the Internet. Here's a timeline of some of the digital "firsts" when it comes to the State of the Union address:
Glad you asked. While there isn’t an exact number of how many people listened to President Coolidge’s first State of the Union address, the White House Historical Association estimates that his 1925 inaugural address reached more than 23 million radio listeners. In past administrations, reaching that many Americans was practically unheard of.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945): Speaking directly from the Diplomatic Room in the White House, Franklin D. Roosevelt used his "fireside chats" to speak to the American people about the issues they were facing during the Great Depression and World War II. As the story goes, Americans across the country would assemble in their living rooms with family and friends, particularly around the fireplace, and listen as the President spoke on the radio. Thanks to modern technology and preservation by the White House Historical Association, you can even listen to one of these "fireside chats" here.
President Harry S. Truman (1945-1953): Speaking about the world food crisis in 1947, President Truman became the first President to appear on television directly from the White House. At the time, his speech was only televised in New York and Philadelphia. Fast forward to just two years later and President Truman’s inauguration was televised to 10 million viewers.
President Bill Clinton (1993-2001): The first White House website went live under the Clinton administration 20 years ago in 1994. Since then, WhiteHouse.gov has gone through several updates versions. Want to see the first White House website? Take a look inside the archived website here.
President Barack Obama (2009-present): With the increasing presence of social and new digital media, President Obama has put a twist on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s "fireside chats." Now, the President addresses the nation by video and publishes a Weekly Address every Saturday morning. Interestingly enough, President Obama also took part in a "fireside hangout" not too long ago. But this chat took place on Google+ and was a completely virtual interview.
Here at the White House, we are constantly trying to tap into new and innovative ways to reach the American people. That’s why we’ve utilized new forms of social and digital media -- including online petitions, blogs, social media, and much more.
Take a look at just some of our Administration’s digital "firsts":
Welcome to the official Twitter page for the White House! — The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 1, 2009
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Information and photos in this post are courtesy of the United State House of Representatives: History, Art, and Archives, the White House Historical Association, the National Archives, and the Library of Congress.