Lynne Rienner Publishers Logo

Addressing the State of the Union: The Evolution and Impact of the President's Big Speech

Donna R. Hoffman and Alison D. Howard
Addressing the State of the Union: The Evolution and Impact of the President's Big Speech
ISBN: 978-1-58826-451-0
2006/213 pages/LC: 2006004033

"A well-written and insightful analysis ... of use to undergraduates, graduate students, and scholars of political communication, presidential rhetoric, and the presidency." Mary E. Stuckey, Political Science Quarterly

"An excellent reference for presidential scholars as well as for students of presidential rhetoric."—Choice

"A rich, thoughtful, and systematic look at the rhetoric and evolving impact of State of the Union addresses.... invaluable."—Bryan W. Marshall, Miami University

"An excellent, well-researched, persuasive contribution to the growing study of presidential rhetoric and policy agendas." —Sean J. Savage, St. Mary's College

"Fills a significant void in the study of presidential leadership&. an impressive examination of the history, development, execution, and policy significance of the State of the Union address."—Joseph Cammarano, Providence College


The State of the Union is no ordinary speech on at least two accounts: it is a fundamental statement of how a president approaches current policy debates, and it is the one presidential address that US citizens are most likely to hear each year. Donna Hoffman and Alison Howard document the political significance and legislative impact or, often, lack of impact of this most visible of presidential communications.

Exploring how and why the State of the Union address came to be a key tool in the exercise of presidential power, the authors outline the ways presidents use it to gain attention, to communicate with target audiences, and to make specific policy proposals. Their richly textured analysis offers a penetrating look at the complex relationship between contemporary presidential leadership and Congressional lawmaking.


Donna R. Hoffman is associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa. Alison D. Howard is adjunct instructor of political science at Dominican University of California.


  • Donning the Hat of Chief Legislator.
  • The State of the Union Address Through Time.
  • No Ordinary Speech.
  • The President as Chief Legislator in the State of the Union Address.
  • Ask and Ye Shall Receive?
  • Conclusion: Making Deeds Follow Words.