Tonight, the President will deliver his State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress. And although it seems like the State of the Union speech is one of our oldest traditions, that's not entirely true.
You would think that since Article II, Section 3 of the US Constitution requires the President to "from time to time give the Congress Information of the State of the Union" that US Presidents have been giving speeches to Congress since George Washington. Well...not exactly.
Although George Washington did give the State of the Union as a Speech, Thomas Jefferson discontinued the practice of giving the report as a live speech, because he felt that it seemed too much like a king addressing the country. Consequently, Thomas Jefferson simply delivered the State of the Union to Congress as a written document and had a clerk read it. Thereafter, US Presidents followed Jefferson's example and had the message delivered to Congress in written form only until 1912. Think about that. Just to name a few Presidents who never gave the State of the Union Speech: Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt.
In 1912, Woodrow Wilson revived the live speech, and since then, the state of the union has pretty much always been a live speech. With the media world we live in now, it would almost be unthinkable for the President to pass up an opportunity to get over an hour of exposure on television, so I don't imagine that any President will ever revive the Jeffersonian practice, but it would be a nice throwback.
I agree with Jefferson in that there is something "Kingly" about the nature of the President's entry and reception into the House. Although it will never happen, I'd like to see a President invoke Jefferson and just mail it in.