Skip to main content

CNN Student News Learning Activity: The State of the Union

  • Story Highlights
  • Students will place Monday night's State of the Union speech in a historical context
  • Next Article in Living »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

(CNN Student News) -- Students will place Monday night's State of the Union speech in a historical context.


Remind students that Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states, "The President shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." Then, distribute to students the One-Sheet: History of the State of the Union, and have them review the history of and reasons for State of the Union addresses. Have students consider the value of these speeches as historical documents. Ask: Are State of the Union speeches accurate snapshots of the challenges facing the United States and its president?

Related Resources

Direct students to the online resources listed to identify past State of the Union addresses, and have each student (or small groups of students) select one State of the Union address. Instruct students to read through their speeches, and have them examine to what extent the speeches reflect the times in which they were delivered. Use the following questions to help guide students' research:

  1. Based on the speech, what domestic and foreign policy issues appear to have been on the president's agenda?
  2. For each of these issues, what challenges did the president set forth for Congress?
  3. What actions did the president propose that Congress and the country should take with regard to these issues?
  4. How might the historical perspective provided in State of the Union speeches compare with that provided in a history textbook in terms of presenting a record of the time period?

Don't Miss

After students have presented their findings, have them discuss and list the domestic and foreign policy issues facing the United States today. Challenge students to predict what President George W. Bush might say on Monday night about social issues, the economy, national security and foreign affairs.

For homework, encourage students to watch the State of the Union address, using the following categories to chart the main themes of President Bush's speech:

  1. Social Issues (e.g., Social Security, health care, education)
  2. Economy (e.g., taxes, legal measures, budget deficit)
  3. National Security (e.g., defense, homeland security, immigration)
  4. Foreign Affairs (e.g., the War on Terror, Iraq, the Middle East, promoting democracy)

Have students compare the challenges and recommendations presented by President Bush in Monday night's speech with those presented by previous presidents in their State of the Union addresses. Have students consider how the state of the union in 2008 compares with the state of the union in the years that they have examined.

Correlated Standards

Social Studies

Standard II. Time, Continuity and Change: Students will learn about the ways human beings view themselves in and over time.

Standard VI. Power, Authority and Governance: Students will understand the historical development of structures of power, authority and governance and their evolving functions in contemporary U.S. society as well as other parts of the world.

Standard X. Civic Ideals and Practices: Students will examine the ideals, principles and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.

The Curriculum Standards for Social Studies ( are published by the National Council for Social Studies (

Civics and Government

Standard 1: What are Civic Life, Politics, and Government?

Standard 1: Understands ideas about civic life, politics, and government

* Understand the necessity and purposes of government

* Understands purposes and uses of constitutions

The National Standards for Civics and Government ( are published by the Center for Civic Education (


State of the Union E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print