President John F. Kennedy delivered his first State of the Union address on January 30, 1961, only ten days after being sworn into office.
After President Eisenhower, Kennedy was only the second president to deliver the speech after being newly elected; previous presidents typically waited about a year to make their State of the Union.
President Kennedy delivered his first State of the Union #otd in 1961, ten days after taking the oath of office. Listen to his full #SOTU here: https://t.co/JcXdCiCkSv pic.twitter.com/ApE6f5hYsM— JFK Library (@JFKLibrary) January 30, 2019
While President Harry Truman delivered the first televised State of the Union in 1945, it wasn’t until President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 address that the State of the Union was moved to primetime television from its typical midday slot in hopes of reaching a larger audience.
Opening his 1961 address, the new President, who had previously served in Congress, said: "It is a pleasure to return from whence I came."
"For my part, I shall withhold from neither the Congress nor the people any fact or report, past, present, or future, which is necessary for an informed judgment of our conduct and hazards. I shall neither shift the burden of executive decisions to the Congress, nor avoid responsibility for the outcome of those decisions."
“I speak today,” President Kennedy said, “in an hour of national peril and national opportunity. "
"Before my term has ended, we shall have to test anew whether a nation organized and governed such as ours can endure. The outcome is by no means certain. The answers are by no means clear. All of us together — this administration, this Congress, this nation — must forge those answers.”
President Kennedy goes on to address the state of the struggling economy, as America's role in worldwide affairs.
“Life in 1961 will not be easy,” declares President Kennedy. “There will be further setbacks before the tide is turned, but turn it we must.”
He closes on a note of optimism: “The hopes of all mankind rest upon us—not simply upon those of us in this Chamber, but upon the peasant in Laos, the fisherman in Nigeria, the exile from Cuba, the spirit that moves every man and Nation who shares our hopes for freedom and the future."
"And in the final analysis, they rest most of all upon the pride and perseverance of our fellow citizens of the great Republic."
Watch portions of President John F. Kennedy's first State of the Union below, courtesy of C-SPAN:
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*Originally published in January 2019. Updated in July 2022.