While it oftentimes seems like President Donald Trump has held his elected office for longer than just over a year, the fact remains that he gave the first official State of the Union address of his presidency on Tuesday night, Jan. 30. The State of the Union address has become an accepted tradition for sitting presidents, but while the tradition itself is a constant, the manner in which each president approaches it — and the circumstances surrounding him — can be vastly different. Case in point: these photos of Trump's versus Obama's first State of the Union address.
Eight years ago, former President Barack Obama stepped up to the podium in the chamber of the House of Representatives to deliver his first State of the Union address on Jan. 27, 2010, according to CNN. For clarification, Obama in 2009 (like Trump in 2017), spoke to a joint-session of Congress shortly after becoming president, but it's not an official State of the Union address when the newly-elected president has only held the office for such a short time. All eyes are on President Trump Tuesday night as he makes his first State of the Union address to a nation facing a multitude of increasingly divisive issues.
For comparison, let's journey back to 2010 and see what former President Obama faced in his first State of the Union address.
Congressional Democratic Majority
As the country was only beginning to recover from the Great Recession in 2010 and President Obama prepared to sign the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010, the makeup of the 111th U.S. Congress in 2010 saw Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, according to the House of Representatives website — and of course, the office of the president was filled by Democratic President Barack Obama. Democratic Representative Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker of the House, and Republican Representative John Boehner was the House Minority Leader.
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Obama's second-in-charge, former Vice President Joe Biden, was present for the president's first State of the Union address in 2010. While Biden's trademark silly faces and gestures didn't make an appearance at President Obama's first State of the Union address, he was still right there behind him as Obama addressed the problems facing the nation.
Supreme Court Shake-Up
Another staple at the State of the Union address is the presence of some members of the Supreme Court of the United States. In the eight years that have passed since Obama's first State of the Union, there have been some changes to the personnel of SCOTUS.
While Chief Justice John Roberts and long-serving justices like Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Clarence Thomas remain, Justice John Paul Stevens retired in June 2010 and Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, leaving two positions open.
Obama appointed Justice Elena Kegan in August 2010 to take Justice Stevens' seat, and President Donald Trump appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch in April 2017 to fill Justice Scalia's vacated seat.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama
As is tradition with the State of the Union address, the first lady has her own section in the gallery, and she usually escorts some special guests to the speech, according to CNN. Michelle Obama was accompanied by 23 guests in 2010 — including Rebecca Knerr, whose husband, Captain II Joseph Knerr, was in Haiti leading Fairfax County's Virginia Task Force 1 search and rescue team after the earthquake that devastated Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, according to The Washington Post.
On Tuesday night, the circumstances surrounding President Trump's first State of the Union address are quite different compared to eight years ago.
Congressional Republican Majority
Since Trump's Republican party holds a majority in the 115th Congress in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, he was able to recently live up to one of his campaign promises by signing into law the GOP tax bill on Dec. 22, 2107, but he also stepped up to the podium on the heels of a government shutdown and much unrest in Washington, D.C. Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan sat behind President Trump as he addresses the joint session of Congress. Democratic House Minority Leader Representative Nancy Pelosi was also in attendance.
Vice President Mike Pence
Following the tradition of the State of the Union address, Vice President Mike Pence sat behind President Trump as he addressed Congress. Given his buttoned-up nature, I'm not sure you can expect any thumbs up or GIF-worthy reactions from the vice president tonight.
Supreme Court Scarcity
President Trump's first State of the Union address saw fewer Supreme Court justices than normal in attendance on Tuesday night. Members of SCOTUS who did show up included Chief Justice John Roberts and Trump's own nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch.
While some members of SCOTUS always show up to the State of the Union Address, there are oftentimes scheduling conflicts or extreme differences that keep justices from attending, according to CNN. Chief Justice Roberts voiced his displeasure with President Obama's criticism of a Supreme Court ruling in his 2010 address — since justices usually refrain from applause or reaction to remain neutral.
One notable absence tonight was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She had previously scheduled events in Rhode Island, but she has previously butted heads with President Trump and was also absent during his 2017 address to Congress.
First Lady Melania Trump
Continuing the State of the Union tradition of hosting guests in the first lady's section, First Lady Melania Trump had 15 invited guests by her side as she listened to her husband's speech on Tuesday evening. Attendees range from families benefitting from the recent GOP tax cuts to families who have lost children and loved ones because of alleged MS-13 gang violence, per CNN.
The first lady also hosted police Officer Ryan Holets and his wife, who adopted a baby born to a homeless heroin addict last year. The guests of honor were meant to shine a light on President Trump's foremost policies, such as tax reform, gang-related crimes and violence, and the opioid epidemic.
Since the State of the Union address is a storied institution of the presidency, there are some constants that will remain. Although the main structure appears somewhat unchanged, the people who fill the respective roles of government are ever changing, and that can have a drastic effect on the policy produced.