Marking his first year in office, President Trump is scheduled to deliver his first State of the Union address to Congress on Jan. 30.

Although Trump addressed a joint session of Congress last February, the upcoming speech is his first official State of the Union address, an opportunity to highlight accomplishments from his first year and communicate his agenda for the year ahead.

The Constitution requires that 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.”

Until the early 20th Century though, most presidents simply wrote their addresses and sent copies to members of Congress. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson revived the practice of delivering the address to a joint session of Congress, something that hadn’t occurred since 1800, when John Adams addressed both houses.

Whether you love him or hate him, most everyone can agree that  Trump’s presidency thus far has been a strikingly atypical and unorthodox affair. The billionaire real estate developer and reality TV star entered office with no government experience. In many respects, Trump had a bumpy first year in the White House, one marred by controversy and divisiveness, as evidenced by the five Democratic House members that have already announced plans to boycott his State of the Union address.  It was largely overshadowed by a wide reaching investigation into the possibility of his campaign’s collision with Russia and filled with inflammatory missteps, as well as a slew of legislative and legal defeats.

But in his short time in office, Trump has undoubtedly made a tremendous impact, helping to steer the country in a dramatically different direction than that set by his predecessor.  From rolling back many of Obama’s environmental regulations to exiting multinational agreements and pushing through a massive tax cut, Trump will have have no shortage of achievements to recount to Congress.

This interactive graphic has six big themes that Trump is likely to touch on in his address. Click on each for more detail.


Military campaigns

Trump is likely to boast of the Islamic State’s decline in Iraq and Syria, whose government announced last month that its long and bloody war against the terrorist group had finally ended.  As a candidate, Trump promised to destroy the Islamic State, and as president has pursued an aggressive air strike campaign targeting their strongholds, a strategy he attributes to their diminished strength.

At the end of December, he tweeted:  “On 1/20 – the day Trump was inaugurated – an estimated 35,000 ISIS fighters held approx 17,500 square miles of territory in both Iraq and Syria. As of 12/21, the U.S. military est the remaining 1,000 or so fighters occupy roughly 1,900 square miles..”

However, the terrorist group continues to wreak havoc, especially in the Middle East, where deadly bombings are unrest are still common occurrences.

The president may also reference his administration’s aggressive bombing campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan, an effort to aid Afghan forces and end the longest running war in U.S. history. The offensive is a reversal of the Obama administration’s strategy of curtailing U.S. military involvement in the long-troubled region.

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Trump will likely make another national security case for his much disputed travel ban, which blocks most people from eight nations, most of them predominantly Muslim, from entering the U.S. After repeated setbacks in federal courts, the administration declared a tentative victory in December, when the Supreme Court allowed the third version of the travel ban to go into effect, even while legal challenges again it continue.

Trump will also likely touch on the need for comprehensive immigration reform, even as the latest efforts have already started to sputter. He’s expected to reiterate his demand for new border security measures, including the construction of a new wall and increased immigration enforcement. But he will also likely mention the need to accommodate some of the estimated 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came here as children and were given temporary legal status under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which the administration announced would expire in March.

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Nuclear threats

The U.S. is on edge over nuclear tensions with North Korea, an issue that Trump is sure to mention in his address.  Through tweets and other statements, Trump has repeatedly threatened and even taunted North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, a strategy he insists is working.

On New Year’s Day, Kim announced that he was prepared to “melt the frozen” relations with South Korea, a strong U.S. ally, and wanted to discuss North Korean participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Trump was quick to take credit for Kim’s about-face,  tweeting that this wouldn’t have happened had he not been “firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North.”
Trump may also mention his ongoing intent to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal established under the Obama administration, which he has long railed against.  The agreement places strict limits on the country’s nuclear development program in exchange for a lifting of U.S. and European sanctions.

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Trump is sure to highlight the record-high stock market and low unemployment rate, pointing to them as an indication of the success of his administration’s pro-business economic strategy (even though these positive indicators are trends that actually started during the Obama administration).

Trump will also use the occasion to celebrate the recent passage of major tax reform, his one legislative victory to date, which permanently slashes tax rates for corporations and some of the wealthiest Americans, while offering only modest temporary cuts for most lower and middle class taxpayers.  Trump and his Republican colleagues in Congress insist that the plan will put more money in people’s pockets and encourage U.S. corporations to expand and create more jobs.

Trump may also mention his administration’s NAFTA renegotiations with Canada and Mexico, the massive free trade agreement he has long lambasted as a bad deal for American workers. Although, as a candidate, he consistently attacked the deal, he has more recently suggested that there may be a possibility of some compromise.

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On the campaign trail, consistently critizized the crumbling state of U.S. infrastructure – equating our roads and airports to third world countries – aims to pass large infrastructure bill. Despite promising a $1 trillion infrastructure bill during the campaign,

Hours after a train derailed in Washington state, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to sound off on it.

“The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly,” tweeted Trump. “Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!”

Before decamping to his Florida estate for the holiday, Trump predicted his effort to repair the country’s roads, airports and bridges would garner bipartisan support with ease.

Trump’s plan is shaping up differently. A White House official said on Tuesday the current proposal — set to be unveiled in the middle of January — would propose spending at least $200 billion on infrastructure projects over the next decade, with the hopes of spurring an additional $800 billion in state and local funding.

Taking serious action to address the crumbling state of U.S. infrastructure is likely to cost far more than the Trump administration is reportedly willing to spend, some Democrats sayThe Iraqi government announcedearlier this month that the country’s war against ISIS had ended after three years of fighting.

Trump, who campaigned heavily on defeating ISIS, has celebrated the victory.

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Cutting regulations

Perhaps most productive part of administration so far has been to roll back regulations put in place by his predecessors, attacking them as counterproductive to economic growth and government overreach. Claims to have cut x regulations for every one created. Bears Ears, Clean Power Plan, EPA rules, Paris Climate Accord, Dodd-Frank. TPP.

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Trump State of the Union 18 January,2018Matthew Green


Matthew Green

Matthew Green is a digital media producer for KQED News. He previously produced The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog. Matthew's written for numerous Bay Area publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. He also taught journalism classes at Fremont High School in East Oakland.

Email:; Twitter: @MGreenKQED

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