It’s not your imagination: Trump’s State of the Union address was long

Jan 31, 2018
  • By Maggie Astor
  • The New York Times
Win McNamee/AP
President Donald Trump smiles during State of the Union address in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol to a joint session of Congress Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 in Washington.

Whatever you thought of President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address, one fact is indisputable: There was a lot of it. 

One hour and 20 minutes long, it was the third-longest State of the Union in the past 50 years. In that time, only President Bill Clinton has spoken for longer: 1 hour, 28 minutes, 49 seconds in 2000, and 1 hour, 24 minutes, 58 seconds in 1995, according to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

In fact, only three of the past nine presidents exceeded an hour in any of their speeches. Lyndon B. Johnson did it once (1 hour, 11 minutes, 16 seconds in 1967), and Barack Obama did it four times (peaking at 1 hour, 9 minutes, 20 seconds in 2010). 

No one, however, has matched Clinton, who did not deliver a single State of the Union address under an hour. His average? One hour, 14 minutes, 51 seconds. 

We will have to wait for the transcript to see whether Trump spoke more than his predecessors, or simply slower. In terms of word count, the longest spoken State of the Union in American history was Clinton’s 1995 address, at 9,190 words. Written State of the Union messages — the norm until the early 20th century — were often much longer.