“(The President) shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

-U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 3

On Tuesday of this week, the U.S. government celebrated one of its longest running requirements when President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress and gave his State of the Union address. With television cameras and reporters everywhere, this annual event also continued its circus-like atmosphere complete with dozens of stops for applause and even the occasional hiss.

But the State of the Union address was not always as it is now.

George Washington delivered the first address in person in 1790 - known then as the “President’s Annual Message to Congress” - and the practice continued until Thomas Jefferson became president. Jefferson thought delivering the speech in person was too much like the Speech from the Throne given by many European monarchies. Since the Constitution did not require the report be given in person, he sent a report and a clerk read it to Congress.

The practice of sending a written report continued until 1913 when Woodrow Wilson appeared in person before Congress with much fanfare and controversy. Since that time, every president has given at least one address in person during their time in office. Calvin Coolidge brought the speech to the masses by delivering the first radio broadcast of the address in 1923.

But it was with Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the most. He used the term “State of the Union” in one of his speeches and the term stuck, replacing the Annual Message name. He also prepared an oral message for every year he was in office. Although technically his final address in 1945 was delivered by written report to Congress, he summarized it on the radio to the American public.

Since Roosevelt, most presidents have delivered the State of the Union address in person with only a few exceptions. The last two times only a written report was submitted was by President Nixon in 1973 during the investigation into the Watergate scandal and in 1981 by President Carter with the hostages in Iran and the economy in a deep recession.

But is tradition enough reason to continue this practice as it is now?

If the viewer was an Obama administration supporter, then they most likely loved his speech on Tuesday, reveling in his descriptions of the economy and the country. If they do not support his policies, then the viewers most likely turned off their televisions in disgust, abhorred by promises of billions of more dollars spent in government programs with no way to pay for them.

And therein lies our problem. If the State of the Union address has been reduced to a laundry list of wish items, interrupted time and time again by supporters’ applause, only to be rebutted by the opposing party in a following television program (beginning in 1966), then has the substance of a requirement of the U.S. Constitution become nothing more than another campaign stop, another chance for political one-up-man-ship?

Perhaps it is time to revert to an even older tradition and let the ideas speak for themselves without the television cameras.