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State of the Union:

January 26, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — A president's annual message to Congress often contains a laundry list of legislative proposals, an acknowledgement of the nation's challenges, and requisite appeals for bipartisan cooperation.

More often than not, the presidential address drags on for the better part of an hour. But one single climactic line tends to reflect the moment in time, and it usually begins: "The state of our Union is …"

Sometimes it's a simple declaration, often just: "strong." But presidents have often embellished, or taken a different course.

What follows are how the seven most recent presidents have chosen to summarize the nation's standing during their time in office.

Barack Obama

2010: "Despite our hardships, our Union is strong."

George W. Bush

2008: "And so long as we continue to trust the people, our Nation will prosper, our liberty will be secure, and the state of our Union will remain strong."

2007: "… Yet we can go forward with confidence, because the state of our Union is strong, our cause in the world is right, and tonight that cause goes on."

2006: "Tonight the state of our Union is strong, and together we will make it stronger."

2005: "Tonight, with a healthy, growing economy, with more Americans going back to work, with our Nation an active force for good in the world, the state of our Union is confident and strong."

2004: "In their efforts, their enterprise and their character, the American people are showing that the state of our Union is confident and strong."

2003: "In a whirlwind of change and hope and peril, our faith is sure; our resolve is firm; and our Union is strong."

2002: "The state of our Union has never been stronger."

Bill Clinton

2000: "My fellow Americans, the state of our Union is the strongest it has ever been."

1998: "Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our Union is strong."

1996: "The state of the Union is strong."

1995: "In this effort I am frank to say that I have made my mistakes, and I have learned again the importance of humility in all human endeavor. But I am also proud to say tonight that our country is stronger than it was two years ago."

1994: "What is the state of our Union? It is growing stronger, but it must be stronger still."

George H. W. Bush

1991: "We in this Union enter the last decade of the 20th century thankful for our blessings, steadfast in our purpose, aware of our difficulties, and responsive to our duties at home and around the world."

1990: "Let me say that so long as we remember the American idea, so long as we live up to the American ideal, the state of the Union will remain sound and strong."

Ronald Reagan

1988: "Tonight, then, we're strong, prosperous, at peace, and we are free. This is the state of our Union."

1986: "I am pleased to report the state of our Union is stronger than a year ago and growing stronger each day."

1985: "I come before you to report on the state of our Union, and I'm pleased to report that after four years of united effort, the American people have brought forth a nation renewed, stronger, freer, and more secure than before."

1984: "Once again, in keeping with time-honored tradition, I have come to report to you on the state of the Union, and I'm pleased to report that America is much improved, and there's good reason to believe that improvement will continue through the days to come."

1983: "As we gather here tonight, the state of our Union is strong, but our economy is troubled."

1982: "And that is why I can report to you tonight that in the near future the state of the Union and the economy will be better — much better — if we summon the strength to continue on the course that we've charted."

Jimmy Carter

1981: "The State of the Union is sound."

1980: "As we meet tonight, it has never been more clear that the state of our Union depends on the state of the world. And tonight, as throughout our own generation, freedom and peace in the world depend on the state of our Union."

1979: "Tonight, there is every sign that the state of our Union is sound."

1978: "Militarily, politically, economically, and in spirit, the state of our Union is sound."

Gerald Ford

1977: "Taken in sum, I can report that the state of the Union is good. There is room for improvement, as always, but today we have a more perfect Union than when my stewardship began."

1976: "Just a year ago I reported that the state of the Union was not good. Tonight, I report that the state of our Union is better — in many ways a lot better — but still not good enough."

1975: "I must say to you that the state of the Union is not good: Millions of Americans are out of work."

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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