The first televised response to the president’s State of the Union address by the opposition party came in 1966.
Delivering the White House’s annual message that year, President Lyndon B. Johnson noted the “brutal and bitter conflict in Vietnam” while vowing the government would “continue to meet the needs of our people by continuing to develop the Great Society.”
The Republican response was delivered by Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois and House Minority Leader Gerald Ford of Michigan, a future president who would deliver his first State of the Union address nine years later. Dirksen and Ford spoke five days after Johnson’s State of the Union address, though the opposition party’s address now immediately follows the president’s.
“We believe that the public needs and deserves the other side of the coin; that they should get both sides of the appraisal of the state of the union, both domestic and international,” Ford said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program on Jan. 16, 1966, one day before he and Dirksen delivered their televised response.
“We believe this will help to strengthen the American political system.” Ford said on Meet the Press. (Here’s an Associated Press story of the Dirksen-Ford response.)
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, who leads the House Republican conference, will deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s Jan. 28 State of the Union address, party leaders announced yesterday. Read Derek Wallbank’s Political Capital post for more about McMorris Rodgers, 44, who’s the fourth-ranking House Republican and its highest-ranking woman.
See a list of State of the Union opposition speeches here.