225th Anniversary of the First Congress: We’ll be posting documents and stories highlighting the establishment of the new government under the Constitution through March 2016.
As recorded in the first House Journal, only eleven representatives were present on March 4, 1789, the first day of the First Congress under the Constitution. Neither the House nor the Senate had enough members present to attain a quorum, so they adjourned from day to day until they could proceed with official business.
I propose to use whatever authority exists in the office of the President to end segregation in the District of Columbia, including the Federal Government, and any segregation in the Armed Forces.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
February 2, 1953
This is a time for courage, not for grumbling and mumbling. Now, let us take a look at the things we have to do.
President Harry S. Truman
January 9, 1952
FDR’s 1944 State of the Union Address
On January 11, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his annual State of the Union Address to the Nation as a Fireside Chat from the White House.
In previous years, the President delivered the State of the Union Address in person before the Congress. But having just recently returned from a grueling trip to the Cairo and Teheran Conferences, President Roosevelt was ill with the flu and chose instead to send a written message to Congress and to read the message to the American people as a whole from the comfort of the White House.
Prior to Woodrow Wilson, the President’s Annual Message to Congress (now known as the State of the Union speech) customarily had been delivered by presidents to Congress as written reports. By submitting a written message in 1944, Roosevelt was hearkening back to that earlier practice.
In perhaps the most famous part of the speech, President Roosevelt proposed “a second Bill of Rights” to provide a new level of economic security to the American people. Read More
Photo: Franklin D. Roosevelt gives a radio address regarding his State of the Union message to Congress. Washington, D.C. 1/11/44.
-from the FDR Library
The War on Poverty
Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty. In his Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union, January 8, 1964, LBJ outlined his plan to alleviate poverty in America.
LBJ believed that the most effective way to “win the war on poverty” was to introduce legislation, programs, and tax cuts that would result in a Great Society, giving all Americans — not just the poor and underprivileged — a better quality of life.
Photo: President Lyndon B. Johnson visits Tom Fletcher residence during Poverty Tour of Appalachia. 4/24/64.
Ford is Sworn-in to Congress
On January 3, 1949, Gerald R. Ford was sworn-in as a member of the 81st Congress. During his first year in the House, he was assigned to the Public Works Committee. He also helped to organize the “Chowder and Marching Club” of young Republican Congressmen with fellow House member Richard Nixon.
Pictured: Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg welcomes new Congressman Gerald R. Ford Jr. to Washington, DC, in 1949.
-from the Ford Library
Gerald Ford’s Congressional Career
Gerald Ford represented Michigan in the House of Representatives from January 1949 to December 1973.
When Ford returned to Grand Rapids after World War II he joined a well-known local law firm and became involved in a variety of community organizations. Encouraged by Senator Arthur Vandenberg and the Home Front, a group seeking to reform the area’s government, he decided to challenge the isolationist incumbent Bartel Jonkman for the Republican nomination for the House of Representatives in the 1948 election. He won the nomination by a wide margin and was elected to Congress on November 2.
Ford went on to be reelected twelve times, each time with more than 60% of the vote. He once described himself as “a moderate in domestic affairs, an internationalist in foreign affairs, and a conservative in fiscal policy.”
In 1951 he became a member of the House Appropriations Committee, later rising to prominence on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and becoming its ranking minority member in 1961.
In 1964 Ford announced he would challenge Charles Halleck for the position of minority leader of the House. With the support of the House Republican “Young Turks” he won by a small margin and took over the position early in 1965, holding it for eight years.
Ford’s ambition to become Speaker of the House was never realized as the Republicans could not achieve a majority during his tenure in Congress.
Pictured: Gerald R. Ford campaigns from atop a circus elephant in 1950.
-from the Ford Library
LBJ’s 1941 U.S. Senate Campaign
Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson speaks with voters on one last campaign stop in Johnson City. The election was later that day. 6/28/41.
LBJ Library photo 41-6-130, by the Austin American-Statesman. Use free with credit to the original source.