The Wall Street Journal's Louis Radnofsky compares some of the past words used to describe how the union is doing:

The State of the Union address always seems to include the idea that the state of the union is "strong."

President Barack Obama, in his first State of the Union address last year, said that "despite our hardships, our union is strong."

But actually, modern presidents and their speechwriters have often varied the phrase.

President George H.W. Bush declared the union to be "sound and strong" in 1990, and his successors used superlatives: "the strongest it has ever been," according to President Bill Clinton in 2000, or "never been stronger," as President George W. Bush said in 2002.

In other years, the president has damped down the verdict: "stronger than a year ago and growing stronger each day," as President Ronald Reagan said in 1986.

President Gerald Ford was blunt, telling Americans in 1975 "that the state of the Union is not good," in 1976 that it was "better... but still not good enough" and concluding, in 1977, that it had reached "good." Jimmy Carter only ever said that it was "sound."

Read the full story at the Wall Street Journal.

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