US Presidents’

Keywords show focus on
employment and COVID

U.S. President Joe Biden gave his first speech before Congress since taking office. In the first year of a presidency, this speech is called an “address to a joint session,” and in the second year and beyond it is known as the “State of the Union Address.” Which words appear most often? Nikkei examined 88 speeches, starting with that of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934 to Biden’s in 2021. Just as how the frequency of the word “job” is closely related to the unemployment rate, word usage reflects the political and economic situations, both domestic and international, that presidents face.

What are Biden’s
key words?

On April 28, 2021, Biden gave his first State of the Union Address. The keywords that emerged were “jobs” and “COVID.” He declared that the U.S. is "ready for takeoff" after the first 100 days of his presidency.

President Joe Biden addressed a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on April 28. © Reuters

The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America.

“Jobs” appeared 51 times, more than the 46 times the word was used in the prepared text released by the White House beforehand. Biden used the word more than any other president since Franklin D. Roosevelt, making his focus on employment clear.


After I promised 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots in 100 days – we will have provided over 220 million COVID shots in 100 days.

Countermeasures against the novel coronavirus are another priority for Biden. He mentioned "COVID" six times and "pandemic" 11 times, expressing pride in his success in promoting COVID-19 vaccination.


We’re in a competition with China and other countries to win the 21st Century.

"China" appeared in the speech four times, and Biden also mentioned President Xi Jinping's name. That indicates the president's strong sense of rivalry with China. And he stressed the need for cooperation among democratic countries.


We have to prove democracy still works.

"Democracy" appeared 17 times, highlighting Biden's determination to restore the democracy in the U.S. that was eroded by the Trump administration.


Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again.

Biden mentioned "America" or "American" 140 times, and vowed to restart the U.S. Econonomy and Society. That was the largest number of occurences in a State of the Union since Roosevelt.


The climate crisis is not our fight alone. It’s a global fight.

Biden used "climate" six times, it is also the largest number since modern State of the Union addresses were first given in 1934. He stressed that climate change is not just a problem for the U.S, and appealed for global coperation to meet the challenge.

What words appear
most commonly?

Appearances of frequently said words and their ratio

Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

What is the State of the Union Address (Address to a Joint Session)?

The State of the Union Address is a speech made by the U.S. president before a joint session of Congress. The president is obligated by the U.S. Constitution to report to Congress on the state of foreign and domestic affairs, propose their own policies and request that necessary legislation be adopted. They lay out their foreign and domestic priorities, and their plans for the economy and other issues for the next year.

The State of the Union is one of the “three major documents” produced by the White House, along with the budget proposal and the Economic Report of the President. Because the State of the Union Address is meant to be the president’s report to Congress on the current state of the country, the speech immediately after a president’s inauguration is known as an “address to a joint session,” rather than the “State of the Union Address.”

What do the key words
show about the U.S.?



Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Tied to unemployment

Ensuring sufficient jobs are available is an important issue for presidents. Clinton and Obama in particular used the word “job” often, with the two Democratic presidents calling for aggressive government action to create employment.

The word count shows some relationship to the unemployment rate. As the unemployment rate rises, the word “job” tends to appear more often. After the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the subsequent rise in unemployment, Obama in his 2010 speech said, “jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010.”


Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
Usage increases during economic downturns

As economic conditions worsen, presidents tend to emphasize the word “economy” more. Harry Truman mentioned it 33 times in 1946 after the end of World War II, and Obama used it 22 times in 2009 after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.


Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

Often used by Democratic presidents

Used mainly to refer to public investment, Democratic presidents use this word more often than Republican ones. Clinton used it 29 times in 1993 when pushing for a new investment plan. Obama used it 18 times in 2010 while calling for investment in clean energy and education.


Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

Focus on oil crisis and the environment

The first oil crisis in 1973 led to supply shortages. Nixon used the word “energy” 18 times in his 1974 speech, and Ford said it 25 times in 1975.

To indicate his focus on the environment, Obama used it 23 times in 2012, saying, “I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.”



Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

American exceptionalism

Recent presidents have tended to invoke “America” more often. Trump promised to put America first, and used the phrase “make America great again” in 2017 and 2018. “America First” also reflected a nationalist sentiment of prioritizing one’s own country.


Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

Honoring democracy

In the U.S., where democratic values are prized, this word has often been used by many presidents. Nixon in 1971 and Ford in 1977 both quoted Lincoln’s famous phrase, “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”


Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

Symbol of American values

The word “freedom” symbolizes American values. In 1941, during World War II, Roosevelt advocated for the “four freedoms” to show the struggle of American ideals against fascism. Many presidents have used the term since then, most notably Reagan, a proponent of neoliberalism.


Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

Increasing since World War II and the Cold War

“Democracy” tends to appear when the ideological debates with fascism and socialism are at intense points. It shows up more often around the end of World War II and the Cold War. Roosevelt used it 19 times in 1937, saying, “democracies are best able to maintain peace among themselves.” In 1994, Clinton used it ten times, saying, “We must also do more to support democratic renewal and human rights.”


Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

Guiding principles

The U.S. is a country that brings hope for the future and for peace. Phrases like this are easy to use in describing the country’s guiding principles. In his 1984 speech, Reagan said, “our greatest hope for the future, are the minds and hearts of our people, especially our children.” In 1996, Clinton said, “Our leadership in the world is also strong, bringing hope for new peace.”


Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

Chasing dreams

A favorite of Obama, a believer in the American Dream. Obama used the word “dream” 12 time in 2011. “We believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything is possible,” he said. “That dream is why I can stand here before you tonight.” He invoked the American values of freedom and fairness to show that anyone could achieve their dreams if they work hard.


Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

Overcoming domestic and international divisions

International cooperation and domestic cooperation are both expressions that show up when presidents are trying to overcome divisions. In 1946, Truman used the word ten times, saying, “lasting peace requires genuine understanding and active cooperation among the most powerful nations.”


Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

Calls for bipartisan cooperation

The word “unity” is often used to call on Congress to cooperate across party lines. Truman in 1951 said, “When I request unity, what I am really asking for is a sense of responsibility on the part of every Member of this Congress.” In 2002, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks George W. Bush said, “I join the American people in applauding your unity and resolve.”

Diplomacy and Security


Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

Spike after World War II

In 1946, just after World War II, Truman used “war” 202 times, far and away the most of any president. In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Johnson used it 20 times, and Nixon used it 16 times in 1970.

More recently it has also been used in reference to fighting terrorism, and in 2002, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, George W. Bush called for a “war on terror” 12 times. In 2016, Obama used it eight times, referring to the campaign against the Islamic State (IS) as a war and calling for military action.


Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

Sharp increase after 9/11

Bush used this word often after the attacks in 2001, using the phrase “war on terror” 15 times between 2002 and 2008. Trump in 2017 cited terrorism as one of the reasons to restrict immigration, saying, “We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America.”


Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

Referenced often during and after the war

“Japan” was mentioned often from 1942, when the war began in the Pacific, to 1946, the year after the war ended. Roosevelt condemned Japan six times in 1942, saying, “The act of Japan at Pearl Harbor was intended to stun us.”

In 1951, Truman said, “We hope to join in restoring the people of Japan to membership in the community of free nations.” That same year, the U.S. signed the San Francisco Treaty with Japan. In 1963, Kennedy referred to Japan and its rapid economic growth, saying, “Japan, whose remarkable economic and political development of the 1950’s permits it now to play on the world scene a major constructive role.”


Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans

From coordination to confrontation

China’s presence in the speeches has grown in line with its economy. Nixon, who visited China in 1972, said in his 1974 speech that the U.S.-China rapprochement had resulted in “a period of peaceful exchange and expanding trade.” Clinton, who mentioned China nine times in 2000, called for greater economic globalization and pushed for China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). China became an official member in 2001, and its GDP grew to become the world’s second largest in 2010. Upon taking office in 2017, Trump rebuked China and clarified the U.S.-China economic confrontation, saying, “we’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.”

Kazuhiro Maeshima,
professor at
Sophia University

“Many of the words related to ‘freedom’ or the economy are common themes that are important to all presidents, regardless of party. Important terms often indicate where a president’s policy focus will be, such as George W. Bush’s frequent use of the term ‘terrorism.’ The same words can also have different meanings for different presidents. ‘China’ was used positively by Bill Clinton, but for Donald Trump China was the enemy. For Truman, ‘Japan’ was often used as shorthand for the enemy. Later on, he rarely mentioned Japan, but that reflects the stability of the two countries as allied partners, rather than Truman’s disregard for Japan.”