I noticed that Barack Obama's farewell address is scheduled to be broadcast on the four main over-the-air networks tonight (plus PBS). I didn't remember farewell addresses particularly, but this Time magazine article suggests they've become fairly typical, including (arguably) all presidents since Carter.

Got me wondering whether such past addresses were broadcast, and also whether there is any longterm trend in how many speeches were broadcast each year by the terrestrial networks?

  • 3
    Definitely not for the first 125 years.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 12, 2017 at 5:27

2 Answers 2


Obama's farewell address is quite unique, in terms of length and how it is described/promoted.

I'll list some facts that I could find:

  1. His farewell address is longer than those of Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush's combined.

  2. Also, the most famous farewell address, by George Washington, wasn't exactly an address; it was a letter penned by him.

  3. George W. Bush's farewell message was just around 13 min long and only "40 people with stories to tell" were invited by the White House."

    It wasn't exactly scheduled to air on networks, however an article by NBC news stated that "The White House has requested airtime from the major television networks."

  4. Usually the outgoing Presidents deliver them in D.C., either in The White House or in Congress.

  • That's great information. Will hold out to see if anyone actually has a way to uncover what actually broadcasting was done 8 years ago (and beyond), but you give great details! Jan 11, 2017 at 23:52
  • 1
    @JeopardyTempest Thanks, I'll try to see if I can find more sources that explicitly state if broadcasting was done and will update my post if I can find
    – Panda
    Jan 11, 2017 at 23:57

The answer to your question:

Yes, it's been the norm for quite a while.

Found this link that gave a brief history of presidential farewell addresses.


Here is another link that better answers OP's question regarding the history of broadcasts.

The only farewell address not given on air since Truman was JFK, mainly because he couldn't. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/farewell_addresses.php

President Obama's Farewell Address will be, however, the first to be broadcast using a 360 degree camera. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/obamas-farewell-speech-will-be-first-presidential-speech-to-be-broadcast-live-in-360-degree-video-2017-01-05

  • 1
    Definitely a good link. Does still leave me wondering about specifics, like whether they were actually live broadcast. And the timetable of changes. But it's definitely a start. Jan 11, 2017 at 3:19

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