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In the State of the Union, President Obama Will Only Say This Once

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Don't count on President Barack Obama to utter the word "freedom" much during his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night.

That's because the president has said "freedom" three times in his three State of the Union speeches (once per year), which doesn't come close to the 78 times George W. Bush mentioned the word in his seven speeches.

But Obama says "companies" and "businesses" much more frequently than predecessors Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The president, who opponents argued was the anti-business candidate in 2012, has talked about companies and businesses more than the previous five presidents combined. In fact, those words were in 66% of the 30 speeches he's given since 1978.


The president's attention to the private industry has emerged alongside sustained distress in the financial system and global economy. Context surrounding his rhetoric on businesses and companies has shifted over the years.

Much of Obama's first State of the Union address cited deeply negative aspects of the Great Recession, like: businesses shuttering, access to credit and company abuses. But by his 2012 speech -- during an election year -- the tone turned more positive, such as: tax breaks for small businesses and healthy growth of innovative, new companies.

If we break down the speeches of past presidents, the language reveals that they've each faced eras that demanded different actions.

Americans grew familiar with George W. Bush's attention to terrorism and terrorists. He said both words a combined 111 times. All other presidents since Carter mentioned terrorism and terrorists just 32 times combined. Obama didn't even use the word in last year's speech.

Clinton was the most garrulous State of the Union speaker, uttering about 53,500 words over seven years. He favored domestic topics, including the heaviest mentions of family, children, health, cuts, school and the budget.

The 42nd president, who repeatedly noted his peace-time record during the 1990s, skipped any mention of defense in four straight State of the Unions until 1999. That's when he mentioned defense once in the same year he explicitly linked terrorist Osama bin Laden to the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

George H.W. Bush gave just three speeches as he was a one-term president, but a word that grabbed notable attention in the 41st president's final address was "taxes." Sixteen references. You may remember his infamous one-liner: "Read my lips: no new taxes." Democrats and then-presidential nominee Clinton used the line against Bush and sank him in the 1992 general election.

Reagan's speeches have stood out from other presidents since Carter in that he referred to government spending more than the others. Reagan said "spending" 16 times in his 1983 address as he pushed for an end to "runaway" government spending and argued that defense spending wasn't the root of the country's deficit woes.

Carter seemed preoccupied with the Soviet Union in his 1980 address, shortly after the Soviet's deployed troops to Afghanistan and after the Iranian hostage crisis had begun. He mentioned "Soviet" 32 times in 1980, and combined to say it more times in three addresses than Reagan did in seven.

But what are the six most used words by all six of those presidents? "Year," "American," "America," "people," "must," "work" and "world."

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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