George Washington gave the first State of the Union message in 1790. The Constitution requires that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Washington chose to deliver this message via a speech. So did John Adams. However, from Jefferson to Taft the messages were reports, often lengthy and detailed, delivered to Congress. Washington’s State of the Union message suggested that the military be strengthened and that a standard set of weights and measures be developed. Children can read his message, and find all the other State of the Union messages, at an amazing website: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=29431
Homestead Act was created by Congress in 1862. Any person over the age of 21 or who was the head of a family could procure 160 acres of public land. He/she had to be willing to live on it for five years and to make improvements on it. The act enticed between 400,000 and 600,000 families to the West. Children could learn more at: Homestead Act.
Congress adopted the Great Seal in 1782. The seal, housed with the State Department, is used to authenticate federal documents. Three committees contributed their ideas until the final choice was made. The seal has at least five symbols that have thirteen of that object. For example, the eagle holds thirteen arrows. Children can learn more at: Great Seal.
Social Security Act was approved by Congress in 1935. Idea: Children could learn more about Social Security and how it obtains its funds.
Pledge of Allegiance was read publicly for the first time in 1892. Francis Bellamy wrote it so that people could declare their patriotism. It has undergone four changes, and it was formally adopted by Congress in 1942.
Women were allowed to attend military academies, per Congress, in 1975. Today roughly twenty percent of the academies’ graduating classes are women.
Office of Attorney General was created by Congress in 1789. The attorney general heads the department of justice, which acts as the chief legal department for the country. Children can learn more at: http://www.justice.gov/.
Congress met in session for the first time in the Capitol Building in 1800. Interesting fact – the Capitol Building on Sundays was used as a house of worship until the Civil War. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison attended services there. Children could visit the government website. The site offers some virtual tours and excellent links: Capitol Building.