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Jim Wright State of the Union
House Speaker Jim Wright gave the response to George H.W. Bush in 1989. He resigned later that year after an ethics scandal.Terry Ashe—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Jim Wright State of the Union
Bob Michel State of the Union
Bob Dole State of the Union Response
Dick Gephardt State of the Union
Kathleen Sebelius State of the Union
Bobby Jindal State of the Union
Bob McDonnell State of the Union
Michele Bachmann State of the Union
Paul Ryan State of the Union
Marco Rubio State of the Union
House Speaker Jim Wright gave the response to George H.W. Bush in 1989. He resigned later that year after an ethics scan
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Terry Ashe—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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The Curse of the State of the Union Response

Freshman Sen. Joni Ernst will give the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union next week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday.

The Iowa senator, who won a closely watched race in November, is the first woman to represent Iowa in either chamber in Congress.

"She is a perfect choice," McConnell said. "Americans voted for change and Senator Ernst will explain what the new Congress will do and what it is already doing to return Washington’s focus to the concerns of the middle class and away from the demands of the political class."

The assignment is not an easy one. The State of the Union carries with it all of the pageantry of the imperial presidency, making the response often seem lackluster by comparison.

Since the tradition started in 1966, the response has varied in format, with the speaker sometimes talking to a small group, alone in front of a camera, in a more informal setting or even at a governor's mansion.

Ernst said she was "humbled and honored" to give the response.

"It is a long way from Red Oak to Washington, D.C.," she said. "Growing up on a southwest Iowa farm years ago, I never, never would have imagined that I would have this opportunity."

-- With Alex Rogers

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