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December 26, 1941

Rare Joint Meeting Held in the Senate Chamber

Joint meetings of Congress are a time-honored tradition. Purely ceremonial affairs, joint meetings are distinguished from joint sessions, which are sanctioned by the Constitution for delivery of the president's annual address (State of the Union) and for counting electoral votes. Joint meetings usually are held to receive foreign heads of state and parliamentary leaders. The Senate traditionally proceeds as a body to the larger Hall of the House of Representatives to attend such meetings. On December 26, 1941, less than three weeks after the U.S. entered World War II, Congress broke with tradition when House members marched to the Senate Chamber to receive an address from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. With many members away for the Christmas holidays, congressional officials chose to hold the joint meeting in the smaller Senate Chamber. Churchill's words galvanized the packed chamber, and attendees responded with thunderous applause. "Now that we are together," Churchill proclaimed, "now that we are linked in a righteous comradeship of arms, now that our two considerable nations, each in perfect unity, have joined all their life energies in a common resolve, a new scene opens upon which a steady light will glow and brighten."