EP: 26 - Inaugural addresses with Clint Loshe - live on Zoom
Newly sworn-in presidents usually give a speech referred to as an inaugural address. As with many inaugural customs, this one was started by George Washington in 1789. After taking his oath of office on the balcony of Federal Hall, he proceeded to the Senate chamber where he read a speech before members of Congress and other dignitaries. Every president since Washington has delivered an inaugural address. While many of the early presidents read their addresses before taking the oath, current custom dictates that the chief justice administer the oath first, followed by the president's speech.
Jefferson's first inaugural. This comes on the heels of the election of 1800, famous for how divisive it was. Jefferson talks about the need to "restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection" that had taken a pretty severe beating. "We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists."
Lincoln's first inaugural. The famous lines about "we must not be enemies" begin in the final paragraph of the speech. There's also a good angle on speechwriting here, because the final paragraph was not written by Lincoln, but drafted by his incoming secretary of state, William Seward—which Lincoln then polishes into the famous lines we're familiar with.
Lincoln's second inaugural. This is one of the shortest inaugurals, in which Lincoln basically says up front "I don't need to tell you that there was a war..." and I think it's notable that it *sounds* tired, even on the page. The famous "with malice toward none" quote begins.
FDR's first inaugural. FDR opens with the section that includes the famous "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." (Which is possibly something he picked up from Thoreau!) "This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today" are something relevant to today. His closing lines are also pretty good in terms of talking about coming together to face down a national emergency.
Kennedy is not quite a crisis speech in the same way, because the crisis was international rather than at home. But his call to recommit to American values is a parallel to Biden's, perhaps. The paragraph preceding "Ask not what your country can do for you".
I see some parallels between Trump's "American Carnage" speech and Reagan's "Government is the Problem" speech that might be interesting to talk about. They both talk about restoring power to the people (possibly a deliberate echo by Trump, who was looking to Reagan for inspiration; Reagan's framing was about "special interest groups" and how the only special interest groups that matter are Americans), but they both also let their cynicism show.
Trump is nearly all cynicism, of course, but Reagan's "government is the problem" is also a cynical position that's at odds with other modern inaugurals. (In Reagan's speech, "government is the problem" section. In Trump's speech. Unfortunately, it's just 4 sentences, but it's spread over nearly a minute, ugh!) And then if you want to endcap this, you could bring in Clinton's second inaugural "And once again, we have resolved for our time a great debate over the role of government. Today we can declare: Government is not the problem, and government is not the solution. We, the American people, we are the solution. Our founders understood that well and gave us a democracy strong enough to endure for centuries, flexible enough to face our common challenges and advance our common dreams in each new day."
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