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9+ Inauguration Speech Examples – PDF

Inauguration Speech Examples

Elections are a very stressful and overwhelming time for most people. It is the time when the right to suffrage is practiced by the people in order to vote for the candidates they think are worthy of the positions they run for. Not only that, the results of the elections will help determine the future of state, town, and most especially the whole country. It is a very significant and one of the most important days when people have to decide on what and who will be good for the whole state and country.

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During the elections period, you need to choose the candidate that best stands for what you believe is just and right. After a certain period intended for the candidates’ campaigns, the election day immediately follows. During the exact date for the election, you go to your poll, fill out your ballot, and put it the ballot box; you have officially cast your vote. Then what happens? After all the votes are counted, and the winning candidates are announced, an inauguration then follows. You often hear the word  inauguration  on election period. But what does that really mean and what does this entail?

inauguration speech

What Happens on Inauguration Day?

By definition, inauguration means the beginning or introduction of a system, policy, or period; the formal admission of someone to office, or a ceremony to mark the beginning of something. During election period, inauguration is a formal ceremony wherein an elected public official begins his/her term of office. Although the word is commonly used and associated with elections, it can also mean the opening or first public use of a new civic area, organization, or project such as new library, museum, hospital, etc. Simply put, inauguration pertains to a new beginning, be it about people in office or newly opened buildings or infrastructures.

Since the inauguration day during the election period is the most common example, you should know what happens during the said event in the USA. On the exact date of the scheduled inauguration day, it starts with a morning worship service. The morning worship service is a tradition during such a monumental day that started in 1993 with Franklin D. Roosevelt and his first lady Eleanor; they attended church at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House. It has then set a precedent that has been diligently followed by all the other newly elected high officials of the country.

After the morning worship service, the procession to the Capitol follows. Although there have been changes with the vehicles used during the procession, this has been a tradition since the inauguration of George Washington in 1789 to have the president-elect, the vice president-elect and their spouses proceed to the swearing-in ceremony in the White House. They are escorted by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC). It is an iconic procession that leads to the grounds where the newly elected president and vice president of the country will take their oath.

The vice president’s swearing-in  ceremony is immediately conducted once the procession arrives at the White House. This is when the vice president takes his/her oath of office. According to the U.S. constitution, the vice president doesn’t have a specific oath unlike that of the president. There has been quite a few officials who have administered the vice president’s oath. After this follows the president’s swearing-in ceremony where the chief justice of the Supreme Court administers the president’s oath. Some past inaugurations were held in front of New York’s Federal Hall and in Philadelphia like that of George Washington’s swearing-in ceremony, It wasn’t until 1801 when the swearing-in ceremony move to its current location in Washington, DC.

After all the swearing-in of the highest ranking elected official, the inaugural address follows. The tradition of giving an inauguration address began with George Washington with the shortest inauguration speech on record with only 135 words for his entire speech. However, the tradition many early presidents delivered their address before taking oath, the proceeding has been changed and the speech follows the oath. After the speech, the outgoing president and his spouse departs from the White House to proceed on their post-presidential lives. In the past, previous presidents leave the Capitol a day or two before the oath of the incoming president. But on the current days, incoming presidents and vice presidents have escorted the previous officials following the swearing-in ceremony.

After all the public appearances portion of the inauguration day, it has also been a tradition to hold an inauguration luncheon hosted by the JCCIC for the president, vice president, their spouses and other dignitaries. Following the luncheon, the newly elected president and vice president proceeds to Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House as a procession of ceremonial military regiments, citizens’ groups, marching bands, and floats follow. After the inaugural parade, a tradition inaugural ball follows. The tradition for the inaugural ball began in 1809 with James Madison’s inauguration.

As you may have noticed, there is a strict procedure that needs to be followed when it comes to the inauguration day. Although there have been changes, the same steps however in different order are still followed up to this day.

Washington’s First Inaugural Address Example

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JFK Inaugural Address Example

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Reagan’s Inaugural Speech Example

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Thomas Flynn Inauguration Speech Example

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Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address Example

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How to Craft an Inaugural Speech

An inauguration speech can either leave the audience inspired and in awe or leave them bored and uninspired. As you may now know based on the discussion above, the highest ranking elected official delivers the inauguration speech where he/she can set the tone of the presidency. However, making these speeches is not an easy feat. To help you with crafting your own inspirational inauguration speech, an easy guide is provided below:

1. Choose an appropriate greeting for your audience

The greeting of your speech should set the tone for your entire speech. You should be able to open the speech warmly and let your audience feel as if they are a part of the momentous celebration. There are a couple of ways you can open the speech. It can be done through saying a quote, using a “what if” or “imagine” scenario, ask a question, use statistics, use statement or phrase, and so on. You should make the audience feel that you are as excited and as happy as they are with the celebration.

Here are some examples of inaugural speech greetings by previous US presidents:

  • “I ask you to share with me today the majesty of this moment. In the orderly transfer of power, we celebrate the unity that keeps us free.” — Richard M. Nixon , 1969
  • “For myself and for our nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.” — Jimmy Carter , 1977
  • “Today we celebrate the mystery of American renewal. This ceremony is held in the depth of winter, but by the words we speak and the faces we show the world, we force the spring, a spring reborn in the world’s oldest democracy that brings forth the vision and courage to reinvent America.” — Bill Clinton , 1993

2. Describe the state of the nation

In this part of the speech you should remind the people of the current state of the nation. However, that does not mean you only include all the negative, also give emphasis on the positive things that have happened in the nation. This will help you set the tone for your term; if you feel like the negative outweighs the positive, then bring focus to that. Let the audience get in touch of the actual happenings of the present. Let them understand that the nation has still so much to improve on that way you can invoke them to do something about it together with you.

3. Pick a relevant issue and lay out your presidential plan

Although there will always be a lot of issues going on at the same time, as they say, you have to pick your battles. You have to know what your people want you to prioritize. Pick the issue you know the people have been wanting change for quite a while. Once you know what you have to work on, you set your plans on how to resolve the issue. And in your speech, express your presidential plans or the platforms you have ever since the campaign periods. Make the people know you are serious and determined to solve the issue be it about poverty, war, foreign policy, equality, and so on.

4. Inspire your audience

After you remind the people of the difficulties your nation is battling with, you need to give them hope that everything will be all right, that you will give your all in order to solve the current issues you country is facing. Aside from that, you need to inspire them to do their part, inspire them to give you a hand to resolve such matters. Inspire them to be better and responsible citizens of the country. You can use a quote, a strong phrase, or post a challenge to effectively get your point across.

5. Close your speech

If you think you have discussed or mentioned all the important points, you have to formally end you speech. And although it’s the end of the speech, let them know that you are still with them and you will fight their battles with them.

  • “I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot gave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of of the Union, when again touched, as surely as they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” — Abraham Lincoln , 1861
  • “Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end; that we did not turn back, nor did we falter. And with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations. Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.” — Barack Obama , 2009     

University President Inaugural Speech Example

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Attorney General Inaugural Remarks Example

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Ben Franklin Inaugural Speech Example

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CMA Incoming President Inaugural Speech Example

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how to make a good inaugural speech

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An inaugural speech captures the triumphs and hopes for the future in the winner of a political campaign. After a long and tiresome journey to the top of the political heap, you now can rejoice and let others in on your victory. But before you put that pen to paper or those fingers to the keyboard, you may want to learn a few important tips on what makes an inaugural speech great and how to inspire the citizens you preside over to create change.

Reflect on the moments that led to your victory. Think of the setbacks and the struggles you endured to finally reach this office. You will want to jot down a few distinct memories that touched you in terms of your fight to gain the position you now have. Try to add to your notes as much detailed information of such memories so that you will write more easily when you begin.

Recognize a theme that symbolizes your platform, as well as your fight to gain office. A recurrent theme of President Obama’s campaign was “hope,” and in his inaugural speech, he presented that theme by discussing the trials American people have faced through the years and how they always overcame them through determination and hope (see Ref 1, 3).

Craft an outline that has at least three parts; an introduction, a body and a conclusion. In your outline, use the notes and theme to create an organized list of what you want to say in your speech (see Ref 2).

Start the speech by writing a powerful opening that draws your audience in, making them want to hear more. You can begin with a line that sums up what your supporters feel; in Obama’s speech, he stated that “I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.” Yet you can also begin with a story that mirrors the trials and tribulations you faced and will soon take on as a newly elected leader. Whatever you decide, just make sure it captures your audience’s attention.

Write the following paragraphs addressing your citizens’ desires and fears. You can use figurative language to describe your positions on subjects, but it is best to be direct and simplistic when discussing more serious events or situations. You, as a leader, have received the office because people believed that you represented the future so you should keep them believing that, while also remaining honest and somewhat stoic. Becoming too emotional will not give you an air of leadership, so keep that in mind when writing the speech.

End the speech with a call to arms for your fellow citizens. Let them know that you will do your best but that you can only achieve great things with their help. Bring the speech full circle by addressing your theme in a subtle way, and leave your audience with an inspirational last sentence.

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Gerri Blanc began her professional writing career in 2007 and has collaborated in the research and writing of the book "The Fairy Shrimp Chronicles," published in 2009. Blanc holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature and culture from the University of California, Merced.

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Close-up of President's Face on a dollar bill image by PaulPaladin from Fotolia.com

Words Matter: What an Inaugural Address Means Now


Jan 15, 2021, 6:35 AM

UNIFYING THEME:  Polarization: Its Past, Present and Future

Presidents' words create national identity. For better or worse, presidential rhetoric tells the American people who they are.  Ultimately, a president's voice must provide the American people with a concrete vision of how-and more importantly, why-to move forward together.

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By Vanessa B. Beasley , Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

Presidents' words matter.  Such a statement may seem especially relevant right now, but it has been true throughout the course of U.S. history. Richard Neustadt wrote in 1960 that "presidential power is the power to persuade," and much of his focus was on how chief executives must bargain with members from other branches of government. Yet consider how much of presidents' executive action can be done through their words alone as well as how far those words can now reach due to the rise of mass and social media. They can veto, nominate, declare war, agree to peace, issue executive orders, define the state of the union, and pardon.  Today, as Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson have argued, "[P]residential rhetoric is the source of executive power, enhanced in the modern presidency by the ability to speak where, when, and on whatever topic they choose and to reach a national audience through coverage by the electronic media."

In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, many are thinking about the difference between what a president's words can do and what they should do.  Recent images of the Capitol steps captured this contrast clearly when insurrectionists, determined to break into the building and terrorize its occupants, transformed the scaffolding installed for the ceremony of a peaceful transfer of power on Inauguration Day into scaling ladders.  In the days since, amidst heightened fears for public safety, there have been recurring questions about what kinds of security will be required on Inauguration Day 2021.  But what kinds of words could possibly be deployed as well?

When we consider the history of what most presidents have said when inaugurated, it is worth remembering this is an invented tradition; there is no Constitutional requirement for a new president to give an inaugural address. The actual requirement is only for the new president to be sworn in and take an oath per Article II, Section 1.  Yet ever since George Washington chose to give an inaugural address in April 1789, in New York City, his successors have given such a speech.  In addition to becoming a traditional part of a larger civic ritual, over time this speech has come to occupy a unique space in the public performance of the presidency.

Listening to-and later, watching-an inaugural address can inform both U.S. citizens and the broader world alike what kind of leader a new president will be.  Think of a young John F. Kennedy, inexperienced in foreign policy, giving his inaugural address at the height of the Cold War, with outgoing president (and architect of D-Day) Dwight Eisenhower nearby in camera shot from almost every angle.  Today Kennedy's inaugural address may be remembered for its elegant, moving chiasmus-"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country"-focused on domestic service. On the day it was given, though, the visual message designed for a global television audience in general and the Soviet Union in particular was meant to be just as noticeable: The United States might have a new president, but it was no less prepared to protect democracy around the world.

As this example indicates, a presidential inaugural address is arguably less about an individual president and more about how well and fully he (and one day soon, she) comprehends this new role and its symbolic import.  This speech offers the first public test.  Does the new office holder truly know how to act on the oath just taken, acknowledging the necessity to transcend the views of one person or one party?  In other words, this speech signals how much the new president understands what the presidency means-or can mean-to the American people, whose communal shared interests the U.S. president, as opposed to members of Congress shivering behind him, has vowed to safeguard. For this reason, the inaugural address needs to be grounded in historical tradition but also responsive to the emergent needs of its own time.

Arguably, few presidents have understood this need better than Washington did.  In his inaugural address, he referred to the speech itself as his "first official act" as president, a role many of his contemporaries were dubious about due to fears the position would simply replicate the British monarchy or otherwise steer too much power into a nascent federal system.  Within this context, Washington crafted the very first presidential words ever uttered for the purpose of reassuring his audience, those in attendance in the Senate Chamber as well as those who would read about the speech in the following days.  His intentions were clear. He would remain humble and serve despite his own "anxieties," a word he used in the first sentence; remain reverent to the "Almighty Being who rules over the universe" and who might presumably favor the new nation; and, more than anything else, remain obliged to the new Congress (acknowledging he understood the Constitutional limitations imposed on the executive) and therefore the "public good."

To define this wholly new concept of an American public good, Washington did not spell out a policy agenda but identified what his role as its guardian would require: "no local prejudices, or attachments; no separate views, nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests…." With Federalists and Anti-Federalists having been at odds about the structure and scope of the new government, Washington was not only carving out clear ground for the presidency, but he was also providing ideological rivals with an alternative way to view themselves.  They might remain political adversaries, but they should always remember that they were the custodians of an "experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people," who must surely remain focused on "a regard for the public harmony."

It would be up to Washington's successors to similarly define and eventually expand American national identity in such transcendent terms.  As I have argued elsewhere, the great majority of presidents have done so with remarkable similarity, using themes related to civil religion to define American identity as overriding other partisan or sectional allegiances.  Historically, civil religious themes have been associated with American national identity not only because of their pseudo-religious aspects (e.g.,  a promise of providential favor on the United States, as in Washington's inaugural, or the subsequent political appropriation of John Winthrop's scriptural framing of the land as "a shining city on a hill") but also because of the idea that the nation offered its citizens opportunities to become someone new, a recurring theme of American identity also famously captured by early foreign observers such as Crevecoeur and de Tocqueville.

This idea of the inaugural address as an invitation to collective renewal--of convening a new beginning, together--is also one of the patterns identified by Campbell and Jamieson in their study of the characteristic rhetorical elements consistent in all presidential inaugurals over time. Especially after contentious elections, they write, this first speech must respond to an urgent need to "unif[y] the audience by reconstituting its members as 'the people,' who can witness and ratify the ceremony." Viewed through this lens, the address is therefore not only an opportunity for presidents to demonstrate an understanding of their role, but it is also an opportunity for "the people" to do the same.

An example is Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural after the fiercely divisive election of 1800, which was also the first time an incumbent president had not been reelected.  To reunite a divided people, Jefferson did not ignore the reality of the divisions still among them or the unprecedented nastiness of the campaign.  "During the contest of opinion through which we have passed, the animation of discussion and of exertion has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think," he noted, reminding citizens that it was their unique democratic privilege to be able to disagree so openly about politics.  "But this now being decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good." Jefferson was defining American identity by setting a clear boundary:  Americans follow the rules, even when they do not like the outcome.

And yet of course any discussion of Jefferson's definition of American character must state the obvious: Like Washington, he was never really speaking to or about all of the inhabitants of the United States. There was no acknowledgement of enslaved people or indigenous people as part of this common good. There was no sense that these people were part of what was being reunited after an election or at any other time either.  Following the rules of the day, in fact, demanded otherwise, including the violent separation of kin and tribe in order to build a new nation. Likewise, while white women were considered invaluable to a virtuous republic, there was no understanding that their interests might be in any way different from the white men who voted presumably, if not always accurately, for them.

In 2021, an awareness of how many of "the people" have been ignored in prior inaugural addresses raises questions about what an inaugural address means now.  If it is to be rooted in rhetorical traditions, which ones?  Like other genres of presidential speech, inaugural addresses are constructed around pillars of baked-in impulses and assumptions held by previous generations about who deserved to be called an American and whose interests should be included in a non-partisan, unifying sense of the common good. Even one of the most beautiful phrases in any inaugural, Lincoln's appeal to the "better angels of our nature" in his first, gives pause when you realize that the "us" implied in Lincoln's sense of "our nature," was necessarily almost exclusively white and male because of who his intended audience in 1861 was as well as his stated intent in the same speech not to interfere with "the institution of slavery" during his presidency.

Does this fact mean that Lincoln's first words as president, like the traditions they were written to follow, are irrelevant to what presidents should do today when they invite the American people to renew their faith in a democratic republic? To the contrary, they are instructive exactly because they reveal where to begin the rhetorical work that remains to be done:  the revision of a tradition of presidential speech with the explicit goal of expanding the common good into something larger than partisan interest or individual gain, as the previous examples indicate, but also making it clear in unequivocal terms that everyone has a stake in this good.  Everyone.

At this moment, it may be difficult to imagine what that would sound like. Barack Obama's notion of the nation as an imperfect but evolving union comes to mind as one possible foundational trope, even though it originally came from one of his campaign speeches and not the bully pulpit.  It may also be true that, over time, the televised spectacle of the inauguration itself-coverage of the formal breakfast, the fancy dress balls, and even the breathiness of the news announcers pointing out who is and is not attending this time-has increasingly turned our collective attention to the ceremony as primarily a visual event rather an oratorical one.  If this is true, it could explain why Donald Trump clung so tightly to his claims about how many attendees packed onto the Capitol lawn and parade route in January, 2017. Perhaps his belief was that such imagery alone was sufficient to represent a nation united in its hopes for a new president.

Images are rhetorical, to be sure.  I began this essay by referencing the horrific images of the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of January 6, 2021.  As haunting as those photographs and videos are, and as much as even a rhetorician like myself must concede that words cannot repair everything, words are almost always the place to start looking for both cause and effect.  Now is the moment to take seriously what presidents' words can do.

A president's words on Inauguration Day reveal not only what kind of president he or she will be, but they also should offer an idiom of identity the American people might imagine they can share.  In 2021, as it was in another speech given by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, it may be time to think carefully about how words may have the potential to remake America. At minimum, we must consider more expansively and honestly than ever before who "we" are, who "we" have been, and how "we" can move forward if the nation is to be renewed. Does the peaceful transition of power from one U.S. president to another require that a new chief executive give an inaugural address as part of a civic ritual of renewal? No.  Does the prospect of authentic unity among the American people depend on the invocation of an expansive "us" able to imagine a common good not yet realized? Yes.

Vanessa Beasley

  • Vanessa Beasley

Vanessa Beasley , a Vanderbilt University alumna and expert on the history of U.S. political rhetoric, is vice provost for academic affairs, dean of residential faculty and an associate professor of communication studies. As Vice Provost and Dean of Residential Faculty, she oversees Vanderbilt's growing Residential College System as well as the campus units that offer experiential learning inside and outside of the classroom.

Following stints on the faculty of Texas A&M University, Southern Methodist University and the University of Georgia, she returned to Vanderbilt in 2007 as a faculty member in the Department of Communication Studies . Active in the Vanderbilt community, she has served as chair of the Provost's Task Force on Sexual Assault, director of the Program for Career Development for faculty in the College of Arts and Science, and as a Jacque Voegeli Fellow of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities.

Beasley's areas of academic expertise include the rhetoric of American presidents, political rhetoric on immigration, and media and politics. She is the author of numerous scholarly articles, book chapters and other publications, and is the author of two books, Who Belongs in America? Presidents, Rhetoric , and Immigration and You, the People: American National Identity in Presidential Rhetoric, 1885-2000.  She was recently named president-elect of the Rhetoric Society of America , set to begin her term in July 2022.

Beasley attended Vanderbilt as an undergraduate and earned a bachelor of arts in speech communication and theatre arts. She also holds a Ph.D. in speech communication from the University of Texas at Austin.

[1] Richard Neustadt, Presidential Power and the Politics of Leadership (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1960), 11.

[2] Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency: Deeds Done in Words , 2 nd ed (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 6.

[3] Authenticated text available at https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/inaugural-address-2.

[4] Authenticated text available at https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/people/president/george-washington

[5] Authenticated text available at https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/people/president/george-washington

[6] Authenticated text available at https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/people/president/george-washington

[7] Vanessa B. Beasley, You, The People: American National Identity in Presidential Rhetoric (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004).

[8] Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency: Deeds Done in Words , 2 nd ed (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).

[9] Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency , 31.

[10] Authenticated text available at https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/inaugural-address-19

[11] Beasley, You, the People.

[12] Authenticated text available at https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/inaugural-address-34

[13] Authenticated text and audio available at https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88478467

[14] Gary Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992).

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The 5 Best Inaugural Addresses

While most inaugural addresses are forgettable, these five speeches endure.

The 5 Most Memorable Inaugural Addresses

how to make a good inaugural speech

Prepare to be underwhelmed. If history is any guide, when President Barack Obama delivers his second inaugural address at midday on Monday his words won't long linger in the public's memory.

Inaugural addresses as a group are largely forgettable. When he was helping John F. Kennedy prepare his address, aide Ted Sorensen read all the past such speeches and concluded, he later wrote, that they were "a largely undistinguished lot, with some of the best eloquence emanating from some of the worst presidents." The dozen which have been delivered since Kennedy's 1961 address have done little to alter that judgment.

This is due in part to the men delivering the speeches. "So many of these presidents are so forgettable," says historian Robert Dallek. "They don't make much of a mark on the country's memory. So I think their inaugurals reflect the quality of the men, and the historical reputation they leave us."

[ Check out editorial cartoons about President Obama. ]

And Obama faces the challenge which dogs any second inaugural address: how to bring drama or freshness to a continuity event. "There's no novelty to it," explains Jeff Shesol, who was a speechwriter for President Clinton. "A first inaugural address is America at a pivot point. … A second inaugural is a presidency at midstream."

For the most part the speeches generally recalled as ranking among the greats were delivered at critical moments in the nation's history. But they also managed to balance the moment with posterity. "They manage to speak very directly to their moment but they also say something to our own," Shesol says. "They manage to be timeless without being lost in the ether somewhere and unmoored from events."

Presidents have delivered 56 inaugural addresses. Here are the five best.

Thomas Jefferson's 1st, 1801: The presidential contest of 1800 was negative in a way that makes modern campaigns seem gentle. John Adams, the Federalist incumbent, favored monarchy and had schemed to marry his son to one of King George III's daughters, his enemies charged. Thomas Jefferson, the Democratic-Republican nominee, was an atheist vivisectionist whose election would ignite a French Revolution-style reign of terror, according to his rivals. Matters were not helped when, after the Democratic-Republicans seemed to win handily, the Electoral College deadlocked with both Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, getting the same number of votes (electors did not yet cast separate votes for president and vice president). This threw the matter to the Federalist-dominated, lame duck House of Representatives which, after 36 ballots, elected Jefferson.

[ Check out U.S. News Weekly , an insider's guide to politics and policy. ]

He would become the third president, but his swearing in marked the first time the presidency had shifted from one political party to the other. His political enemies still feared his radicalism, and there was even some talk of civil war. "He was trying to emphasize that there should be a constitutional transfer of power, and it shouldn't be seen as a reason for rebellion and bloodshed," says Dallek.

On the morning of Wednesday, March 4 (the date set for the transfer of power until the 20th Amendment moved it to January 20), Jefferson emerged from the Conrad and McMunn boarding house, a short distance from the Capitol, and walked to the Senate chamber for his swearing in. More than 1,000 people crammed into the chamber—"not another creature could enter," one witness reported—to listen to the new president deliver his address.

"Friends and fellow-citizens," he began in an almost inaudible tone, declaring his "sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents." He quickly turned to the main job at hand, reassuring his audience that the peaceful transfer of power was not a prelude to revolution. While affirming the "sacred principle" of majority rule, he cautioned that the will of the majority "must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression."

In a passage with which some contemporary politicians might want to reacquaint themselves, he said that, "every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists."

Abraham Lincoln's 2nd, 1865: When Lincoln had taken office four years earlier, he had used his brilliant first inaugural to make a lawyerly but eloquent case for preserving the union. In a closing suggested by one-time rival William Seward and polished by the president-elect, he had appealed to the "mystic chords of memory" which would "yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party. ]

Four years later, with the end of the nation's bloodiest war in sight, Lincoln could easily be expected to mark his second term with triumphalism and a celebration of his side's righteousness. Even providence seemed to favor him: As he emerged onto the inaugural platform, the sun made its first appearance after spending the morning hidden by clouds and being obscured earlier in the week by rain. Light flooded down and bathed the Capitol dome, which had not been completed when Lincoln first took the oath of office.

But the president knew that he and the country still faced huge challenges. "There was bound to be bitterness and animosity, and how were you going to make this nation whole again," says Dallek. "It was one of the great challenges of American history." So instead of a victory speech, Lincoln delivered a brief—fewer than 700 words—address with a different tone. "In keeping with this lifelong tendency to consider all sides of a troubled situation, Lincoln urged a more sympathetic understanding of the nation's alienated citizens in the South," Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote in her landmark Lincoln history, Team of Rivals .

While each side had "read the same bible and pray[ed] to the same God, and each invokes his aid against the other," Lincoln said, "the prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes." God had given "to both the North and South this terrible war as the woe" that was their due for the country's original sin, slavery. And, he said, "if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled up by the bondsmen's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword … 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"

His peroration is carved into history: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

[ See Photos: Presidential Inaugurations Throughout History. ]

"It's such a tragedy to think about the kind of course that he was charting on reconstruction, and it didn't come to pass," says speech expert Michael Cohen, author of Live From the Campaign Trail , about great presidential campaign speeches.

Days after the address, Lincoln wrote a political ally saying that he thought the speech would "wear as well—perhaps better than—any thing I have produced." He was right: Most historians see Lincoln's second as the greatest inaugural address ever.

Franklin Roosevelt's 1st, 1933: The weather welcoming Franklin Roosevelt to the presidency reflected the state of the union he was taking charge of. One later account recalled "the great mass before the Capitol, huddling in the mist and wind under the sullen March sky." One-fourth of the nation's workers were jobless; nearly half of the nation's banks—more than 11,000 of 24,000 in the country—had failed; the stock market had lost 75 percent of its value since 1929.

Supported by his son James, Roosevelt approached the rostrum to take the oath of office for the first time. While tradition dictated that Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes would read the presidential oath, and Roosevelt should affirm it with a simple, "I do," FDR set a new tradition by repeating each phrase of the oath.

Wearing nothing more than his formal morning coat against the biting wind, Roosevelt told his fellow countrymen that, "This is a day of national consecration." This was a last minute addition to the speech, which he had jotted onto his reading text shortly before delivering the speech.

[ See Photos Behind the Scenes: Preparing for Obama's Second Inauguration .]

Roosevelt had first started discussing an inaugural address with aide Raymond Moley the previous September. But while Moley would collaborate with Roosevelt to write the bulk of the speech, the most famous line was proffered by another aide, Louis Howe. Editing a near final draft, Howe had inserted the assertion that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Moley later suggested that Howe had gotten the phrase from a department store ad, but if true the advertisement has been lost to history.

The portions of the speech that drew the most crowd reaction were FDR's calls for "action, and action now." (The single biggest applause of the day, disturbingly, came when Roosevelt promised that if Congress would not act, he would request wartime executive powers to deal with the crisis on his own.)

The address was aimed at reviving a nation which was not only reeling, but had been reeling for years. He "sought to be honest and optimistic at the same time, a challenging combination he had developed when counseling polio patients at Warm Springs," Jonathan Alter wrote in The Defining Moment , his book on Roosevelt's first 100 days.

In a moment of Lincoln-like symbolism, the sun finally poked through the gray clouds just after Roosevelt ended his address. The national reaction to the speech was instantaneous. Nearly half a million people wrote to the new president. "This fellow talked as if he were 300 percent sure," Tommy Corcoran, a lawyer who would go on to become a close Roosevelt aide, recalled. "That blast of the horn was worth 1,000 men."

Franklin Roosevelt's 2nd, 1937: The state of the country had improved during FDR's first four years, but the weather for his second inaugural had not. The first January inauguration was greeted by rain and sleet, driven through the city by high winds. The crowd of thousands that gathered to watch the president renew his oath of office found themselves in mud to their ankles. "If they can take it, I can take it," Roosevelt said. Twice he would have to pause to wipe the rain from his eyes as he read.

[ Read the U.S. News Debate: Does Barack Obama Have a Mandate? ]

He had marked up the speech more than any other in his time in the White House, aide Samuel Rosenman later recalled. Rosenman and Tom Corcoran—who four years earlier had been struck by the "blast" of Roosevelt's "horn"—were FDR's principle collaborators on the address.

Four years into the great experiment of the New Deal, Roosevelt's second inaugural was both a spur to further progress and a bold philosophical statement of activist government.

"Old truths have been relearned; untruths have been unlearned," he said. "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics." The nation had "come far from the days of stagnation and despair," FDR told his audience, but warned that "our present gains were won under the pressure of more than ordinary circumstance." But the hard-won advances could lead to complacence, he warned: "Prosperity already tests the persistence of our progressive purpose."

And there was still work to be done. He described a country still struggling to recover from economic disaster. "I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day." He, repeated the "I see" formulation three more times before uttering his famous encapsulation: "I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished." Roosevelt had penciled that summation himself. He continued: "It is not in despair that I paint you that picture," he said. "I paint it for you in hope—because the nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, proposes to paint it out. … The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

[ See 2012: The Year in Cartoons .]

It was a "uniquely radical speech," says Cohen. "It's an amazingly self-confident speech, but also one that represents a real shift in governing philosophy."

The speech, adds Shesol, whose book Supreme Power recounts Roosevelt's second-term, court-packing fight, is "in many ways the equal of the first [inaugural] in the clarity of the argument and the beauty of the language. … It's not just a series of lines, but it says so much about who he was and what he did."

John F. Kennedy's, 1961: Shortly after his hair's-breadth victory over Vice President Richard Nixon, President-elect Kennedy huddled with Sorensen, his top aide and chief speechwriter, to discuss the inaugural address. "Make it shortest since T.R. (except for FDR's abbreviated wartime ceremony in 1945)," Sorensen jotted in a note to himself.

Brevity (it was less than 1,400 words) was one of the virtues of Kennedy's ringing inaugural. It was also what the historian David Greenberg has called "the last expression of a now-eclipsed strain of Churchillian oratory"—recall, for example, "Now the trumpet summons us again…" Kennedy ordinarily shunned such flourishes. Simplicity and clarity were the goals in his speeches, though he valued pungency of expression as well. "The inaugural was a special occasion, and there was a special tone in that speech," Sorensen later recalled.

[ See Photos: Obama Behind the Scenes. ]

That tone and that language—"ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country"—have made it the benchmark against which subsequent addresses have been measured. Uniquely on this list, Kennedy's speech did not occur at a time the country was facing imminent crisis (despite his declaration that he spoke during the "hour of maximum danger" for freedom), though the circumstances of the speech have helped it endure: He was the youngest elected president, speaking of "the torch [having] been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace…." And the speech came at a cultural tipping moment. "I don't think you would have felt in a Nixon inaugural in January, 1961 some kind of momentous shift of the generations," says Shesol. And, adds Dallek, author of the JFK biography An Unfinished Life , the speech gave the country "some new, fresh hope and optimism."

Like FDR's second inaugural, Kennedy's speech was also an eloquent expression of political philosophy, this one focused on foreign affairs. The declaration that "we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe" takes on a grim tone after the tragedy of the Vietnam War. But that rhetoric is also balanced by the language of internationalism, a desire for peace, and a hope for a "new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved." The economist John Kenneth Galbraith contributed a notion which would become one of the speech's best known passages: "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate."

  • Read Mort Zuckerman: America Isn't Working
  • See a collection of political cartoons on Afghanistan.
  • See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.

Tags: Franklin Delano Roosevelt , Barack Obama , Thomas Jefferson , Inauguration , Abraham Lincoln , John F. Kennedy

how to make a good inaugural speech

Lesson Plan

Jan. 15, 2021, 1:30 p.m.

Write your own presidential inauguration speech


President Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865, near the end of the Civil War. Lincoln invited Black Americans to participate in the 1865 inaugural parade for the first time, two years after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. via Library of Congress

Estimated time, grade level.

  • Students will examine the elements of the presidential inauguration ceremony and understand the importance of the ceremony as a political norm and tradition.
  • Students will research historic inaugural addresses and gain perspectives from presidential historians about the importance of the inaugural address and ceremony.
  • Students will synthesize information about inaugural ceremonies and historical perspective and address the importance of national unity.
  • What is the importance of the presidential inauguration ceremony towards the peaceful transition of power?
  • Why is it important for elected members of the federal government and former presidents to attend the Presidential Inauguration?
  • What are 2-3 themes (such as "national unity," a theme of Biden's address) that you would want to address if you were being sworn in as president of the United States?
  • What are 2-3 inspirational quotes that you would want to include in an inaugural address if you were being sworn in as president of the United States?
  • Take a swing at presidential speech writing. Write between 100-500 words of an inaugural address using themes and inspirational quotes that you chose. Good luck!
  • Optional : Send your speech to PBS NewsHour EXTRA! We would love to read your speech and share it with others over social media. You can email it to us directly or have your teacher tag @NewsHourEXTRA and use the hashtag #PBSInaugurationSpeech .

how to make a good inaugural speech

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Bell Ringer: What Makes a Good Inaugural Address

What makes a good inaugural address.

Historian and author Michael Beschloss used examples of five historic inaugural addresses to discuss what makes an effective inaugural address. He cited the inaugural address of Lincoln (1865), Roosevelt (1933), Kennedy(1961), Reagan 1981, Bush (2001), and Obama (2009).


Historian and author Michael Beschloss used examples of five historic inaugural addresses to discuss what makes an effective inaugural address. He cited the inaugural address of Lincoln (1865), Roosevelt (1933), Kennedy (1961), Reagan (1981), Bush (2001), and Obama (2009).

Bell Ringer Assignment

  • What challenges faced Franklin Roosevelt in 1933? How did he use his inaugural speech to address these challenges?
  • According to Michael Bechloss, what makes a good speech?
  • How did Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address in 1865 meet the challenges of the time?
  • Why was the date of inauguration changed after the 1933 inauguration?
  • What was the focus of John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address? Why did he do this?
  • What similarities exist between the inaugural addresses discussed by Michael Bechloss?
  • Why is an understanding of history important to writing an effective inaugural address?
  • Based on this information, what advice would you give to an incoming president as they write their inaugural address?

Related Article

  • INAUGURAL ADDRESS - The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies

Additional Resources

  • Lesson Plan: Analyzing Historical Presidential Inaugural Addresses
  • Bell Ringer: Franklin Roosevelts 1933 Inauguration


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UPDATED January 17, 2013

Build your own inaugural address, 1. how will you draw on america's past.

Presidents frequently reflect on the nation's history.

how to make a good inaugural speech

March 5, 1849 Zachary Taylor, like many before him, cited George Washington.

To defend your policies

“We are warned by the admonitions of history and the voice of our own beloved Washington to abstain from entangling alliances with foreign nations.”

how to make a good inaugural speech

January 20, 1973 Richard Nixon resigned in 1974.

To win public support

“Let us pledge together to make these next four years the best four years in America's history, so that on its 200th birthday America will be as young and as vital as when it began, and as bright a beacon of hope for all the world.”

how to make a good inaugural speech

January 20, 1953 Dwight D. Eisenhower's first Inaugural Address.

To measure national progress

“We have passed through the anxieties of depression and of war to a summit unmatched in man's history.”

how to make a good inaugural speech

January 20, 1993 Bill Clinton took office in 1993.

To show a changing world

“When George Washington first took the oath I have just sworn to uphold, news traveled slowly across the land by horseback and across the ocean by boat. Now, the sights and sounds of this ceremony are broadcast instantaneously to billions around the world.”

2. How will you acknowledge the moment?

Absent a crisis, Inaugural Addresses often emphasize continuity of government.

how to make a good inaugural speech

January 20, 1981 Ronald Reagan succeeded Jimmy Carter.

Celebrate how routine it is

“The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries and few of us stop to think how unique we really are.”

how to make a good inaugural speech

March 4, 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt urged action to fight the Great Depression

Push for immediate action

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

how to make a good inaugural speech

March 4, 1845 James Polk, like many early presidents, celebrated the Constitution.

Honor the Constitution

“The Constitution itself, plainly written as it is, the safeguard of our federative compact, the offspring of concession and compromise, binding together in the bonds of peace and union this great and increasing family of free and independent States, will be the chart by which I shall be directed.”

how to make a good inaugural speech

March 4, 1873 Ulysses S. Grant won re-election overwhelmingly in 1872.

Proclaim victory over your enemies

“I have been the subject of abuse and slander scarcely ever equaled in political history, which to-day I feel that I can afford to disregard in view of your verdict, which I gratefully accept as my vindication.”

3. What is America's biggest challenge?

Economic problems are among the most cited threats.

March 4, 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 started a large-scale program of public works.

End mass unemployment

“Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously.”

how to make a good inaugural speech

January 20, 2005 George W. Bush's second Inaugural Address focused on expanding freedom.

Spreading freedom

“From the viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few: Did our generation advance the cause of freedom? And did our character bring credit to that cause?”

how to make a good inaugural speech

March 4, 1897 William McKinley entered office amid a depression and arguments over a gold standard.

Protecting our credit

“The credit of the Government, the integrity of its currency, and the inviolability of its obligations must be preserved. This was the commanding verdict of the people, and it will not be unheeded.”

how to make a good inaugural speech

January 20, 1965 Lyndon B. Johnson helped establish Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.

Reducing inequality

“In a land of great wealth, families must not live in hopeless poverty. In a land rich in harvest, children just must not go hungry.”

4. What is the role of government?

Views of govenrment have evolved, from frequent praise after the Revolutionary War to increased skepticism today.

January 20, 1937 Franklin D. Roosevelt said that government must act during the Great Depression.

To solve our biggest problems

“Democratic government has innate capacity to protect its people against disasters once considered inevitable, to solve problems once considered unsolvable.”

January 20, 1981 Ronald Reagan won his first term in the face of a weak economy.

To get out of the way

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

how to make a good inaugural speech

January 20, 2009 Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012.

To be practical

“The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.”

how to make a good inaugural speech

March 4, 1817 James Monroe and other early presidents frequently praised government.

To continue being awesome

“The heart of every citizen must expand with joy when he reflects how near our Government has approached to perfection; that in respect to it we have no essential improvement to make.”

5. How will you unite Americans?

As early as Thomas Jefferson, presidents have urged Americans to unite after close elections.

how to make a good inaugural speech

March 4, 1801 Thomas Jefferson won office after the bitter, partisan election of 1800.

Cite shared values

“But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.”

how to make a good inaugural speech

January 20, 1961 John F. Kennedy spoke of "defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger."

Appeal to sense of duty

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

how to make a good inaugural speech

March 4, 1881 James A. Garfield said Americans should accept emancipation.

Show how we have moved past old problems

“My countrymen, we do not now differ in our judgment concerning the controversies of past generations, and fifty years hence our children will not be divided in their opinions concerning our controversies.”

how to make a good inaugural speech

March 4, 1861 Abraham Lincoln appealed for states to rejoin the Union.

Warn of disunion

“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. ”

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How to write an inaugural address

The inaugural address is the center stage of american public life. it is a place where rhetorical ambition is expected. it symbolizes the peaceful transfer of power -- something relatively rare in human history..

President Barack Obama is embraced by former President George Bush moments after Obama was...

By William McKenzie|Contributor

4:03 PM on Jan 10, 2017 CST

There are speeches, and then there are speeches. An inaugural address seems to be in a class of its own. In Lincoln's case, his words ended up chiseled in stone at the Lincoln Monument. How does a president, or president-elect, even start tackling an address that could shape history?

The inaugural address is the center stage of American public life. It is a place where rhetorical ambition is expected. It symbolizes the peaceful transfer of power -- something relatively rare in human history. It provides the public, Congress and members of a new president's own administration an indication of his tone and vision. It is intended to express the best, most inspiring, most unifying version of president's core beliefs. And that requires knowing your core beliefs.

I read that you went back and studied all prior inaugural addresses before starting to work on President Bush's 2001 inaugural address. What did you learn from that experience? Would you recommend it for others who go through this process?

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It is a pretty tough slog in the early 19 th century, before getting to Abraham Lincoln and the best speech of American history, his Second Inaugural Address. That speech is remarkable for telling a nation on the verge of a military victory that had cost hundreds of thousands of lives that it was partially responsible for the slaughter; that its massive suffering represented divine justice.

Strictly speaking, it is only necessary to read the greatest hits among inaugurals to get a general feel. But it would be a mistake to miss some less celebrated but worthy efforts such as Richard Nixon in 1968: "America has suffered from a fever of words... we cannot learn from each other until we stop shouting at one another." This theme of national unity is a consistent thread throughout inaugural history.

Having worked on two inaugural addresses, and read so many, do they by and large set the stage for the next four years? Or, are they mostly forgotten?

Some of the speeches are undeniably forgettable. But even those are never really forgotten. They are some of the most revealing documents of presidential history, when a chief executive tries to put his ideals and agenda into words. Students of the presidency will read those speeches to help understand a president's self-conception and the political atmosphere of his time.

What was the writing and editing process like with President Bush on these addresses? And what did you all learn from the first address that shaped the second one in 2005?

President Bush's first inaugural address was intended to be a speech of national unity and healing. He had just won a difficult election in which he lost the popular vote (which certainly sounds familiar). It was a moment of some drama, with his opponent, Vice President Gore, seated on the podium near the President-Elect.

President Bush would often edit speeches by reading them aloud to a small group of advisers, which he did several times at Blair House during the transition. "Our unity, our Union," he said in his first inaugural, "is a serious work of leaders and citizens and every generation. And this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity."

The second inaugural was quite different, not so much a speech of national unity as a speech of national purpose. President Bush had a strong vision of what he wanted his second inaugural to accomplish. "I want it to be the freedom speech," he told me in the Cabinet room after the first Cabinet meeting following his reelection had broken up. It was intended to be a tight summary of Bush's foreign policy approach, setting high goals while recognizing great difficulties in the post-9/11 world.

"We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion," he said. "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

Globalization figured prominently as a theme in Donald Trump's victorious presidential campaign. I would assume we are likely to hear more in his address about America's place in the globalized economy. But what do you think? What themes are we likely to hear?

We are seeing a reaction to globalization across the western world, and this set of issues certainly motivated a portion of President-elect Trump's coalition. It is essential for political leaders to help a generation of workers prepare for an increasingly skills-based economy. It is a fantasy, however, for a political leader to promise the reversal of globalization, any more than he or she could promise the reversal of industrialization. Trump should address the struggles of middle and working class Americans. But it is deceptive and self-destructive to blame those struggles on trade and migrants.

What happens after these big speeches are given? Do presidents and the team that helped prepare them go back to the White House and high-five each other? I guess it would be a little indecorous to throw Gatorade buckets on each other, like victorious football teams do after winning the Super Bowl.

As I remember it, the new president attends a lunch hosted by congressional leaders. Then he goes to the reviewing stand in front of the White House for the inaugural parade. (Jimmy Carter actually walked in the parade a bit.)

I remember entering the White House that afternoon, walking into the Roosevelt Room (where senior staff and other meetings take place) and watching a workman take down the picture of Franklin Roosevelt from above the fireplace and put up the picture of Teddy Roosevelt. I felt fortunate to be present at a great tradition. In fact, every day at the White House was an honor.

This Q&A was conducted by William McKenzie, editor of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute. Email:  [email protected]

William McKenzie|Contributor

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What is an inaugural address.

Presidents of the United States deliver a plethora of speeches during their time in office. One of the most important of them all is the inaugural address. What is an inaugural address? What is the intention of the speech, why is it so significant, and how can the President be sure to get it right? 

What is an inaugural address?

The inaugural address is the speech delivered by the President following their Oath of Office. It is a chance to speak directly to the nation and provide a clear message about the four years ahead. When well-crafted and delivered effectively, it can give the President a positive start to their first term .

Delivering an Address During an Inauguration

The inaugural address is a massive moment in the long inauguration process. There is a grand ceremony on the western front of the United States Capitol where the President and Vice President are sworn into office to begin the new term. After the oath at noon, the new President delivers their speech to the nation. 

The position of the ceremony allows the President to speak to hundreds of guests in attendance, but also thousands lining the National Mall and the millions watching on TV worldwide. It is no surprise that there is a lot of pressure to get the speech just right. 

Everything from the structure and length of the speech to the tone and eloquence of the delivery falls under a microscope. People will judge the new President based on these words, especially those that voted for the other guy. So, each speech must be bipartisan, inspiring, perfectly composed, and just the right length. 

The Length of an Inaugural Address

There is no specific length for an inaugural address. Presidents can make theirs as long or as short as they want. Some choose the former to make the most of their time and say all they need to say, while others keep it short and sweet. 

President George Washington’s second inaugural address was a good example of keeping things short. As the only person to hold office, there was no precedent in place or any expectation for a long speech and drawn-out speech. So, he said just 135 words, repeated the oath, and returned to work. 

Over the decades, the speech has become a more symbolic moment in the ceremony, with greater expectations over the message and length. When Washington’s Vice President , John Adams, won his election, he delivered a speech of 2308 words – including one 737-word sentence. The longest ever came from William Henry Harrison , with an 8,445-word address in the pouring rain. 

Quality Over Quantity Helps With a Good Inaugural Address

The length of a speech is nowhere near as important as the message within. We will probably forget how long we spent waiting for a speech to end but will share quotes and videos from a good speech for a long time. So, each new President has to ensure that they set out their goals and principles in an appropriately presidential manner without going too far. 

Franklin D Roosevelt was a good example of one who knew when to keep things short and to the point. His fourth address did not overstay its welcome at just 559 words. By this point, the nation knew the man and his ideals as he had been elected to a historic fourth term. On top of that, Roosevelt was keen to keep things simple with a basic ceremony at the White House due to America’s involvement in World War II. 

Creating a Strong Bipartisan Address

An inauguration marks a new chapter in the nation’s history, so it makes sense for the President to highlight this after taking the oath. Some will reflect on the chance to make improvements for the nation or to lead them out of times of trouble. Others will reaffirm their desire to continue their hard work and dedication for a second term. 

Ideally, these speeches should be bipartisan. This isn’t a time to talk down to the opposition in victory or to talk about all the ways a previous administration failed the nation. Doing so runs the risk of causing a divide in the crowds of people watching – either at the National Mall or on TV. 

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President Joe Biden’s 2021 address is a good example of this with its opening lines. “This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope. Of renewal and resolve.” This speech set a strong positive tone, whereas his predecessor, Donald Trump’s speech, was criticized for its bleak and dystopian outlook. 

Who Writes the Presidential Inaugural Address?

You might assume that the President is the one to write the speech if it is such an important moment for them to articulate their vision and goals. However, the scale of the occasion and scrutiny of the speech means that this isn’t always the case. In the past, the first presidents undoubtedly did spend hours penning their own speeches, but not today.

The idea of the political speech writer is not such a big deal these days. We know that the White House has a communications team to create important speeches – often with multiple versions depending on a desired tone or outcome. They have been in use since the days of Calvin Coolidge . 

Therefore, it makes sense that this grand public address is another writer’s work. They are typically skilled and trusted members of the President’s team who can take the ideas and references given by the President and spin them into gold. 

The Inaugural Address Will Always Be an Important Moment in the Presidency

There will always be debate over who created the best or worst inaugural addresses in history. Often, the oratory skills of the man elevate the words into something even more profound. What is clear is that these speeches have great power, and each President must get it just right. Otherwise, the inauguration day address will go into the history books for all the wrong reasons. 

Alicia Reynolds

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Chief of State Role, and Examples

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The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20500

Inaugural Address by President Joseph R. Biden,   Jr.

President Joe Biden wearing a suit, standing in front of an American flag

The United States Capitol

11:52 AM EST

THE PRESIDENT: Chief Justice Roberts, Vice President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice President Pence, distinguished guests, and my fellow Americans.

This is America’s day.

This is democracy’s day.

A day of history and hope.

Of renewal and resolve.

Through a crucible for the ages America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge.

Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy.

The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.

We have learned again that democracy is precious.

Democracy is fragile.

And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.

So now, on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.

We look ahead in our uniquely American way – restless, bold, optimistic – and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be.

I thank my predecessors of both parties for their presence here.

I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

You know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength of our nation.

As does President Carter, who I spoke to last night but who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime of service.

I have just taken the sacred oath each of these patriots took — an oath first sworn by George Washington.

But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us.

On “We the People” who seek a more perfect Union.

This is a great nation and we are a good people.

Over the centuries through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we have come so far. But we still have far to go.

We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility.

Much to repair.

Much to restore.

Much to heal.

Much to build.

And much to gain.

Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now.

A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country.

It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II.

Millions of jobs have been lost.

Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed.

A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.

A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear.

And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.

To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words.

It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy:

In another January in Washington, on New Year’s Day 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

When he put pen to paper, the President said, “If my name ever goes down into history it will be for this act and my whole soul is in it.”

My whole soul is in it.

Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this:

Bringing America together.

Uniting our people.

And uniting our nation.

I ask every American to join me in this cause.

Uniting to fight the common foes we face:

Anger, resentment, hatred.

Extremism, lawlessness, violence.

Disease, joblessness, hopelessness.

With unity we can do great things. Important things.

We can right wrongs.

We can put people to work in good jobs.

We can teach our children in safe schools.

We can overcome this deadly virus.

We can reward work, rebuild the middle class, and make health care secure for all.

We can deliver racial justice.

We can make America, once again, the leading force for good in the world.

I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy.

I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real.

But I also know they are not new.

Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, and demonization have long torn us apart.

The battle is perennial.

Victory is never assured.

Through the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our “better angels” have always prevailed.

In each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.

And, we can do so now.

History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.

We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors.

We can treat each other with dignity and respect.

We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.

For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.

No progress, only exhausting outrage.

No nation, only a state of chaos.

This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.

And, we must meet this moment as the United States of America.

If we do that, I guarantee you, we will not fail.

We have never, ever, ever failed in America when we have acted together.

And so today, at this time and in this place, let us start afresh.

Let us listen to one another.

Hear one another. See one another.

Show respect to one another.

Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path.

Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war.

And, we must reject a culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.

My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this.

America has to be better than this.

And, I believe America is better than this.

Just look around.

Here we stand, in the shadow of a Capitol dome that was completed amid the Civil War, when the Union itself hung in the balance.

Yet we endured and we prevailed.

Here we stand looking out to the great Mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream.

Here we stand, where 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protestors tried to block brave women from marching for the right to vote.

Today, we mark the swearing-in of the first woman in American history elected to national office – Vice President Kamala Harris.

Don’t tell me things can’t change.

Here we stand across the Potomac from Arlington National Cemetery, where heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion rest in eternal peace.

And here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, and to drive us from this sacred ground.

That did not happen.

It will never happen.

Not tomorrow.

To all those who supported our campaign I am humbled by the faith you have placed in us.

To all those who did not support us, let me say this: Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart.

And if you still disagree, so be it.

That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably, within the guardrails of our Republic, is perhaps our nation’s greatest strength.

Yet hear me clearly: Disagreement must not lead to disunion.

And I pledge this to you: I will be a President for all Americans.

I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.

Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.

What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans?

I think I know.


And, yes, the truth.

Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson.

There is truth and there are lies.

Lies told for power and for profit.

And each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders – leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation — to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.

I understand that many Americans view the future with some fear and trepidation.

I understand they worry about their jobs, about taking care of their families, about what comes next.

But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you do, or worship the way you do, or don’t get their news from the same sources you do.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.

We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.

If we show a little tolerance and humility.

If we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes just for a moment. Because here is the thing about life: There is no accounting for what fate will deal you.

There are some days when we need a hand.

There are other days when we’re called on to lend one.

That is how we must be with one another.

And, if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future.

My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we will need each other.

We will need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter.

We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus.

We must set aside the politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.

I promise you this: as the Bible says weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.

We will get through this, together

The world is watching today.

So here is my message to those beyond our borders: America has been tested and we have come out stronger for it.

We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again.

Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s.

We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.

We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.

We have been through so much in this nation.

And, in my first act as President, I would like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those we lost this past year to the pandemic.

To those 400,000 fellow Americans – mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

We will honor them by becoming the people and nation we know we can and should be.

Let us say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives, for those they left behind, and for our country.

This is a time of testing.

We face an attack on democracy and on truth.

A raging virus.

Growing inequity.

The sting of systemic racism.

A climate in crisis.

America’s role in the world.

Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways.

But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with the gravest of responsibilities.

Now we must step up.

It is a time for boldness, for there is so much to do.

And, this is certain.

We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era.

Will we rise to the occasion?

Will we master this rare and difficult hour?

Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world for our children?

I believe we must and I believe we will.

And when we do, we will write the next chapter in the American story.

It’s a story that might sound something like a song that means a lot to me.

It’s called “American Anthem” and there is one verse stands out for me:

“The work and prayers of centuries have brought us to this day What shall be our legacy? What will our children say?… Let me know in my heart When my days are through America America I gave my best to you.”

Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our nation.

If we do this then when our days are through our children and our children’s children will say of us they gave their best.

They did their duty.

They healed a broken land. My fellow Americans, I close today where I began, with a sacred oath.

Before God and all of you I give you my word.

I will always level with you.

I will defend the Constitution.

I will defend our democracy.

I will defend America.

I will give my all in your service thinking not of power, but of possibilities.

Not of personal interest, but of the public good.

And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear.

Of unity, not division.

Of light, not darkness.

An American story of decency and dignity.

Of love and of healing.

Of greatness and of goodness.

May this be the story that guides us.

The story that inspires us.

The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history.

We met the moment.

That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.

That our America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world.

That is what we owe our forebearers, one another, and generations to follow.

So, with purpose and resolve we turn to the tasks of our time.

Sustained by faith.

Driven by conviction.

And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts.

May God bless America and may God protect our troops.

Thank you, America.

12:13 pm EST

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Teaching American History

Inaugural Address (1801)

  • March 4, 1801

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Thomas Jefferson was the first president to preside over a transfer of power from one party to another. But he was also the first president to use the inaugural address as an opportunity to declare “the essential principles” by which his administration would be governed, for neither Washington nor Adams used the inauguration to declare a new set of political principles. Jefferson lists these principles in the fourth paragraph but only after proclaiming in the second paragraph that Americans were both Republicans and Federalists, that is, that they all shared the same principles. In the fifth paragraph, Jefferson suggests that the president alone sees the “whole ground,” thus anticipating claims by later presidents that the president alone represents the whole nation.

Source: Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, 4 March 1801, Founders Online, National Archives, https://goo.gl/B616RD .

Friends & Fellow Citizens,

Called upon to undertake the duties of the first executive office of our country, I avail myself of the presence of that portion of my fellow citizens which is here assembled to express my grateful thanks for the favor with which they have been pleased to look towards me, to declare a sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents, and that I approach it with those anxious and awful presentiments which the greatness of the charge, and the weakness of my powers so justly inspire. A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry, engaged in commerce with nations who feel power and forget right, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye; when I contemplate these transcendent objects, and see the honor, the happiness, and the hopes of this beloved country committed to the issue and auspices of this day, I shrink from the contemplation and humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking. Utterly indeed should I despair, did not the presence of many, whom I here see, remind me, that, in the other high authorities provided by our Constitution, I shall find resources of wisdom, of virtue, and of zeal, on which to rely under all difficulties. To you, then, gentlemen, who are charged with the sovereign functions of legislation, and to those associated with you, I look with encouragement for that guidance and support which may enable us to steer with safety the vessel in which we are all embarked, amidst the conflicting elements of a troubled world.

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed, the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely, and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution[,] all will of course arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All too will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind, let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty, and even life itself, are but dreary things. And let us reflect that having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance, as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others; and should divide opinions as to measures of safety; but every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all republicans: we are all federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it. I know indeed that some honest men fear that a republican government cannot be strong; that this government is not strong enough. But would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm, on the theoretic and visionary fear, that this government, the world’s best hope, may, by possibility, want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, in the contrary, the strongest government on earth. I believe it the only one, where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern.–Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels, in the form of kings, to govern him? Let history answer this question.

Let us then, with courage and confidence, pursue our own federal and republican principles; our attachment to union and representative government. Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; too high minded to endure the degradations of others, possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation, entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisition of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions and their sense of them, enlightened by a benign religion, professed indeed and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude and the love of man, acknowledging and adoring an overruling providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here, and his greater happiness hereafter; with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens, a wise and and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government; and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

About to enter, fellow citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our government, and consequently those which ought to shape its administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. – Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; – peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; – the support of the state governments in all their rights as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns, and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies; – the preservation of the General government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; – a jealous care of the right of election by the people, a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; – absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; – a well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace, and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; – the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; – economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; – the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; – encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; – the diffusion of information, and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; – freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person, under the protection of the Habeas Corpus; – and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation, which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages, and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment: – they should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps, and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety.

I repair then, fellow citizens, to the post you have assigned me. With experience enough in subordinate offices to have seen the difficulties of this the greatest of all, I have learnt to expect that it will rarely fall to the lot of imperfect man to retire from this station with the reputation, and the favor, which bring him into it. Without pretensions to that high confidence you reposed in our first and greatest revolutionary character, whose pre-eminent services had entitled him to the first place in his country’s love, and destined for him the fairest page in the volume of faithful history, I ask so much confidence only as may give firmness and effect to the legal administration of your affairs. I shall often go wrong through defect of judgement. When right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the whole ground. I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional; and your support against the errors of others, who may condemn what they would not if seen in all its parts. The approbation implied by your suffrage, is a great consolation to me for the past; and my future solicitude will be, to retain the good opinion of those who have bestowed it in advance, to conciliate that of others by doing them all the good in my power, and to be instrumental to the happiness and freedom of all.

Relying then on the patronage of your good will, I advance with obedience to the work, ready to retire from it whenever you become sensible how much better choices it is in your power to make. And may that infinite power, which rules the destinies of the universe, lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.

Annual Message to Congress (1800)

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how to make a good inaugural speech

  • TeachableMoment


In this classroom lesson, students consider President Obama's inaugural address as a speech and in the context of past inaugural addresses.

To the Teacher:

In this classroom lesson, students consider President Obama's inaugural address as a speech and in the context of past inaugural addresses. The text of Obama's speech is at the end of the lesson.

Student reading and discussion : An Effective Speech?  

A. what was the goal of president obama's inaugural address.

"I think that the main task for me in an inauguration speech, and I think this is true for my presidency generally, is to try to capture as best I can the moment that we are in," President Obama told ABC News several days before his inauguration. He said he would explain the "crossroads" where the country finds itself, and would aim to "project confidence that if we take the right measures, that we can once again be that country, that beacon for the world." ( New York Times , 1/18/09)  

For discussion:

1. In his inaugural address, did President Obama "capture...the moment that we are in"? If so, how? If not, why not?

2. Did President Obama do a good job of explaining the "crossroads" where we find ourselves? If so, how? If not, why not?

3. Did Obama "project confidence that if we take the right measures, that we can once again be that country, that beacon for the world?" If yes, how? If not, why not?  

B. What are the goals of any inaugural address?

In their book Presidents Creating the Presidency: Deeds Done in Word, Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson argue that inaugural speeches serve four purposes:

  • reuniting the people after an election
  • emphasizing Americans' shared and inherited values
  • setting forth policies
  • demonstrating willingness to abide by the terms of his/her office

(from Jill Lepore's article "The Speech," The New Yorker, 1/12/09)

1. Did President Obama's address fulfill each of these purposes? If so, how? If not, what did he omit?

2. Did the address have any other purposes? What? Why?  

C. How effective was Obama's language?

"Rhetoric" is defined by Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary as "the art of speaking or writing effectively."

Did Obama speak effectively? If so, why do you think so? If not, why not?

Ask students to consider such rhetorical devices as

  • imagery and figurative language
  • alliteration
  • word choice

D. How does Obama's address compare with past inaugural speeches?

Below are some of the most famous quotes from previous presidents' inaugural speeches. Help students place each address in historical context. Then discuss the excerpts in relation to the four purposes of inaugural speeches cited by Campbell and Jamieson. Next, consider how well each excerpt employs the rhetorical devices named above.

Abraham Lincoln, first inaugural, 3/4/1861:

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as they surely will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Abraham Lincoln, second inaugural, 3/4/1865:

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, 'The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Franklin Roosevelt, first inaugural, 3/4/1933:

...first of all let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself-nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Franklin Roosevelt, second inaugural, 1/20/1937:

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little....I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

John Kennedy, first inaugural, 1/20/1961:

Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country.

(The last two excerpts demonstrate chiasmus, which The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics defines as "a placing crosswise," from the name of the Greek Letter X, "Chi," and as "any structure in which elements are repeated in reverse, so giving the pattern ABBA.")  

For further discussion

Does the Obama address contain any passages that you think are comparable to those quoted from the past? Which ones? What makes you think so?

Th is lesson was written for TeachableMoment.Org, a project of Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. We welcome your comments. Please email them to: [email protected]

President Obama's Inaugural Speech January 20, 2009

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again, these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

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Presidential Speeches

March 4, 1829: first inaugural address, about this speech.

Andrew Jackson

March 04, 1829


About to undertake the arduous duties that I have been appointed to perform by the choice of a free people, I avail myself of this customary and solemn occasion to express the gratitude which their confidence inspires and to acknowledge the accountability which my situation enjoins. While the magnitude of their interests convinces me that no thanks can be adequate to the honor they have conferred, it admonishes me that the best return I can make is the zealous dedication of my humble abilities to their service and their good.

As the instrument of the Federal Constitution it will devolve on me for a stated period to execute the laws of the United States, to superintend their foreign and their confederate relations, to manage their revenue, to command their forces, and, by communications to the Legislature, to watch over and to promote their interests generally. And the principles of action by which I shall endeavor to accomplish this circle of duties it is now proper for me briefly to explain.

In administering the laws of Congress I shall keep steadily in view the limitations as well as the extent of the Executive power, trusting thereby to discharge the functions of my office without transcending its authority. With foreign nations it will be my study to preserve peace and to cultivate friendship on fair and honorable terms, and in the adjustment of any differences that may exist or arise to exhibit the forbearance becoming a powerful nation rather than the sensibility belonging to a gallant people.

In such measures as I may be called on to pursue in regard to the rights of the separate States I hope to be animated by a proper respect for those sovereign members of our Union, taking care not to confound the powers they have reserved to themselves with those they have granted to the Confederacy.

The management of the public revenue--that searching operation in all governments--is among the most delicate and important trusts in ours, and it will, of course, demand no inconsiderable share of my official solicitude. Under every aspect in which it can be considered it would appear that advantage must result from the observance of a strict and faithful economy. This I shall aim at the more anxiously both because it will facilitate the extinguishment of the national debt, the unnecessary duration of which is incompatible with real independence, and because it will counteract that tendency to public and private profligacy which a profuse expenditure of money by the Government is but too apt to engender. Powerful auxiliaries to the attainment of this desirable end are to be found in the regulations provided by the wisdom of Congress for the specific appropriation of public money and the prompt accountability of public officers.

With regard to a proper selection of the subjects of impost with a view to revenue, it would seem to me that the spirit of equity, caution, and compromise in which the Constitution was formed requires that the great interests of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures should be equally favored, and that perhaps the only exception to this rule should consist in the peculiar encouragement of any products of either of them that may be found essential to our national independence.

Internal improvement and the diffusion of knowledge, so far as they can be promoted by the constitutional acts of the Federal Government, are of high importance.

Considering standing armies as dangerous to free governments in time of peace, I shall not seek to enlarge our present establishment, nor disregard that salutary lesson of political experience which teaches that the military should be held subordinate to the civil power. The gradual increase of our Navy, whose flag has displayed in distant climes our skill in navigation and our fame in arms; the preservation of our forts, arsenals, and dockyards, and the introduction of progressive improvements in the discipline and science of both branches of our military service are so plainly prescribed by prudence that I should be excused for omitting their mention sooner than for enlarging on their importance. But the bulwark of our defense is the national militia, which in the present state of our intelligence and population must render us invincible. As long as our Government is administered for the good of the people, and is regulated by their will; as long as it secures to us the rights of person and of property, liberty of conscience and of the press, it will be worth defending; and so long as it is worth defending a patriotic militia will cover it with an impenetrable aegis. Partial injuries and occasional mortifications we may be subjected to, but a million of armed freemen, possessed of the means of war, can never be conquered by a foreign foe. To any just system, therefore, calculated to strengthen this natural safeguard of the country I shall cheerfully lend all the aid in my power.

It will be my sincere and constant desire to observe toward the Indian tribes within our limits a just and liberal policy, and to give that humane and considerate attention to their rights and their wants which is consistent with the habits of our Government and the feelings of our people.

The recent demonstration of public sentiment inscribes on the list of Executive duties, in characters too legible to be overlooked, the task of 'reform', which will require particularly the correction of those abuses that have brought the patronage of the Federal Government into conflict with the freedom of elections, and the counteraction of those causes which have disturbed the rightful course of appointment and have placed or continued power in unfaithful or incompetent hands.

In the performance of a task thus generally delineated I shall endeavor to select men whose diligence and talents will insure in their respective stations able and faithful cooperation, depending for the advancement of the public service more on the integrity and zeal of the public officers than on their numbers.

A diffidence, perhaps too just, in my own qualifications will teach me to look with reverence to the examples of public virtue left by my illustrious predecessors, and with veneration to the lights that flow from the mind that founded and the mind that reformed our system. The same diffidence induces me to hope for instruction and aid from the coordinate branches of the Government, and for the indulgence and support of my fellow-citizens generally. And a firm reliance on the goodness of that Power whose providence mercifully protected our national infancy, and has since upheld our liberties in various vicissitudes, encourages me to offer up my ardent supplications that He will continue to make our beloved country the object of His divine care and gracious benediction.

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John F Kennedy

Ted Sorenson: JFK's inaugural address was world-changing

John F Kennedy's inaugural address – delivered on a bitterly cold, snow-laden January 20 1961 – was a joint effort, like most of his major speeches during the previous eight years of our collaboration, and was the culmination of his long uphill quest for the presidency. He won that prize in the previous November's election with the narrowest popular vote margin. He was the first Catholic to be entrusted with the presidency and, at 43, was the youngest ever elected.

The inaugural address, in my view, was not Kennedy's best speech. That honour goes to his American University commencement address, June 10 1963, in which he called, as no American president or other western leader had ever called, for a re-examination of the cold war, a re-examination of our country's relations with Russia, and a re-examination of the meaning of peace. Before that challenge to his countrymen was out, the new president unilaterally declared a suspension of American nuclear testing in the atmosphere.

The inaugural may not even have been Kennedy's most important speech historically, in terms of its impact on our planet. That description belongs to his televised address of October 22 1962, which revealed to the world the sudden and theretofore secret presence of Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles on Cuba, merely 90 miles from US shores, and firmly set forth his response, formulated over the previous week, seeking the peaceful withdrawal of those missiles (which, six grim days later, he achieved without firing a shot).

Nevertheless, Kennedy's inaugural address was world-changing, heralding the commencement of a new American administration and foreign policy determined upon a peaceful victory in the west's long cold war struggle with the Soviet Union over the world's future direction. JFK had five personal objectives embarking upon that speech, and achieved them all.

1. Recognising that his youthfulness had caused doubts among such venerable allied leaders as Harold Macmillan, Charles De Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, he wanted to convey his seriousness of purpose and knowledgable grasp of global issues.

2. Speaking at the height of the cold war, he wanted to make clear to Soviet chairman Nikita Khrushchev that America's new leader preferred not a "hot war" but genuine peace, negotiations and cooperation ; that, while standing firm against any armed encroachment on freedom, he was seeking to tone down cold war rancour and tensions.

3. He wanted to win more friends for the United States and the west among the neutral governments of the third world by stressing his concern for global poverty as well as his opposition to dictatorship.

4. Long a student of history, and with a clear sense of his own place in it, he wanted his first speech as president to fit the moment – to be eloquent, shorter than most, using elevated language to summon the American people to the challenges, sacrifices and discipline that he knew lay ahead.

5. Finally, recognising that both his narrow margin of and his party's loss of seats in the House of Representatives would create serious obstacles to his governance, he wanted no trace of political partisanship in the speech . He thus avoided virtually all domestic issues as inherently divisive. He also wanted to stress that his age - far from representing an excuse to shrink from responsibility - represented instead the "passing of the torch" of leadership to a new generation ready to assume great responsibilities.

He sounded themes too little heard since his untimely death some 1,000 days later: that "civility is not a sign of weakness"; that the United Nations is "our last best hope"; that the purpose of acquiring superiority in armaments was to be certain "beyond doubt that they will never be employed"; and that the United States sought not to act alone but to join with its adversaries as well as its allies in a "grand global alliance" against the "common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself". Those who thought his vow to "pay any price, bear any burden ... oppose any foe" was a fierce cry of the cold war failed to read those other passages.

In working on the speech, he did not ask me to "clear" the draft with the military joint chiefs of staff or the leaders of both parties in Congress. It was a statement of core values - his and the nation's at that time - that he very much believed needed to be conveyed. They still need to be conveyed, more now than 46 years ago. Where is the leader wise and courageous enough to convey them?

· Ted Sorensen is an author and lawyer. He was special counsel and adviser to John F Kennedy and was his primary speechwriter

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President John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address (1961)

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Citation: Inaugural Address, Kennedy Draft, 01/17/1961; Papers of John F. Kennedy: President's Office Files, 01/20/1961-11/22/1963; John F. Kennedy Library; National Archives and Records Administration.

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On January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered his inaugural address in which he announced that "we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty."

The inaugural ceremony is a defining moment in a president’s career — and no one knew this better than John F. Kennedy as he prepared for his own inauguration on January 20, 1961. He wanted his address to be short and clear, devoid of any partisan rhetoric and focused on foreign policy.

Kennedy began constructing his speech in late November, working from a speech file kept by his secretary and soliciting suggestions from friends and advisors. He wrote his thoughts in his nearly indecipherable longhand on a yellow legal pad.

While his colleagues submitted ideas, the speech was distinctly the work of Kennedy himself. Aides recounted that every sentence was worked, reworked, and reduced. The meticulously crafted piece of oratory dramatically announced a generational change in the White House. It called on the nation to combat "tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself" and urged American citizens to participate in public service.

The climax of the speech and its most memorable phrase – "Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country" – was honed down from a thought about sacrifice that Kennedy had long held in his mind and had expressed in various ways in campaign speeches.

Less than six weeks after his inauguration, on March 1, President Kennedy issued an executive order establishing the Peace Corps as a pilot program within the Department of State. He envisioned the Peace Corps as a pool of trained American volunteers who would go overseas to help foreign countries meet their needs for skilled manpower. Later that year, Congress passed the Peace Corps Act, making the program permanent.

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Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, Reverend Clergy, fellow citizens:

We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom--symbolizing an end as well as a beginning--signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe--the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge--and more.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do--for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom--and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required--not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge--to convert our good words into good deeds--in a new alliance for progress--to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.

To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support--to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective--to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak--and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.

We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.

But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course--both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind's final war.

So let us begin anew--remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms--and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah--to "undo the heavy burdens . . . (and) let the oppressed go free."

And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again--not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need--not as a call to battle, though embattled we are-- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"--a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility--I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

how to make a good inaugural speech

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How to Negotiate a Job with Your Former Employer

  • Ruchi Sinha

how to make a good inaugural speech

First, make sure you want to return for the right reasons.

Whether it’s due to a change in personal circumstances, a misalignment with your new role, or a realization that your last job was a better fit, it’s not uncommon to want to return to a former employer.  But the decision — and the negotiation — to get back to an old job requires a balance of head and heart. Here are some tips to help you navigate the situation.

  • Assess the reasons for your return. Before you make the decision, ask yourself two questions: Why did you leave in the first place and why do you want to return? Your reasons will help you determine whether going back will advance your career or hold it back.
  • Gather information: Look into the financial state of your previous organization and the industry to better understand whether they may be open to hiring.  You can also leverage relationships with former colleagues or managers to gain insights into recent company developments, new hires, and changes in their major goals or objectives.
  • Ask for a meeting: Reach out to your previous manager or someone in HR to express your interest in rejoining the company and ask if you could meet face-to-face or virtually over Zoom to discuss it further. In your message, clearly state why you value the company, why you’re looking to return, and what you’re bringing to the table.
  • Think from the employers perspective: If your former employer agrees to meet with you, it’s a good sign. It means they value you and your work enough to listen to what you have to say, but they may have some tough questions surrounding why you left and what happened to change your mind.
  • Try and win their trust: To build and re-build trust, you need to show sincerity, transparency, care, and integrity. During this conversation, you can display these attributes by acknowledging any issues that took place in the past, focusing on clear communication, demonstrating a willingness to understand and address their concerns, and showing them respect and a genuine interest to resolve any misunderstandings.

You decide to leave your organization to take on an exciting role at another company. A couple of months in, however, that initial thrill fades. Compared to your last job, your manager feels controlling, your colleagues appear disengaged, and you find the in-person environment more stressful than the hybrid model you worked in before.

  • Ruchi Sinha , PhD is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour  at the University of South Australia Business School, Adelaide, Australia. Her research explores how voice, conflict, and power dynamics influence work relationships and performance outcomes.

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Don't start your work presentations by simply saying 'hello.' Here's how to be more engaging in the conference room.

  • I'm a public-speaking expert, and I've trained many executives and senior teams.
  • I tell all of them to stop starting work presentations with a salutation or a "hello."
  • Instead, you should engage your audience by telling a story or asking a question.

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I'm sure you've sat through plenty of presentations where the presenter starts with a polite salutation like, "Hello, thank you for having me here today," or, "I am so glad to be here" — often followed by their name and professional résumé . Sometimes, if it's an internal meeting, you get the same salutations followed by an agenda slide with bullet points and the presenter narrating it.

As a public-speaking coach who has worked with many executives and senior teams, I know how to make work presentations more engaging. Here's how you should change your approach.

If you stick to your old ways, you aren't leaving a memorable first impression

Your audience is thinking three things when you walk into that conference room or onto that stage: Who is this person, why should I care, and how are they going to solve my problem?

Let's face it: Most people are more interested in how you will solve their problem than in you and your professional résumé. So let's flip the script a bit. Start with the solution to their problem, briefly talk about yourself for credibility, and then give them a reason to care.

Instead, try to capture their attention

Begin your presentation with a hook or a story — something that grabs their attention right from the start. For instance, your hook might be, "Did you know this?" or "What if that?" It could also be a short story that humanizes your services or products.

Most presentations are predictable; wouldn't it be better for both your time and your audience if you could introduce an element of surprise?

Some might feel it rude not to thank the organizer or greet the audience, so I suggest finding another place in your presentation for this. Here's a good structure:

Intro: "What if you could be a more confident and credible presenter? What if you could engage with your audience so they remember your products or services?"

Credibility: "My name is Meridith, and I've been coaching entrepreneurs and executives on how to speak with spark for over a decade, and I am really excited to be here. I want to thank [insert name] for inviting me to share the afternoon with you."

Solution: "Today, I will give you three ways to make your audience remember your products and services, helping you stand out in a competitive market. Let's get this party started!"

You could also try to form a personal connection

Often, presentations lack a personal touch. Try sharing a relevant personal anecdote or experience that relates to your topic. This not only makes your work presentation more relatable but also helps to establish a deeper connection with your audience.

For example, you could say: "When I was younger, I often hid in the back of the classroom, hoping the teacher wouldn't call on me because I didn't want to sound stupid or have the wrong answer. Later in life, I discovered acting and improv comedy . It was through the practice of these two art forms that I developed my confidence and learned how to engage more courageously with others. Today, I will give you solutions for how you can also better engage your audience with spark."

Try to encourage interaction

At the very least, you should try to engage your audience from the beginning — whether in person or on virtual calls. You can ask a thought-provoking question or propose a challenge that involves them directly. This approach shifts the dynamic to more interactive and engaging sessions.

If you implement any of these suggestions, you can make your presentation memorable and impactful immediately. And you'll most likely get a larger return on your investment of time and energy.

In today's fast-paced world, where attention spans are increasingly shorter than ever, it's crucial to grab and hold your audience's attention from the very beginning. By doing so, you set the stage for a more engaging and productive interaction. So challenge yourself to break free from presentation norms and embrace a style that resonates deeply with your audience and leaves a lasting impression.

how to make a good inaugural speech

Watch: A public speaking champion reveals 3 keys to nailing your business presentation

how to make a good inaugural speech

  • Main content

Oregon TV station apologizes after showing racist image during program highlighting good news

A television station in Portland, Oregon, apologized Friday for inadvertently showing a racist image during a program aimed at highlighting positive stories.

PORTLAND — A television station in Portland, Oregon, apologized Friday for inadvertently showing a racist image during a program aimed at highlighting positive stories.

KGW-TV displayed the image Thursday evening during “The Good Stuff," which includes a “Throwback Thursday” segment sharing “cheesy, silly, or memorable” photos submitted by viewers.

“The image, seemingly from the 1950s, depicted children throwing balls towards a sign prominently displaying (a racial slur),” the station said Friday in a statement posted to its website. “We understand the profound hurt this image inflicted upon our viewers and staff, particularly members of our Black community. To those who were exposed to the image and were hurt by it, we offer our sincerest apologies.”

KGW has a policy of thoroughly screening all content for standards and accuracy before broadcast, but failed to uphold it, the station said. It said it had taken internal steps to address the mistake.

“We are appalled by the slide shared by KGW news yesterday evening that displayed an explicitly racist image,” James Posey and Pastor J.W. Matt Hennessee, leaders of the Portland chapter of the NAACP, said in a written statement Friday. “We are looking to KGW leadership to immediately provide clarity on how and why this happened.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called on the station to address the issue and make sure it never happens again.

how to make a good inaugural speech

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Make this weekend count. Here are 6 ways to get the most fun out of it

Head to Freeport for Fare & Ice or dance the night away at the Shrek Rave in Portland.

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how to make a good inaugural speech

Eat, drink and be merry in Freeport on Friday night at Fare & Ice. Shutterstock

The Flavors of Freeport annual celebration happens this weekend, and one of the highlights is the chef and food producer showcase Fare & Ice. The tasty merriment starts at 5 p.m. Friday at Freeport’s Hilton Garden Inn. Grab a ticket; they’re going fast.

how to make a good inaugural speech

Portland artist Chris Dingwell’s tattoo work. Photo courtesy of the artist

Now let’s talk about tattoos! They’re not for everyone, but if you even have an inkling (see what we did there?) of a thought about getting one or at least seeing the work of about 150 artists under the same roof, head to the Maine Tattoo Arts Festival all weekend in Portland.

how to make a good inaugural speech

Enjoy a night of Shrek-themed fun at Portland’s State Theatre. Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock.com

Want to dance to the songs from “Shrek” with hundreds of other fans and maybe wear a themed costume? This is an actual event happening on Friday at the State Theatre.

how to make a good inaugural speech

Our breakfast spread at Brea Lu Cafe in Westbrook, which recently reopened in a new location on Main Street. Photo by Megan Gray

In case you hadn’t heard,  Brea Lu Cafe has reopened in Westbrook and is ready to serve you breakfast and lunch fare that includes pancakes shaped like Mickey Mouse. You can pair those with a bloody Mary, if you’re so inclined. Chow down seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

how to make a good inaugural speech

Geneviève Beaudoin of Dead Gowns. Photo by Tadin Brego

For some exceptional live music, head to Oxbow Blending & Bottling on Saturday night to catch a show from Dead Gowns. The band is the songwriting project of Portland singer and guitarist Geneviève Beaudoin, and her voice will slay you.

how to make a good inaugural speech

The Abyssinian Meeting House is a stop on the Portland Freedom Trail. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Reminder! February is Black History Month, and the Freedom Trail in Portland features 13 sites, all on the Portland peninsula that were important to the Black experience in Maine. Lace up your shoes and walk it.

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how to make a good inaugural speech

Create a form in Word that users can complete or print

In Word, you can create a form that others can fill out and save or print.  To do this, you will start with baseline content in a document, potentially via a form template.  Then you can add content controls for elements such as check boxes, text boxes, date pickers, and drop-down lists. Optionally, these content controls can be linked to database information.  Following are the recommended action steps in sequence.  

Show the Developer tab

In Word, be sure you have the Developer tab displayed in the ribbon.  (See how here:  Show the developer tab .)

Open a template or a blank document on which to base the form

You can start with a template or just start from scratch with a blank document.

Start with a form template

Go to File > New .

In the  Search for online templates  field, type  Forms or the kind of form you want. Then press Enter .

In the displayed results, right-click any item, then select  Create. 

Start with a blank document 

Select Blank document .

Add content to the form

Go to the  Developer  tab Controls section where you can choose controls to add to your document or form. Hover over any icon therein to see what control type it represents. The various control types are described below. You can set properties on a control once it has been inserted.

To delete a content control, right-click it, then select Remove content control  in the pop-up menu. 

Note:  You can print a form that was created via content controls. However, the boxes around the content controls will not print.

Insert a text control

The rich text content control enables users to format text (e.g., bold, italic) and type multiple paragraphs. To limit these capabilities, use the plain text content control . 

Click or tap where you want to insert the control.

Rich text control button

To learn about setting specific properties on these controls, see Set or change properties for content controls .

Insert a picture control

A picture control is most often used for templates, but you can also add a picture control to a form.

Picture control button

Insert a building block control

Use a building block control  when you want users to choose a specific block of text. These are helpful when you need to add different boilerplate text depending on the document's specific purpose. You can create rich text content controls for each version of the boilerplate text, and then use a building block control as the container for the rich text content controls.

building block gallery control

Select Developer and content controls for the building block.

Developer tab showing content controls

Insert a combo box or a drop-down list

In a combo box, users can select from a list of choices that you provide or they can type in their own information. In a drop-down list, users can only select from the list of choices.

combo box button

Select the content control, and then select Properties .

To create a list of choices, select Add under Drop-Down List Properties .

Type a choice in Display Name , such as Yes , No , or Maybe .

Repeat this step until all of the choices are in the drop-down list.

Fill in any other properties that you want.

Note:  If you select the Contents cannot be edited check box, users won’t be able to click a choice.

Insert a date picker

Click or tap where you want to insert the date picker control.

Date picker button

Insert a check box

Click or tap where you want to insert the check box control.

Check box button

Use the legacy form controls

Legacy form controls are for compatibility with older versions of Word and consist of legacy form and Active X controls.

Click or tap where you want to insert a legacy control.

Legacy control button

Select the Legacy Form control or Active X Control that you want to include.

Set or change properties for content controls

Each content control has properties that you can set or change. For example, the Date Picker control offers options for the format you want to use to display the date.

Select the content control that you want to change.

Go to Developer > Properties .

Controls Properties  button

Change the properties that you want.

Add protection to a form

If you want to limit how much others can edit or format a form, use the Restrict Editing command:

Open the form that you want to lock or protect.

Select Developer > Restrict Editing .

Restrict editing button

After selecting restrictions, select Yes, Start Enforcing Protection .

Restrict editing panel

Advanced Tip:

If you want to protect only parts of the document, separate the document into sections and only protect the sections you want.

To do this, choose Select Sections in the Restrict Editing panel. For more info on sections, see Insert a section break .

Sections selector on Resrict sections panel

If the developer tab isn't displayed in the ribbon, see Show the Developer tab .

Open a template or use a blank document

To create a form in Word that others can fill out, start with a template or document and add content controls. Content controls include things like check boxes, text boxes, and drop-down lists. If you’re familiar with databases, these content controls can even be linked to data.

Go to File > New from Template .

New from template option

In Search, type form .

Double-click the template you want to use.

Select File > Save As , and pick a location to save the form.

In Save As , type a file name and then select Save .

Start with a blank document

Go to File > New Document .

New document option

Go to File > Save As .

Go to Developer , and then choose the controls that you want to add to the document or form. To remove a content control, select the control and press Delete. You can set Options on controls once inserted. From Options, you can add entry and exit macros to run when users interact with the controls, as well as list items for combo boxes, .

Adding content controls to your form

In the document, click or tap where you want to add a content control.

On Developer , select Text Box , Check Box , or Combo Box .

Developer tab with content controls

To set specific properties for the control, select Options , and set .

Repeat steps 1 through 3 for each control that you want to add.

Set options

Options let you set common settings, as well as control specific settings. Select a control and then select Options to set up or make changes.

Set common properties.

Select Macro to Run on lets you choose a recorded or custom macro to run on Entry or Exit from the field.

Bookmark Set a unique name or bookmark for each control.

Calculate on exit This forces Word to run or refresh any calculations, such as total price when the user exits the field.

Add Help Text Give hints or instructions for each field.

OK Saves settings and exits the panel.

Cancel Forgets changes and exits the panel.

Set specific properties for a Text box

Type Select form Regular text, Number, Date, Current Date, Current Time, or Calculation.

Default text sets optional instructional text that's displayed in the text box before the user types in the field. Set Text box enabled to allow the user to enter text into the field.

Maximum length sets the length of text that a user can enter. The default is Unlimited .

Text format can set whether text automatically formats to Uppercase , Lowercase , First capital, or Title case .

Text box enabled Lets the user enter text into a field. If there is default text, user text replaces it.

Set specific properties for a Check box .

Default Value Choose between Not checked or checked as default.

Checkbox size Set a size Exactly or Auto to change size as needed.

Check box enabled Lets the user check or clear the text box.

Set specific properties for a Combo box

Drop-down item Type in strings for the list box items. Press + or Enter to add an item to the list.

Items in drop-down list Shows your current list. Select an item and use the up or down arrows to change the order, Press - to remove a selected item.

Drop-down enabled Lets the user open the combo box and make selections.

Protect the form

Go to Developer > Protect Form .

Protect form button on the Developer tab

Note:  To unprotect the form and continue editing, select Protect Form again.

Save and close the form.

Test the form (optional)

If you want, you can test the form before you distribute it.

Protect the form.

Reopen the form, fill it out as the user would, and then save a copy.

Creating fillable forms isn’t available in Word for the web.

You can create the form with the desktop version of Word with the instructions in Create a fillable form .

When you save the document and reopen it in Word for the web, you’ll see the changes you made.


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    Show the Developer tab. If the developer tab isn't displayed in the ribbon, see Show the Developer tab.. Open a template or use a blank document. To create a form in Word that others can fill out, start with a template or document and add content controls.