Sunday, January 18, 2009

Famous First Words: The Inaugural Address

The Inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama will be on January 20 and it has been said that the country spent 150 million USD for it, the highest in US history. The thing is the inauguration is a historic event and heightened people participation is being expected that attributed to the high cost of the affair.

We are all waiting for what could be the content of his inauguration address. Will it tackle about Martin Luther's civil rights rhetoric? Will it tackle more on the current arresting economic problems of America? Will it be about the Democrat-Republican partnership to resolve the social and economic issues of the present?

A news clip from the Associated Press reads below. This discusses about the famous first words or the inaugural addresses of various American presidents.

George Washington expressed anxiety, since his example would determine a new nation's character. William Henry Harrison delivered the longest one, standing in a snowstorm for an hour and 45 minutes. James Garfield was known as the Republican party's best speaker, so hopes were high for his.

The inaugural address articulates the incoming president's vision, mission, and intentions for his next four years. Whether these words end up truly laying out his legacy or giving a false start, only history can determine.

Expectations are high for the president-elect, who has already made severable notable speeches, such as his March 2008 talk on race. Among the many inaugural-related searches, "barack obama inaugural speech" is especially popular. In recent years, probably one of the most quoted addresses is John F. Kennedy's phrase, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." JFK's speechwriter revealed in an NPR interview the formula to crafting that speech, and that Obama should deliver the "greatest inaugural since Kennedy."

Nevertheless, AP ladles on the pressure: "History wants something for the ages... something that will settle in the nation's soul and be worth making schoolchildren memorize 100 years from now." And don't forget that Inaugural Day follows the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The iconic "i have a dream speech" (up 250% in searches this week) will be fresh in people's minds.

The nation's soul, after all, can be pretty fickle. Abraham Lincoln's address was received as, another AP story notes, "a sea of twaddle." Today, No. 16's words are quite revered, and indeed searchers have been looking up "lincoln inaugural address" as well as his vice president's talk. (The latter would be Andrew Johnson, who would succeed to the Presidency after Lincoln's assassination.)

What of other famous first words? Let's take a rundown of what was said on the first day of the job, whether the first term or the third.

The First Famous First: Called to serve, Washington and wife Martha postponed retiring to their Mount Vernon "retreat" with its 80,000 acres and village of slaves. The April 1789 address in New York City underscored his belief that the executive was a servant (unpaid) to the people, who wouldn't interfere with Congress:

"Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives: Among the vicissitudes incident to life no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month... I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your discernment and pursuit of the public good. (T)he light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation..."

The Longest Address: Harrison spoke 8,445 words about ancient Roman governance, the American Constitution, government branches, the veto principle, press freedom, state rights, and so on. The long speech may have contributed to his short term: He died of pneumonia one month later:

"Called from a retirement which I had supposed was to continue for the residue of my life to fill the chief executive office of this great and free nation, I appear before you, fellow-citizens, to take the oaths which the Constitution prescribes... The attempt of those of one State to control the domestic institutions of another can only result in feelings of distrust and jealousy, the certain harbingers of disunion, violence, and civil war, and the ultimate destruction of our free institutions. Our Confederacy is perfectly illustrated by the terms and principles governing a common copartnership..."

Sermon on the Mount: Garfield, the only preacher to hold the presidency, showed powerful eloquence in his speech, but an assassin's bullet marked him in history instead. Despite the efforts of even Alexander Graham Bell to find the fatal bullet in the Civil War general's body, he died two months after being shot on Sept. 19, 1881.

"Fellow-Citizens: We stand to-day upon an eminence which overlooks a hundred years of national life a century crowded with perils, but crowned with the triumphs of liberty and law... The jurisdiction of this Constitution now covers an area 50 times greater than that of the original 13 states and a population 20 times greater than that of 1780...The elevation of the Negro race from slavery to the full rights of citizenship is the most important political change we have known since the adoption of the Constitution of 1787. It has liberated the master as well as the slave from a relation which wronged and enfeebled both... under our institutions there was no middle ground for the Negro race between slavery and equal citizenship. There can be no permanent disfranchised peasantry in the United States..."

The Most Addresses: Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been and will be the only president to serve more than two terms in office. His enfeebled health made his last inaugural address brief.

"Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Vice President, my friends, you will understand and, I believe, agree with my wish that the form of this inauguration be simple and its words brief. We Americans of today, together with our allies, are passing through a period of supreme test... We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger."

The Most Recent: George W. Bush is only the 12th president to serve two full terms, and the second son of a president. He ends his term with the lowest approval rating since Herbert Hoover, but No. 43 leaves history to judge his tenure.

"Vice President Cheney, Mr. Chief Justice, President Carter, President Bush, President Clinton, reverend clergy, distinguished guests, fellow citizens...For a half century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical - and then there came a day of fire. We have seen our vulnerability - and we have seen its deepest source... 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."
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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Obama hails 'extraordinary' moment with presidents

WASHINGTON – Confronting a grim economy and a Middle East on fire, Barack Obama turned Wednesday to perhaps the only people on the planet who understand what he's in for: the four living members of the U.S. presidents' club. In an image bound to go down in history, every living U.S. president came together at the White House on Wednesday to hash over the world's challenges with the president-elect. There they stood, shoulder-to-shoulder in the Oval Office: George H.W. Bush, Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

"This is an extraordinary gathering," Obama said, looking plenty at ease in the humbling office that will soon be his.

"All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office," Obama said. "And for me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary. And I'm very grateful to all of them."

Bush, blistered without mercy by Obama during the campaign season, played the role of gracious host.

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