(Roughly) Daily

Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. President, Vice President Cheney, Senator Reid, Speaker Pelosi, and my fellow Americans…

Executive Oath of Office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
—United States Constitution, Article II, Section 1, Clause 8

This Tuesday Barack Obama will make history in a variety of ways.  For one, after taking his oath of office, our 44th President will deliver the 55th Inaugural Address.  (Four presidents gave no address: Tyler, Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, and Arthur. In each of these cases, the incoming President was succeeding a President who had died in office, and was not elected as president in the next election.  Gerald Ford, who replaced a President who simply left, addressed the nation via broadcast after taking the oath, but characterized his speech as “Not an inaugural address, not a fireside chat, not a campaign speech–just a little straight talk among friends.”)

Obama’s rhetorical history suggests that his will be a speech to remember; for that reason, and for the more fundamentally-epochal character of his arrival in office, public interest in the Inauguration is at an all-time high.

By way of context, reader PL has passed along a piece from Narrative, “First Words: The Best and Worst of Inaugural Speeches” (requires free registration).  From George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to Richard Nixon and George W. Bush; from Vaclav Havel and Nelson Mandela to Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin– read the words that have set new Administrations into motion…

For the full texts of every Inaugural Address so far, readers can visit Bartleby.com.

As your correspondent tries to figure out how much popcorn to prepare, he notes that Obama has extraordinary latitude in determining the length of his talk:  the fifty-four Addresses (given by thirty-seven presidents) have ranged from George Washington’s second address, the shortest (135 words), to William Henry Harrison’s epic (at 8,495 words, even longer than Bill Clinton’s).

As we clear our throats, we might consider how far we’ve come since this date in 1559, when Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, was crowned (two months after the death of her half-sister, Queen Mary I).

Elizabeth I in her coronation robes

Update: Sad word from reader RS about Tuesday’s post on The Prisoner:  “In an apparently unrelated development, Patrick McGoohan died today [Tuesday] at the age of 80.”

Written by LW

January 15, 2009 at 1:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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