Thinking about the coming inauguration of Barack Obama, I’m reminded of some previous speeches:
• Jimmy Carter: “Let our recent mistakes bring a resurgent commitment to the basic principles of our Nation…”
• Jimmy Carter: “The Amer. dream endures. We must once again have full faith in our country and in one another. I believe America can be better.”
• Harry Truman: “The supreme need for our time is for men to learn to live together in peace and harmony.”
• George W. Bush (2001): “And this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity.”
• George W. Bush (2001): “We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors.”
• FDR (1933) You know the famous line: “So, 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.”
but I like what came next…
• FDR (1933): “In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”
I love what he said about the reasons for the depression:
• FDR (1933): “Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.”
OK, that might be a bit long. But it is all relevant to today. I’d quote the rest of that 1933 speech, but you get the idea. Take a look at it. I bet you can find a favorite line or two.
Jefferson in 1801 was probably the best prepared to be President, but look at his opening sentence:
• Jefferson (1801): “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 toward 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.”
Jefferson also listed what he considered the essential principles of the Government: First up?
• Jefferson (1801): “Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political;”
Jefferson on the fate of a President:
• Jefferson(1801): “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.”