The long view on inaugurals

As I noted in my previous post, the Times the other day gave us a contemporary, interactive, don't-need-a-long-attention-span point of entry into all the inaugural addresses of the past. 

But, sigh, sometimes isn't it wonderful to tag along with someone such as an expert on inaugural addresses as he ponders them? Thinking actual thoughts? Case in point is "So Help Me God," by Ted Widmer, a former presidential speechwriter, which ran in The American Scholar four years ago. 

Read it all if you aren't in a hurry. To head right for the material about inaugural addresses per se, start at the heading "Recitation" on the second page.

And if you only have time for a snippet, here you go:

The kabuki of the typical inaugural can be broken down into specific set pieces; the thoughts arranged in a comforting sequence that would have been instantly familiar one hundred, even two hundred, years ago.

1. I am not worthy of this great honor.
2. But I congratulate the people that they elected me.
3. Now we must all come together, even those of us who really hate each other.
4. I love the Constitution, the Union, and George Washington.
5. I will work against bad threats.
6. I will work for good things.
7. We must avoid entangling alliances.
8. America's strength = democracy.
9. Democracy's strength = America.
10. Thanks, God.

Presented by

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What LBJ Really Said About Selma

"It's going to go from bad to worse."

Video

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Inside a family's fight to use marijuana oils to treat epilepsy

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

More in Entertainment

Just In