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

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Entertainment

Just In