The long view on inaugurals

By Barbara Wallraff
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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2009/01/the-long-view-on-inaugurals/49663/