January 13, 2009
Like a good constitutional law case, a Presidential Inauguration address avails itself of effective rhetoric. As we anticipate Obama's speech next Tuesday, there is an urge to take a look at past efforts by US and other world leaders.
NARRATIVE Magazine, available on line here (free registration required), has an interesting piece with some great excerpts.
People have been led to believe that they had to choose between a capitalist wealth-creating society on the one hand and a caring and compassionate society on the other. But that is not the choice. The industrial countries that out-produce and outsell us are precisely those countries with better social services and better pensions than we have. . . . To persuade our people that it is possible, through their own efforts, not only to halt our national decline, but to reverse it [. . .] requires new thinking, tenacity, and a willingness to look at things in a completely different way.
To a crisis of the spirit, we need an answer of the spirit. To find that answer, we need only look within ourselves.
There has been something crude and heartless and unfeeling in our haste to succeed and be great.
Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.
These are excerpts from the inauguration addresses of Margaret Thatcher, Richard Nixon, Woodrow Wilson and Nelson Mandela. For others, including Reagan, JFK, Hebert Hoover ("bright with hope"), Jefferson, Washington, and Roosevelt, check out the article by Deborah Hughes on the Narrative site.
For more in-depth consideration, the full inaugural addresses of all United States Presidents are available at the Avalon project of Yale Law School here.
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