Featured Historians January 20, 2013: Julian Zelizer: Obama’s speech: Learning from Lincoln, Wilson, FDR

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HISTORY OP-EDS

Obama’s speech: Learning from Lincoln, Wilson, FDR

Source: Julian Zelizer, CNN, 1-20-13

Watch this video

1865: Lincoln talks of ‘sin of slavery’

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

    • Julian Zelizer: Second term inaugural addresses are always a challenge
    • He says the public has had four years to make a judgment about the president
    • Obama can learn from second term speeches of Lincoln, Wilson, FDR
    • Zelizer says they did a good job of unifying America and sketching vision of the future

Editor’s note: Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of “Jimmy Carter” and of “Governing America.”

The second inaugural address is always more difficult than the first. When a president-elect first steps onto the national stage, he still enjoys a certain degree of innocence and hope. Americans are waiting to see if the new president will be different. When a new president delivers his speech, voters don’t yet have a record that might make them cynical.

But by the second term, voters are familiar, and often tired, with the occupant of the White House. Even though they liked him more than his opponents, the president has usually been through some pretty tough battles and his limitations have been exposed. It becomes much harder to deliver big promises, when the people watching have a much clearer sense of your limitations and of the strength of your opponents.

So President Barack Obama faces a big test when he appears before the nation Monday….READ MORE

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