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

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

Source: Julian Zelizer, CNN, 1-20-13

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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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History Buzz January 17, 2013: Michael Kazin: A Short History of Meaningless Inauguration Speeches

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

A Short History of Meaningless Inauguration Speeches

Source: TNR, 1-17-13 

Here’s a bit of advice when considering Barack Obama second inaugural address on January 21: Don’t take anything he says very seriously.

For all the hype they receive, inaugural addresses rarely foretell what a president will accomplish in office. In fact, the men who utter grand principles and make big promises every four years often contradict them, willingly or not, soon after they begin their terms. Take a few of the more celebrated quotations:

We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” — Thomas Jefferson

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.” — Abraham Lincoln

First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt 

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” — John F. Kennedy

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