From 'With Malice Toward None' to 'Fear Itself': Memorable Lines From Presidential Inaugurations - NBC Bay Area
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From 'With Malice Toward None' to 'Fear Itself': Memorable Lines From Presidential Inaugurations

Inauguration speeches date to the country's first president, who delivered his to Congress



    Presidential Oath of Office Mashup

    Take a look back at the presidential oath of office over the years with archive footage of presidents at their inaugurations. (Published Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017)

    Abraham Lincoln's speech at his second inauguration ranks among the most famous inaugural addresses, delivered as the Civil War was ending and only a month before his assassination.

    "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in," he said.

    In the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt told the country that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

    Fifty years later, President Ronald Reagan said that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."

    Inaugural addresses date to the country's first president, George Washington, who delivered his first in 1789 before a joint session of Congress in New York City's Federal Hall. He spoke about the importance of government's duty to the public, and according to the Smithsonian, he seemed almost hesitant to take on the newly created role.

    "I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your discernment and pursuit of the public good," he said.

    President-elect Donald Trump, a man known for a more extemporaneous style, will deliver his address on Friday. 

    What must he try to accomplish?

    Listeners of every inaugural address want to know how much of the campaign's promises will become administration policy and how much will be forgotten, said Henry W. Brands, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin.  

    "This is the really big question regarding Donald Trump," Brands said. "Did he really mean all of those things that he said during the campaign?"

    Inaugural addresses signal what an administration hopes to accomplish, and often how it will be different from the outgoing one, he said. 

    What makes an address memorable is what happens afterward, he said. 

    Lincoln did not celebrate victory but looked forward to bringing the Confederacy back into the Union.

    Roosevelt's line is remembered because he went on to fulfill his promise of a "New Deal" for the American people, Brands said. He acted to stabilize the economy and create jobs programs for millions of unemployed Americans. 

    "He says, 'government is the solution to our problems,'" Brands said.

    Reagan, in his address, told the American people that the era of Franklin Roosevelt was over and he turned the country toward a more conservative time.

    Other famous speeches: President John F. Kennedy, who succeeded President Dwight Eisenhower, told the country that "the torch had been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century," a line he delivered on a cold day without a top coat or a hat.

    He wanted to show that the young generation was vigorous and "there's Old Ike shivering in that heavy overcoat," Brands said.

    And President Barack Obama referred to his historic election: "a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."

    Below are excerpts of some of the inaugural speeches that were televised.

    Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 Inauguration SpeechFranklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 Inauguration Speech

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first inaugural speech in 1933 immediately moved to restore confidence among Americans struggling in the Great Depression, saying “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1937 Inauguration Speech
    Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1937 Inauguration Speech<br />

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second inauguration, in 1937, was the first held on Jan. 20 — moved up from March 4. Referring to his first inaugural address, he said: “We dedicated ourselves to the fulfillment of a vision—to speed the time when there would be for all the people that security and peace essential to the pursuit of happiness. We of the Republic pledged ourselves to drive from the temple of our ancient faith those who had profaned it; to end by action, tireless and unafraid, the stagnation and despair of that day.”
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1945 Inauguration Speech
    Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1945 Inauguration Speech<br />

    The United States was still at war when President Franklin D. Roosevelt began his unprecedented fourth term in 1945. “In the days and the years that are to come we shall work for a just and honorable peace, a durable peace, as today we work and fight for total victory in war,” he said. He would die in April.
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Harry S. Truman’s 1949 Inauguration Speech
    Harry S. Truman’s 1949 Inauguration Speech<br />

    President Harry S. Truman, who became president following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, shocked the country with his defeat of Republican Thomas Dewey. The country had gotten through the end of World War II and faced a Communist Soviet Union. “Each period of our national history has had its special challenges,” Truman said in his inaugural address in 1949. “Those that confront us now are as momentous as any in the past. Today marks the beginning not only of a new administration, but of a period that will be eventful, perhaps decisive, for us and for the world.”
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1953 Inauguration SpeechDwight D. Eisenhower's 1953 Inauguration Speech

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a general and the supreme commander of the Allied forces in Western Europe during World War II, talked of peace in his first address in 1953, telling the country America would be guided by certain fixed principles, including, "Abhorring war as a chosen way to balk the purposes of those who threaten us."
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1957 Inauguration SpeechDwight D. Eisenhower's 1957 Inauguration Speech

    In his second inaugural address, in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of international Communism and the threat it posed. He called for building security, fortifying the United Nations and providing a spark of hope for desperate people. “May we pursue the right--without self-righteousness,” he said. “May we know unity--without conformity. May we grow in strength--without pride in self. May we, in our dealings with all peoples of the earth, ever speak truth and serve justice.”
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    John F. Kennedy's 1961 Inauguration SpeechJohn F. Kennedy's 1961 Inauguration Speech

    President John F. Kennedy delivered the most famous line of his presidency in his 1961 inaugural address, telling his fellow Americans: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” He was assassinated in 1963 before the end of his first term.
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Lyndon B. Johnson's 1965 Inauguration SpeechLyndon B. Johnson's 1965 Inauguration Speech

    President Lyndon B. Johnson took office in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In 1965, after he was elected to a full term, he talked of the rapid changes the country faced but the unchanged character of the American people. "Is our world gone?" he asked. "We say farewell. Is a new world coming? We welcome it and we will bend it to the hopes of man."
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Richard M. Nixon's 1969 Inauguration SpeechRichard M. Nixon's 1969 Inauguration Speech

    President Richard M. Nixon was elected when the United States was mired in a deeply unpopular war in Vietnam. Nixon talked of peace in his 1969 inaugural address, but U.S. military involvement continued until 1973. “For the first time, because the people of the world want peace, and the leaders of the world are afraid of war, the times are on the side of peace,” said Nixon, who later resigned in disgrace.
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Richard M. Nixon's 1973 Inauguration SpeechRichard M. Nixon's 1973 Inauguration Speech

    President Richard M. Nixon spoke to the country for his second address in 1973 as the Vietnam War was nearing an end, a time of protests and social upheaval. "Let us again learn to debate our differences with civility and decency," he said. He would leave office the following year as a result of the Watergate scandal.
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Gerald Ford's 1974 AddressGerald Ford's 1974 Address

    President Gerald Ford took office in 1974 after President Richard Nixon was forced to resign. After he took the oath of office he said, "I assume the presidency under extraordinary circumstances, never before experienced by Americans. This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts."
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Jimmy Carter's 1977 Inauguration SpeechJimmy Carter's 1977 Inauguration Speech

    President Jimmy Carter, the peanut farmer turned governor from Georgia, was elected by a country weary of the Watergate scandal and looking for someone outside of the Washington Beltway. In his 1977 inauguration speech, he said, “Let us create together a new national spirit of unity and trust. Your strength can compensate for my weakness, and your wisdom can help to minimize my mistakes. Let us learn together and laugh together and work together and pray together, confident that in the end we will triumph together in the right.”
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Ronald Reagan's 1981 Inauguration SpeechRonald Reagan's 1981 Inauguration Speech

    In his 1981 inauguration speech, Ronald Reagan said, to applause, "government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.”
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Ronald Reagan’s 1985 Inauguration Speech Ronald Reagan’s 1985 Inauguration Speech

    President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration, in 1985, was held indoors because of bitterly cold temperatures, and the inauguration parade was canceled. He delivered his speech in the Rotunda of the Capitol. “We have lighted the world with our inventions, gone to the aid of mankind wherever in the world there was a cry for help, journeyed to the moon and safely returned,” he said. "So much has changed. And yet we stand together as we did two centuries ago.”
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    George H. W. Bush's 1989 Inauguration SpeechGeorge H. W. Bush's 1989 Inauguration Speech

    President George H.W. Bush, who would serve only one term, spoke in 1989 of a peaceful, prosperous time that could be made better. “For a new breeze is blowing, and a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn,” he said. “For in man's heart, if not in fact, the day of the dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas blown away like leaves from an ancient, lifeless tree.”
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    William Clinton's 1993 Inauguration SpeechWilliam Clinton's 1993 Inauguration Speech

    President Bill Clinton took office from a predecessor who was viewed as focusing on foreign affairs to the neglect of domestic affairs. “Our democracy must not only be the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal,” Clinton said in his first inaugural speech in 1993. “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Bill Clinton's 1997 Inauguration SpeechBill Clinton's 1997 Inauguration Speech

    President Bill Clinton’s second inaugural speech in 1997 looked ahead to the next century. “The world is no longer divided into two hostile camps,” he said. “Instead now we are building bonds with nations that once were our adversaries. Growing connections of commerce and culture give us the chance to lift the fortunes and spirits of people the world over. And for the very first time in all of history more people on this planet live under democracy than dictatorship.” His second term would be consumed by the Monica Lewinsky scandal and he was only the second president to be impeached. Both he and Andrew Johnson were acquitted by the Senate.
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    George W. Bush's 2001 Inauguration SpeechGeorge W. Bush's 2001 Inauguration Speech

    President George W. Bush won a closely contested and contentious race, with his competitor Vice President Al Gore taking the popular vote, and only after the U.S. Supreme Court halted a statewide recount in Florida. “Today we affirm a new commitment to live our nation’s promise through civility, courage, compassion and character,” he said in his address in 2001. “America at its best matches a commitment to principal with a concern for civility. A civil society demands from each of us good will and respect, fair dealing and forgiveness.”
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    George W. Bush's 2005 Inauguration Speech George W. Bush's 2005 Inauguration Speech

    President George W. Bush’s second address in 2005 followed the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States and the U.S. involvement in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. “We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom not because history runs on wheels of inevitability,” Bush said. “It is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation. God moves and chooses as he wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul.”
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Barack Obama's 2009 Inauguration SpeechBarack Obama's 2009 Inauguration Speech

    President Barack Obama was a first-term senator from Illinois when he ran and became the first African-American to be elected to the president, which he referred to in his address in 2009. “This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall; and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.”
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)

    Barack Obama's 2013 Inauguration SpeechBarack Obama's 2013 Inauguration Speech

    President Barack Obama in his second inaugural address in 2013 talked about the meaning of freedom and the work still to be done on behalf of women, gay men and women, immigrants and others. “What makes us exceptional -- what makes us American -- is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’”
    (Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2017)