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On Jan. 20, President-elect Donald Trump will stand before a crowd of thousands to take the oath of office. Then, just as George Washington did when he was sworn in as president in 1789, Trump will deliver a traditional inaugural address.
Staffers say Trump plans to give a short inaugural address that centers on the theme of bringing Americans together. Odds are it will be longer than George Washington’s second inaugural address which — at just 135 words — was the shortest ever.
Regardless, Trump’s theme will be in good company. Unity is often a main thread of the ceremony’s headlining speech.
Third president Thomas Jefferson called for it in 1801, saying, “Let us, then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind.”
Unity was also on Abraham Lincoln’s mind as he delivered his second inaugural address as the Civil War neared its end. “With malice toward none, with charity for all… let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds,” he said.
But inaugural addresses have also sought to reassure and inspire. To this day, Franklin Roosevelt’s 1933 declaration “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and John F. Kennedy’s 1961 directive “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country” live on as some of the most memorable moments in inaugural history.
As we wait to hear Trump’s message Friday, NewsHour has prepared a compilation of iconic and inspirational highlights from inaugural addresses past.
Julia Griffin is senior coordinator of digital video at PBS NewsHour where she oversees the daily production of video content for the organization’s website and social media platforms.
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