How History Shapes Barack Obama's Inauguration

As he assumes the presidency, Obama will draw inspiration from Lincoln, FDR and Kennedy.

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And while charisma is not essential to a president's success—leaders ranging from Harry Truman to Lyndon Johnson showed that one can get a lot done without a special ability to reach the masses—it can be enormously helpful in marshaling support for a president's agenda. Most observers expect Obama to focus, first and foremost, on the troubled economy, and seek support for the massive "rescue" package he is now developing with congressional leaders. "He needs to give a sober message and call for sacrifice because there will be tough times ahead," says a senior Democratic strategist. "But he will also need to send a message of hope."

If done right, Obama's inaugural address could set the tone for his entire administration, following in the pattern of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Reagan.

  • Read about the history of inaugurations.
  • Take a quiz on inaugural trivia.
  • Read a Visitor's Guide to Obama's Inauguration .
  • Read more about the Obama Administration transition .
  • Read more of The Presidency columns by Kenneth T. Walsh .