The Five Most Memorable Inaugural Addresses
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Second inaugural addresses also have a special problem: how to bring drama or freshness to a continuity event. “There’s no novelty to it,” explains Jeff Shesol, who was a speechwriter for President Clinton. “A first inaugural address is America at a pivot point. … A second inaugural is a presidency at midstream.”
For the most part the speeches generally recalled as ranking among the greats were delivered at critical moments in the nation’s history. But they also managed to balance the moment with posterity. “They manage to speak very directly to their moment but they also say something to our own,” Shesol says. “They manage to be timeless without being lost in the ether somewhere and unmoored from events.”
Presidents have delivered 56 inaugural addresses. Here are the five best.