After Barack Obama takes the oath of office at his inauguration Monday, he will join the ranks of 16 other US presidents who have delivered second inaugural addresses. These second speeches usually include the triumphs and trials of a president's first term, as well as his vision for the next four years. Among them are the shortest such address (by George Washington), Lincoln's premonition of the end of the Civil War, and George W. Bush's "freedom" speech.
Here are highlights from 10 previous second inaugural addresses, culled from the records of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which keeps records of speeches, details of the ceremonies, and historical moments.
On March 4, 1703, George Washington set the record for shortest second inaugural address.
Standing in the Senate Chamber of the Philadelphia Congress Hall, dressed in a black velvet suit, silk stockings, and diamond knee buckles, Washington delivered his 135-word speech:
I am again called upon by the voice of my country to execute the functions of its Chief Magistrate. When the occasion proper for it shall arrive, I shall endeavor to express the high sense I entertain of this distinguished honor, and of the confidence which has been reposed in me by the people of united America.
Previous to the execution of any official act of the President the Constitution requires an oath of office. This oath I am now about to take, and in your presence: That if it shall be found during my administration of the Government I have in any instance violated willingly or knowingly the injunctions thereof, I may (besides incurring constitutional punishment) be subject to the upbraidings of all who are now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony."
Although he set the precedent for two-term limits, future presidents did not follow his example for pithy second inaugural addresses.
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