Since George Washington took the first Presidential Oath of Office in 1789, the inaugural address has been one of our nations most treasured political rituals. Traditionally, Presidents have used inaugural addresses to outline the principles which will guide their administrations, though more pressing topics like war and economic challenges have often set the stage for the most dramatic and memorable speeches. This week, President George W. Bush renewed this tradition and added a new chapter to the volume of oration passed down from his Presidential predecessors. As part of our own celebration of this weeks inaugural, we have compiled some of the most memorable passages from previous inaugural addresses.
"I behold the surest pledges that as on one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party animosity, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world."
President George Washington
April 30, 1789
"Employed in the service of my country abroad during the whole course of these transactions, I first saw the Constitution of the United States in a foreign country. Irritated by no literary altercation, animated by no public debate, heated by no party animosity, I read it with great satisfaction, as the result of good heads prompted by good hearts, as an experiment better adapted to the genius, character, situation, and relations of this nation and country than any which had ever been proposed or suggested."
President John Adams
March 4, 1797
"Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error or opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it."
President Thomas Jefferson
March 4, 1801
"In the transaction of your foreign affairs we have endeavored to cultivate the friendship of all nations, and especially of those with which we have the most important relations. We have done them justice on all occasions, favored where favor was lawful, and cherished mutual interests and intercourse on fair and equal terms. We are firmly convinced, and we act on that conviction, that with nations as with individuals our interests soundly calculated will ever found be inseparable from our moral duties."
President Thomas Jefferson
March 4, 1805
"To whatever object we turn our attention, whether it relates to our foreign or domestic concerns, we find abundant cause to felicitate ourselves in the excellence of our institutions. During a period fraught with difficulties and marked by very extraordinary events the United States have flourished beyond example."
President James Monroe
March 4, 1817
"Great is the stake placed in our hands; great is the responsibility which must rest upon the people of the United States. Let us realize the importance of the attitude in which we stand before the world. Let us exercise forbearance and firmness. Let us extricate our country from the dangers that surround it and learn wisdom from the lessons they inculcate."
President Andrew Jackson
March 4, 1833
"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, to bind up the nations wounds, to care for him who have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
President Abraham Lincoln
March 4, 1865
"Today the executive branch of the government is transferred to new keeping. But this is still the government of all the people, and it should be none the less an object of their affectionate solicitude. At this hour the animosities of political strife, the bitterness of partisan defeat, and the exultation of partisan triumph should be supplanted by an ungrudging acquiescence in the popular will and a sober, conscientious concern for the general weal."
President Grover Cleveland
March 4, 1885
"Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither. We have become a great nation, forced by the fact of its greatness into relations with other nations of the earth, and we must behave as beseems a people with such responsibilities. While ever careful to refrain from wrongdoing others, we must be no less insistent that we are not wronged ourselves. We wish peace, but we wish the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness."
President Theodore Roosevelt
March 4, 1905
"In the face of great perils never before encountered, our strong purpose is to protect and to perpetuate the integrity of democracy. For this we muster the spirit of America, and the faith of America. We do not retreat. We are not content to stand still. As Americans, we go forward, in the service of our country, by the will of God."
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
January 20, 1941
"We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and this place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans — born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage — and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty."
President John F Kennedy
January 20, 1961
December 20, 2005
"My fellow citizens, our nation is poised for greatness. We must do what is right and do it with all our might. Let history say of us, Those were the golden years — when the American Revolution was reborn, when freedom gained new life, when America reached for her best."
President Ronald Reagan
January 20, 1981