With the inauguration of President-elect Trump just around the corner, we thought we’d take a look back in time at some of the most memorable United States Presidential inaugurations. Some inaugurations stand out due to significant moments in history, or an incredible inauguration speech, while others rise to notice for not-so-great reasons. We bet you haven’t heard about some of these until now!
- Abraham Lincoln, 1865. This was President Lincoln’s second inauguration and it was near the time of the end of the Civil War, and our nation was torn by the war, the loss of life, by deep hatred and malice, and by differing beliefs. Lincoln, known as one of the most profound Presidential orators of our nation, offered these words to help heal the injuries of the day: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall 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.” Well-said, President Lincoln. Much of the same could be iterated today.
- Andrew Johnson, also 1865. This may be the only Vice President inauguration mentioned in the list, but it is certainly bizarre and note-worthy. Before the President gives his inaugural speech, it is customary for the new Vice President of the United States to give a short, sweet, classy speech. This wasn’t the case in 1865 for President Lincoln’s second inauguration, however. New-VP Andrew Johnson was ill with typhoid fever on Inauguration Day, and the night prior, he hopped up on the medicine of the day… whiskey, which apparently carried over into the next morning. During his speech, he rambled on about triumphing the Confederates and his humble background. Lincoln apparently looked on in horror, and the former VP, in a futile attempt to shut up the inebriated new VP, tugged on Johnson’s coattails.
- William Henry Harrison, 1841. President Harrison was the nation’s oldest President at the time of his inauguration (68 yrs old, only to be surpassed thus far by Reagan in 1981). He wasn’t the most popular guy as he was responsible for the deaths of countless Native Americans, and he was also a terrible orator, possibly one of the nation’s worst. In spite of being a horrible communicator, he droned on and on and his Presidential inaugural speech was the longest in history. As a result, he caught pneumonia after being out in the cold for so long, and died just 32 days into his term, making him the first President to also die in office. Guess you could say he was a record-setter of a different sort.
- Harry S. Truman, 1949. His sole inaugural speech focused largely around the threat of Communism, but that isn’t why his inauguration was memorable. It was the first-ever televised Presidential inauguration and was the most-watched (at the time) event in television history.
- Barack Obama, 2009. Obama’s speech wasn’t memorable, but crowds bundled up and braved the cold to witness an historical event in our nation’s history- the first-ever individual from African descent to be inaugurated as our nation’s leader.
- Ulysses S. Grant, 1873 & Richard S. Nixon, 1973. You’ll never guess what these two inaugurations have in common, but we couldn’t resist grouping them together. When Grant was inaugurated as the 18th President in 1873, he thought having live canaries would be a festive touch to his Inaugural Ball. However, the temps that day were single digit and the wind chill factored to about -30 degrees. Unfortunately, what was meant to be festive turned into about 100 dead canaries, frozen to death. History not serving as a great teacher, Nixon decided in 1973 that he wasn’t going to let pesky pigeons ruin his Inauguration Day parade, so he had chemical bird repellant sprayed up and down the streets of the parade route. You guessed it, instead of simply keeping birds away, dozens upon dozens of dead pigeons ended up lining the streets for the parade.
- Calvin Coolidge, 1923. Not one for pomp and circumstance, Coolidge’s inauguration might very well be the most toned-down in history, past and future. Coolidge was visiting his family in Vermont when he got word by messenger that then-President Warren G. Harding had passed away, making him the new President. Coolidge’s father happened to be both a justice of the peace and a notary. Instead of making a big deal of his inauguration, he had his father swear him in as President in his family’s parlor, by light of a kerosene lamp, at 2:47AM on August 3, 1923. He then turned around and the new President went right back to bed.
- Ronald Reagan, 1981. Reagan was the first non-government President-elect, making history in and of itself, but his speech was incredibly polished, incredibly pointed in articulating Reagan’s ideologies, and addressed the issue of government head-on in a way that quickly made him endearing to the American people. One of his most famous excerpts: “The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we as Americans have the capacity now, as we’ve had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom. In this present crisis, government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem.” My how true this rings even now in current-day America.
The inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump is sure to be a memorable one as well, as just the news of his victory spurred on riots and protests from opposition, and those who are tired of what the last eight years brought eagerly await a new day and a new way of doing things. Trump will be only the second-ever to be elected President from the non-political sector, once again showing that America brings opportunity regardless of upbringing, background or class. We can’t wait to see what his inauguration brings.
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(Sources: http://www.livescience.com/26416-10-weirdest-inaugurations-us-history.html, http://blog.sfgate.com/politics/2013/01/21/the-list-the-10-most-memorable-presidential-inaugural-addresses/, http://us-presidents.insidegov.com/q/22/9701/How-old-was-William-Henry-Harrison-when-he-became-president, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_inauguration_of_Calvin_Coolidge)