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Drama & Speech        < Previous        Next >


Delivering Inaugural One-Liners


            Today's Snack: Since Barack Obama is our nation's 44th President, see if you can eat 44 of something reasonably healthy today. How about: 44 grapes . . . 44 raisins . . . 44 oyster crackers . . . 44 sunflower kernels . . . 44 peanuts . . . or cut a piece of bologna up into 44 tiny little pieces! Enjoy with a glass of milk, which does at least 44 healthy things for your body!






Printouts of this Treat


Highlighter marker pen


A podium with a microphone


Set up folding chairs for other students to be in the audience



Here are some famous lines from some of the most famous inaugural speeches by U.S. Presidents. Read them aloud until you can say them smoothly. Look up any unfamiliar words in the dictionary so that you understand what you are saying. Highlight key words to help you speak with more rhythm and emphasis where you want it.


Now memorize one of more of these excerpts, and deliver them from the podium as if you were speaking to the nation from the steps of the U.S. Capitol on your own inauguration day!


You can chose just one excerpt to present, and take turns, or everybody can try reciting each of these lines.


Your "speech" will be a LOT shorter than most of these inaugural addresses really were, since we're only taking the most famous line or two from each one.


Beware those long, long speeches, too: the longest inaugural speech was by President William Henry Harrison in 1841. It ran 8,445 words - more than 60 times as long as George Washington's second one, and nearly twice as long as the next most long-winded speech. It was cold that Inauguration Day, and Harrison delivered his speech in a snowstorm. It took him an hour and 45 minutes. Apparently, he got sick and died just one month later - of pneumonia. So keep it in mind, if you're ever tempted to go on and on and ON in a speech. It can literally make you and your audience sick!


Whenever you speak in public, it's important to make every word count. Don't go too fast. Don't mumble. Be sure to maintain eye contact with your audience. Speak with your head lifted up off your chest so that your voice can project out into the audience.


Stand up straight, draw air all the way down to fill your lungs, and speak each word as clearly and convincingly as you can. Hold the paper in front of you in case you lose your place, but speeches are a lot more fun for the audience if you SAY them, and don't just READ them.


When it's your turn to be in the audience, clap and cheer at the end of each one-liner to make the "President for a Minute" feel great.


For more information, see the text of all of the presidential inaugural addresses on , from which these excerpts and portraits were obtained.







George Washington's second inaugural, the shortest on record at just 135 words, March 4, 1793:




  I am again called upon by the voice of my country to execute the functions of its Chief Magistrate.







Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural, March 4, 1801:


. . . with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens—a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.






Zachary Taylor, March 5, 1849:


It is to be hoped that no international question can now arise which a government confident in its own strength and resolved to protect its own just rights may not settle by wise negotiation; and it eminently becomes a government like our own, founded on the morality and intelligence of its citizens and upheld by their affections, to exhaust every resort of honorable diplomacy before appealing to arms.







Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural, March 4, 1865, crying out for end of Civil War:


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 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.






Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first inaugural, March 4, 1933, as the Great Depression froze the country in unemployment and poverty:


This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.






John F. Kennedy, Jan. 20, 1961:


            And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.


            My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.






Ronald Reagan, second inaugural, Jan. 21, 1985:


History is a ribbon, always unfurling; history is a journey. And as we continue our journey, we think of those who traveled before us. . . . Now we hear again the echoes of our past: a general falls to his knees in the hard snow of Valley Forge; a lonely President paces the darkened halls, and ponders his struggle to preserve the Union; the men of the Alamo call out encouragement to each other; a settler pushes west and sings a song, and the song echoes out forever and fills the unknowing air.


It is the American song. It is hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent, and fair. That's our heritage; that is our song. We sing it still. For all our problems, our differences, we are together as of old, as we raise our voices to the God who is the Author of this most tender music. And may He continue to hold us close as we fill the world with our sound - sound in unity, affection, and love - one people under God, dedicated to the dream of freedom that He has placed in the human heart, called upon now to pass that dream on to a waiting and hopeful world.




By Susan Darst Williams • • Drama & Speech 06 © 2008

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