Presidential Inaugural Address Washington and Obama Essay

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Washington and Obama's Inaugural Addresses

When comparing George Washington's first inaugural address upon becoming President of the United States in 1789 with Barack Obama's inaugural address from 2009, a number of similarities and differences become apparent which help to inform the reader about the particular context of either speech, and to see how the country's expectations of the President and the President's expectations of his audience have changed over time. In particular, each speaker's view of the office he is about to hold as well as the explicit and implicit appeals to Christianity reveal how American politics has changed over time (seemingly for the worse).

In his inaugural address, Washington spends the entire first paragraph remarking at his inexperience and lack of confidence in his ability to perform the duties of his job. He describes himself as having inherited "inferior endowments from nature and unpractised in the duties of civil administration," and hopes that his "error will be palliated by the motives which misled" him into believing that he was competent enough to run the country as chief executive. This humility (whether feigned or not) makes sense for two reasons.
Firstly, as he notes, Washington was not really a politician, and his elevation to the Presidency seems to come from his relative celebrity rather any particular political skill. Secondly, the office of the President, and indeed, the entire government, was an almost entirely new notion, and as the people of the time viewed the formation of the United States as a kind of grand experiment in governance, Washington would have been foolish not to give due deference to this newly formed government by insinuating that no one was suitable or skillful enough to lead it, but that he was humbled by the opportunity to try.

Obama, on the other hand, reduces this sentiment to two-thirds of a sentence, saying "I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed," before moving on to metaphor-heavy summation of all the terrible things America has done and is facing, whether that be two wars or the decimation of its middle class through greed and fraud. Obama only gives the notion of humility the most passing mention, because at this point in time, America really does not.....

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