Inaugural Addresses Offer Window To Past

The first sound recording of a presidential inauguration was made in 1925. Calvin Coolidge's swearing-in ceremony was one of the first electrical recordings, using microphones and amplifiers to record the sound. Hear excerpts from inaugural addresses of U.S. presidents since then.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand. The first recorded presidential inaugural address was back in 1925 with Calvin Coolidge's speech. That was also one of the first electric recordings. Somehow, the speech of Coolidge's successor, Herbert Hoover, was not recorded, but we have all the others since then. On the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration, we present the presidents of the United States of America.

(Soundbite of President J. Calvin Coolidge's Inaugural Address, March 4, 1925)

Former President JOHN CALVIN COOLIDGE JR.: It will be well not to be too much disturbed by the thought of either isolation or entanglement, of pacifists or militarists. The physical configuration of the Earth has separated us from all of the Old World, but the common brotherhood of man, the highest law of our being, has united us by inseparable bonds with all humanity.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933)

Former President FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT: Farmers find no markets for their produce, and the savings of many years and thousands of families are gone. More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of President Harry S. Truman's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1949)

Former President HARRY S. TRUMAN: The United States and other likeminded nations find themselves directly opposed by a regime with contrary aims and a totally different concept of life. That regime adheres to a false philosophy, which purports to offer freedom, security and greater opportunity to mankind. Misled by that philosophy, many peoples have sacrificed their liberties only to learn to their sorrow that deceit and mockery, poverty and tyranny, are their reward. That false philosophy is communism.

(Soundbite of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1953)

Former President DWIGHT DAVID EISENHOWER: We can turn rivers in their courses, level mountains to the plains. Ocean and land and sky are avenues for our colossal commerce. Disease diminishes and life lengthens. Yet, the promise of this life is imperiled by the very genius that has made it possible. Nations amass wealth; labor sweats to create and turn out devices to level not only mountains but also cities. Science seems ready to confer upon us, as its final gift, the power to erase human life from this planet.

(Soundbite of President John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961)

Former President JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY: Let the word go forth from this time and 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.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1965)

Former President LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON: I do not believe that the Great Society is the ordered, changeless and sterile battalion of the ants. It is the excitement of becoming - always becoming - trying, probing, falling, resting and trying again, but always trying and always gaining.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of President Richard M. Nixon's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1973)

Former President RICHARD MILHOUS NIXON: In trusting too much in government, we have asked of it more than it can deliver. This leads only to inflated expectations, to reduced individual effort and to a disappointment and frustration that erode confidence both in what government can do and in what people can do. Government must learn to take less from people so that people can do more for themselves.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of President Gerald R. Ford's Inaugural Address, August 9, 1974)

Former President GERALD RUDOLPH FORD JR.: My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here, the people rule.

(Soundbite of President James E. Carter's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1977)

Former President JAMES EARL CARTER JR.: Our commitment to human rights must be absolute, our laws, fair, our natural beauty, preserved. The powerful must not persecute the weak, and human dignity must be enhanced.

(Soundbite of President Ronald W. Reagan's Inaugural Address, January 21, 1985)

Former President RONALD WILSON REAGAN: A settler pushes West and sings a song, and the song echoes out forever and fills the unknowing air. It is the American sound. It is hopeful, bighearted, idealistic, daring, decent and fair. That's our heritage; that's our song. We sing it still; for all our problems, our differences, we are together as of old.

(Soundbite of President George H. W. Bush's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1989)

Former President GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH: America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today; it is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world. My friends, we have work to do.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of President William J. Clinton's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1993)

Former President WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON: The scripture says, And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. From this joyful mountaintop of celebration, we hear a call to service in the valley. We have heard the trumpets, we have changed the guard, and now, each in our own way and with God's help, we must answer the call. Thank you, and God bless you all.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of President George W. Bush's Inaugural Address, January 20, 2001)

President GEORGE WALKER BUSH: After the Declaration of Independence was signed, Virginia statesman John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson: We know the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm? Much time has passed since Jefferson arrived for his inauguration. The years and changes accumulate. But the themes of this day he would know: our nation's grand story of courage and its simple dream of dignity. We are not this story's author, who fills time and eternity with his purpose. Yet his purpose is achieved in our duty, and our duty is fulfilled in service to one another. Never tiring, never yielding, never finishing, we renew that purpose today, to make our country more just and generous, to affirm the dignity of our lives and every life. This work continues, this story goes on, and an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm. God bless you all, and God bless America.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: Inaugural addresses from Calvin Coolidge to George W. Bush. Our piece was produced by Barrett Golding and comes to us from the NPR series Hearing Voices. And tomorrow, we'll hear one more inaugural address from Barack Obama.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: And we'll have more just ahead on Day to Day.

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