President Barack Obama’s plans for his second swearing-in will break a few traditions, but so far there’s no word on whether he’ll set any new records for an inaugural address.
Presidents have always used the occasion “to articulate their hopes and dreams for a nation,” according to Congressional records. Some have been mercifully succinct — in fact, one delivered only 135 words.
On the other extreme, one president literally talked himself to death.
That was William Henry Harrison, who stood outside in a snowstorm without a hat or coat for one hour and 45 minutes to deliver his inaugural address on March 4, 1841, according to Encyclopædia Britannica. He contracted pneumonia and died a month later, making his term in office the shortest in American history.
Harrison’s speech set the record for length of 8,495 words. By comparison, Obama’s first inaugural speech was 2,420 words.
So who gave that super short speech of only 135 words (which remains the record for brevity)? And what did he say?
It was none other than George Washington, speaking ahead of his second swearing in ceremony in Philadelphia on March 4, 1793, according to Senate records.
Here’s the transcript:
I am again called upon by the voice of my country to execute the functions of its Chief Magistrate. When the occasion proper for it shall arrive, I shall endeavor to express the high sense I entertain of this distinguished honor, and of the confidence which has been reposed in me by the people of united America. Previous to the execution of any official act of the President the Constitution requires an oath of office. This oath I am now about to take, and in your presence: That if it shall be found during my administration of the Government I have in any instance violated willingly or knowingly the injunctions thereof, I may (besides incurring constitutional punishment) be subject to the upbraidings of all who are now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony.
Washington also added the words “so help me God” to the oath of office after repeating the Constitution’s prescribed oath at his first inauguration and, in what Brittanica calls the “most meaningful” gesture in U.S. presidential inauguration history, Washington then bent down to kiss the Bible.
(H/T: Eserver; Front page photo credit: AP)
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