(USA TODAY) -- White House officials aren't saying much about President Obama's
second inaugural address on Monday, but history suggests it will include
echoes of his first one four years ago.
Over the decades,
re-elected presidents have used their second inaugurations to reaffirm
the goals they set for their first term, and suggest how they might
apply in the four years that lie ahead.
FULL COVERAGE: The upcoming presidential inauguration
don't be surprised if Obama references the bad economy and the two wars
that prevailed when he took the oath of office in 2009, and how he has
addressed them in the years since. Also expect a call for national
unity, another staple of second inaugural addresses over time.
"The second inaugural in most cases is a response to their first inaugural," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, co-author of Presidents Creating the Presidency: Deeds Done In Words.
not providing details of the upcoming address, White House spokesman
Jay Carney said Obama is grateful for the opportunity voters have again
The re-elected president "believes that we have work to
do," Carney said. "And he believes that both the agenda he's put
forward so far and the agenda he will put forward in the future will
help this country move forward in a variety of ways. "
working on the speech by writing in long hand on a yellow pad, Carney
said, adding, "I've seen some yellow pads filled with writing of late."
a unique opportunity for any president. Only 16 predecessors have given
second inaugural addresses. (This number includes Grover Cleveland, who
won two non-consecutive terms.)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt's speech in 1937 might well be a model for Obama this time around, Jamieson said.
1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, Roosevelt called for new
laws and "broad executive power" to wage war on the emergency. The
result turned out to be the New Deal.
Four years later, Roosevelt
gave a second inaugural address in which he reported economic progress,
but cautioned that work remained. In one of the most memorable phrases
of any inaugural address, Roosevelt said, "I see one-third of a nation
ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished."
FDR's effort is an exception; most second inaugurals are forgettable.
distinctions tend to be trivial. George Washington's second
swearing-In, in 1793, generated the shortest inaugural address in
history, a mere 135 words.
Thomas Jefferson in 1805 and Ulysses
Grant in 1873 used parts of their second inaugurals to engage in
activity most presidents can appreciate: criticizing their press
coverage. "The artillery of the press has been leveled against us,"
But if Obama is looking to give the greatest
second inaugural address in history, he still faces a high bar: Abraham
Lincoln in 1865.
Lincoln's second inaugural followed the pattern
of echoing the first. When he took office in 1861, Lincoln passionately
argued against the prospect of civil war.
Four years later, in
words now etched in marble at the Lincoln Memorial, the 16th president
spoke of approaching the end of the war "with malice toward none, with
charity for all." He said he would strive "to bind up the nation's
wounds," but never got the chance. In the crowd that day: John Wilkes
Booth, who would kill Lincoln little more than a month later.
Both of Obama's immediate predecessors aimed high in the second inaugurations but faced difficulties in their second terms.
who faced Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, said in
1997 that he and Congress should be "repairers of the breach" of a
divisive time. That hope went by the boards with impeachment over the
Monica Lewinsky scandal.
In 2005, re-elected President George W.
Bush devoted his second inaugural address to his freedom agenda, saying
that the U.S. would "seek and support the growth of democratic movements
and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of
ending tyranny in our world."
Four years later, Barack Obama
would be elected president in part because of mounting frustration over
wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Now Obama gets his chance at a second inauguration.
However he discusses his own record, Obama is likely to give voice to the notions of bipartisanship and working together.
Ribuffo, a professor of history of George Washington University, said
inaugural speeches tend to be "ecumenical" in nature, seeking to summon a
sense of national unity and a "we're all Americans" theme.
will be very surprised if there's anything vaguely partisan," Ribuffo
said of Obama. "I believe he'll save that for the State of the Union."