This Friday (Jan. 20), Donald J. Trump will become the 45th president of the United States after taking the oath of office at the Capitol. Shortly afterward, the newly sworn-in president will give his inaugural address.
Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, chair of the University of North Texas Department of Political Science and co-author of The President’s Speeches: Beyond “Going Public,” is available to discuss the speech, the transition of presidential power and other topics related to Inauguration Day. He may be reached at 940-565-2329 or email@example.com.
Eshbaugh-Soha says that although some inaugural addresses from past presidents have become historical and memorable, such as John F. Kennedy’s, with its famous line “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” they rarely set the tone for the presidency.
“The inauguration is largely symbolic, and the address is usually not substantially relevant to the new president’s agenda. The first joint address to Congress, which outlines the agenda, is more likely to set the tone,” Eshbaugh-Soha says, adding that those watching the inauguration ceremony can expect Trump to use his campaign slogan, “Make American Great Again,” and focus on change in his speech.
“We’re far more likely to remember a line from a State of the Union address, or campaign rhetoric, than a line from an inaugural address,” he said. “Kennedy’s speech was more endearing than most inaugural speeches, which made it memorable.”
He noted that most Americans watching the transition from the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower to Kennedy’s presidency probably related more to Kennedy — 43 years old with a preschool-age daughter and baby son — than to Eisenhower, who was 70 with adult children when he left office. The idea that a new generation was in the White House contributed to making the inauguration memorable, he said.
Barack and Michelle Obama, like the Kennedys, had young children — still in elementary school — when Obama took office in 2009. Eshbaugh-Soha said Trump’s family — adult children from previous marriages and a young son from his marriage to new First Lady Melania Trump — doesn’t mirror that of many Americans, who may finder it harder to relate to them.
“We are certainly looking at a different type of First Family: a not-traditional one,” he said.