Donald Trump teased his inaugural speech in a tweet on Wednesday, shipping out a photo of himself writing it, pen hovering over a pristine white legal pad. Trump's team told CNN that he was writing the speech himself, with the photo intended to offer apparent proof.
It's enough to make one wonder what inauguration viewers are in for Friday. Obviously, Trump isn't a traditional politician -- and neither are his speeches. The New York Times' Maggie Haberman reported that the speech would be brief, some 20 minutes, and that it would be "Jacksonian" in approach -- presumably referring to the seventh president. What that means specifically, though, isn't clear.
Trump's inaugural speech will be the 58th, according to data compiled by the American Presidency Project. Why 58, when Friday will see the inauguration of the 45th president? Not every president got to give an inauguration speech, given that some assumed the position after the sitting president died or resigned. On the other hand, many presidents gave more than one.
There are patterns to the speeches over time. For example, presidents used to talk about the Constitution in their inaugural addresses. Over time, as the country matured, that trend died out. Now, speakers are much more likely to mention God. (The graph below shows mentions in each speech since George Washington's first. Bars are color-coded to the party of the president, with yellow representing anything besides Democratic or Republican.)
The same thing happened with "state" versus "America." In the early days of the Republic, presidents talked about the states. Now, they're more likely to talk about America as a whole.
Some subjects are specific to time periods, as you'd expect. Presidents talked more about democracy during World War II and at the tail end of the Cold War. Slavery was a common subject at the outset of the Civil War.
But, here. We made a tool that allows you to search for any term in each of the past 57 inaugural addresses. We'll show you how the term was used and how frequently it appeared.
Here are some terms to try:
- "bigly" –or– "big league"
- "believe me"
None of those words has ever appeared in an inaugural speech before. Trump is truly ready to break new ground.
This tool wouldn't have been possible without the invaluable archive at the American Presidency Project.