Each man took office amid economic turmoil that eased during his first four years in the White House. When Roosevelt spoke to the nation after taking the oath of office a second time, he reported economic progress but cautioned that there was more work to do. Obama has often voiced similar sentiments, using the signs of improvement as his justification for re-election throughout the 2012 campaign.
Obama may aim for brevity in Monday’s speech. Still, he’s certain to speak longer than Lincoln, who offered the nation just 700 words in his acclaimed second inaugural.
Douglas Brinkley, one of the historians who met with Obama, endorsed the “brief is better” strategy. But he also said that with Obama scaling back some of the grandeur of the broader inaugural celebration, there is an opportunity for his speech to become the focal point.
“This time around, I think the inaugural speech has to carry the day,” Brinkley said. “There are less balls, fewer people. There’s a chance to make this stand out.”
The inaugural ceremonies are a national tradition but not constitutionally required. The 20th Amendment says the president and vice president automatically start their new terms at noon on Jan. 20.
Obama plans to take the oath officially shortly before noon Sunday in the White House’s Blue Room, an oval space with majestic views of the South Lawn and the Washington Monument. Named for the color of the drapes, upholstery and carpet, it is not typically used for ceremonies and instead has primarily been a reception room as well as being the site of the only presidential wedding held in the White House, between Grover Cleveland and Frances Folsum in 1886.
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