Inaugural Addresses
A Subtle Yet Powerful Part of American Political Tradition


external image washing.gifWhen the planning for Washington's first inauguration became realized in April of 1789, the nation knew not what to expect. As Washington wrote in a letter the following year, "My station is new; and, if I may use the expression, I walk on untrodden ground." Nowhere in history had there been an office of "President". After taking the oath on Inauguration Day, President Washington addressed the crowd in Federal Hall in New York City and began a ritual that every president thereafter has followed.

The words Washington used on that day in 1789 offered hope for a nation of independent states that unity must prevail over separate interests and a pledge to uphold the Constitution that he and others worked so hard to ordain and establish. He spoke of a true determination to ensure the success of the American experiment.

His address was intended to be heard by all Americans. Although only members of Congress and distinguished guests attended the inaugural ceremonies, the words and emotions were personal and sincere. We as students of history can read the words of the speech and understand the needs of the people of America. We can apply that same effect on every inaugural address. Each president-elect, in his address, offered what they wanted from the nation as well as a glimpse of what they felt the people expected and deserved. Each address, then, gives us a snapshot of the nation to use for a more thorough understanding of our history.

Your Assignment

Working with a partner, choose any president's inaugural address from history (except Washington's first - I'm doing that one - or his second - it's too short). You can find a list of these at and elsewhere. You and your partner will create a new page in your hour below following my example (I have an example on each hour's page) and the instructions. Once you have created your page following the instructions, you can begin working on your page using the template I have created for you to work from. Click your hour below to begin once you've chosen an address.


Obama's Inaugural Address

Click Here to See Obama's Wordle


Idea for the assignment is from an article featured on, titled, "Behind the Speeches, Meaningful Words."

Content regarding Washington's First Inaugural was taken from the National Archives and Records Administration.

Full text compilation of all of the inaugural addresses can be found at Bartleby.

Grade Level Content Expectations and Assessment

This activity allows us an opportunity to meet or exceed the expectation U 6.2 - Using the historical perspective to investigate a significant historical topic from United States history that also has significance as an issue or topic in the United States today. This activity stresses learning social studies requires active inquiry. See the GLCEs for 8th Grade here.

The wiki pages that students create will be assessed using the Wiki Rubric.