From John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan: A look at presidential inaugural addresses through the years


Donald Trump is expected to focus on some of his most prominent campaign issues including jobs, border security and trade in his inaugural address on Friday. Considering the grand lineage of inauguration days past, many wonder how the president-elect's remarks will compare to those of his predecessors.

In December, the Trump team announced it was tapping senior aide and campaign speechwriter Stephen Miller to author the inaugural address. Miller's role has reportedly changed since, though, as presidential historian Douglas Brinkley later revealed after meeting with Trump that the president-elect is writing his own remarks and "doesn't want it to be too long."

As Donald Trump crafts his own inaugural address, here's a break down of what former presidents have focused on during their introductory January speeches.

President John F. Kennedy:

President Kennedy paused for a "celebration of freedom" on the historic day in 1961. The Massachusetts native spoke of assured liberty and harshly warned the global community, saying, "Let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house."

It was his famous call to action for the American public around civic engagement, though, that is to this day one of the most quoted lines in U.S. history:

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."

Kennedy also evoked the image of a "beginning anew," asking "both sides" -- that is, adversary and America, democracy and dictator -- to invoke technological advances, "explore the stars" together, and "let the oppressed go free."

President Ronald Reagan:

President Reagan used his first inaugural address as an attempt to recharge America's confidence in government. He focused on the Constitution as the central tool through which self-government can thrive and the power of the state can be tamed.

RELATED: Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush

Ronald Reagan used his first inaugural address to attempt to revive America's confidence in the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, and the individual; to advocate a revival of self-government by limiting the power of the state

The president called for a "removing of the roadblocks" blocking economic prosperity and productivity. Reagan's presidency is one held in high regard by today's Republican party, and his small government ideals were in full display when he stated "government is the problem."

"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price."

President George H. W. Bush:

George H. W. Bush used his first speech as president to evoke the image of nation that had just struck gold -- saying he assumed the presidency "at a moment rich with promise."

"For a new breeze is blowing, and a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn," said President Bush. "There are times when the future seems thick as a fog; you sit and wait, hoping the mists will lift and reveal the right path. But this is a time when the future seems a door you can walk right through into a room called tomorrow."

RELATED: George H. W. Bush's inauguration

Throughout his speech Bush called for "new activism," for a new generation, and reminded the American public that they are "inescapably connected by the ties that bind."

"Here today are tens of thousands of our citizens who feel the understandable satisfaction of those who have taken part in democracy and seen their hopes fulfilled. But my thoughts have been turning the past few days to those who would be watching at home, to an older fellow who will throw a salute by himself when the flag goes by and the woman who will tell her sons the words of the battle hymns. I don't mean this to be sentimental. I mean that on days like this we remember that we are all part of a continuum, inescapably connected by the ties that bind."

SEE MORE: Read the full text of Bush's inauguration speech

President Bill Clinton:

Arkansas native Bill Clinton spoke of "American renewal" in his first inaugural address in 1993, when he became the first Democrat to serve as president in more than a decade.

Clinton expressed interest in empowering America not only as a sound leader at home, but a strong diplomat abroad:

"While America rebuilds at home, we will not shrink from the challenges nor fail to seize the opportunities of this new world. Together with our friends and allies, we will work to shape change, lest it engulf us. When our vital interests are challenged or the will and conscience of the international community is defied, we will act, with peaceful diplomacy whenever possible, with force when necessary."

The AIDS epidemic, communism, crisis in the Persian Gulf and Somalia -- each of these world events had a place in President Clinton's speech. The central message, though, was of America's part in renewal -- seen in Clinton's challenge to a new generation of young Americans to "a season of service."

RELATED: President Bill Clinton's inaugurations

He spoke of unity and equality amongst those seemingly dissimilar, saying "...but for fate, we, the fortunate, and the unfortunate might have been each other." He ended with a reminder for the nation that America's long, heroic journey "must go forever upward."

SEE MORE: Read the full text of Clinton's address

President George W. Bush:

The 43rd president focused on unity in his first inaugural address, asking the nation to live up to the common calling of "civility." In the wake of a contentious 2000 election that went all the way up to the Supreme Court, Bush described what unifies Americans specifically, saying:

"America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests, and teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must be taught these principles. Every citizen must uphold them. And every immigrant, by embracing these ideals, makes our country more, not less, American."

There were calls to reform social security and medicare, and a confronting of weapons of mass destruction, "so that a new century is spared new horrors," but it was religious imagery and a picture of the spirit of the nation that introduced America to their new president.

RELATED: President George W. Bush's inaugurations

While Bush noted government's role in ensuring public safety, public health, civil rights and common schools -- he also noted "compassion" as the work of the nation, saying, "Church and charity, synagogue and mosque lend our communities their humanity, and they will have an honored place in our plans and in our laws."

Bush ended his remarks evoking President Jefferson's question to John Page after signing the Declaration of Independence, "Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?"

SEE MORE: Read the full text of Bush's remarks

Bush ended his remarks with a reminder to the country that its story still goes on and "an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm."

President Barack Obama:

In President Obama's first inaugural address, the former Illinois senator called for "a new era of responsibility." Having assumed office amidst a crippling economic downfall and active war in the Middle East, Obama focused on "hope over fear" and "unity of purpose over conflict and discord."

Describing America as a still "young nation," he stated: "In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given." It was a speech of affirmation -- both for the country and the global community -- of American ideals and the state of democracy in the West.

RELATED: Scenes from President Barack Obama's inaugurations

As much as Obama called for "bold and swift" action on the economy, he also evoked the image of the nation's founding fathers on the brink of success in dark times:

So let us mark this day with remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At the moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words to be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

Inaugural addresses are historically intended to frame a president's next four years in office. They reacquaint the nation with the executive branch leader's platform, and -- if a new president is stepping into the White House -- sets the pace for the weekend's transition of power.

Trump has reportedly said he plans to lean on the speaking styles of both President Kennedy and President Reagan for inspiration on his own inaugural address. Whether the president-elect speech is three or 30 minutes long, the country will undoubtedly be talking about the historic remarks for years to come.

SEE MORE: Read Obama's full inaugural address

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