Here in Washington, the city is gearing up for President Obama's second inauguration, and our team has been wondering if or how you will discuss it with students. What are your classroom plans related to the inauguration?
If you do intend to discuss this event with your students, our museum has a few resources you can use. We created a special theme page on Smithsonian's History Explorer of resources related to inaugurations and the presidency, and curators Harry Rubenstein and Shannon Perich are discussing collecting artifacts related to the presidency and political campaigns and about inauguration photography in a webinar this afternoon at 1 pm. The archived webcast will be available shortly after the presentation. We hope you find these resources helpful!
I'm eager for the text of the speech and even moreso of the poem that Richard Blanco will read. In 2008, there were opportunities to look at the word choices and topics that Obama and other presidents made in their inaugural addresses, using Wordle to help with the analysis. I also used Wordle to better understand the poem that Elizabeth Alexander read in 2008. As I wrote at the time, I was able to Use Wordle Images to Hear What’s Said in her poem. I'm sure this inauguration will provide another interesting opportunity for analysis.
I too am very excited to hear what Richard Blanco will read at the inauguration. He says he got the call while sitting in traffic and his mind started spinning possible lines of the poem he'd write, right then and there. There was a great story on NPR about him. His poem "America" is one of my favorite poems. It really gets at what it means to be an American.
EDSITEment just put up a new feature for the inauguration focusing on the presidential address.
Here's a preview
As President Clinton's former speechwriter Ted Widmer notes in an article "So Help Me God", the nation looks forward to the processions and the parades, "the jets streaking overhead, the swearing-in ceremony—and then, of course, the inaugural address, when the most powerful man in the world elucidates his vision for the next four years of history. What's not to love?"
While some of these speeches are quickly forgotten, many are worth reading at least in part, and a few are notable works of American literature. There is general consensus that the finest speeches are the first inaugural addresses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy. Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural, considered the greatest of these speeches, appears on many required reading lists for high school students and is recommend reading in the new Common Core English Language Arts Standards.