As the President’s first formal impression to the country, what does he address? How does he comfort? How does he inspire?
In my second year teaching United States History I, I've experimented in using inaugural addresses to summarize the events and the atmosphere of the country as expressed by the President. My essential question in using these addresses, or pieces of the addresses, depending upon time, revolves around basic political, economic, foreign, and domestic issues facing America. In understanding the nature and purpose of a President’s inaugural address, students will contextualize the events mentioned in the speech and evaluate their historical importance. Beyond the content of the speech, students can probe further and assess superficial and underlying tones.
As with most primary sources, the diction, syntax, and length of the addresses demand adjustments so that students can discover the meaning within the speeches. In addition to editing the length, providing guiding questions, and encouraging dictionary use, the content in the speech should access prior knowledge, information the students would have acquired during the previous unit. This content recognition should also provide encouragement and motivation in their work.
Furthermore, teachers should encourage students to apply their intellect in analyzing inaugural addresses during the upcoming election.
The following link connects you to the Avalon Project at Yale Law School and provides the Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents.