19 May 2022


Review and Comparison of Policy and Messages in US Presidents’ Inaugural Addresses

Format: MLA

Academic level: Master’s

Paper type: Research Paper

Words: 1652

Pages: 5

Downloads: 0


Inaugural speeches of US presidents draw critical and highly opinionated analysis that systems and software exist not just for analyzing the similarities and differences in policy and messages, but also word by word to understand the implied meaning. Consequently, inaugural speeches generate mixed reactions depending on understanding of the party in question. Over the years, US presidents have addressed a myriad of issues in their inaugural speeches, but according to Blumberg, Trump’s utilization of the inaugural address raised anticipation, majorly informed by a contentious campaign and an off the block victory. How was Trump’s inaugural address going to compare with some of their predecessors, some of which have been rated as serviceable, forgettable, or iconic? However, it was not the speech that generated interest, both in the US and worldwide; it was the policy and message within that raised anticipation beyond imagination. Americans had just had their stamp on the country’s political history and all eyes were on the president. This paper reviews and compares notable policy features and messages in Trump’s inaugural speech to those in the addresses of their predecessors.

Dissecting Trump’s Key Messages

Overall, President Trump’s inaugural speech was one that every American wanted to hear as it dwelt immensely on the restoration of American dream and lost glory. However, it is the approach of attaining these goals declared by the president, and its potential implications to foreign policy that had most critics out lashing and a significant number of Americans and international community quaking in their boots. President Trump emphasized on protecting American borders to safeguard American people from external threats to their jobs, security, industries, and interests. While there was no mention of the infamous wall or the aggressive approach to immigration policy, the address resonated of rhetoric that punctuated Trump’s presidential campaign. The past presidents tried to be diplomatic in their inaugural addresses, for instance, Teddy Roosevelt in 1905 talked of American greatness and the responsibility bestowed upon its citizens from its relationships with countries of the world. On the contrary, Trump adopts a rather brutal and succinct approach devoid of diplomatic gloss, by painting politicians and other countries as the enemy that has suppressed the American dream and stolen from its people. One can argue that President Trump’s address is anything but a rallying call for America to rise against insolent politicians and foreign countries that have for long benefited from the Americans’ goodwill. Therefore, it is unsurprising that measurement of sentiment from the President’s address using a computer algorithm that determines positive or negatives emotions associated with words of speech yielded the graph shown in figure 1 below (Ingraham). As evident from the graph, Trump’s first half of the speech and some part of the second half elicited negative emotions.

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Figure 1: Sentiment graph of President Trump’s inaugural address (Ingraham The Washington Post )

No former US president has been a subject of divisive and oppressive speeches prior to election compared to trump. In fact, most critics are confounded that the President was awarded for such an approach by being elected into office. Trump’s inaugural speech is vindictive of their approach, tough talk and all action. President Trump observed that protecting American borders will lead to prosperity and strength, hence the pledge “I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never, ever let you down” (Trump The American Presidency Project ). The platitudes in the speech indeed reflect and address the plight of most American citizens, but the highly personalized delivery is what stands out and makes the inaugural different from those of Trump’s predecessors.

The message in Trumps address can be argue to emanate what Justice and Stanley (36) observed to be unmatched control of media and communication platforms, which despite having characteristics of showmanship, proved to be systematic and coordinated via constant real-time use. Comparisons have been drawn of Trump’s approach and Roosevelt’s use of radio chats and Kennedy’s television charisma (Van CNN ), but Justice and Stanley (37) argued that the full integration of the message and medium laid the foundation for Trump’s rejection of reason taking and reason giving. According to Amber and Michael of The Washington Post and New York Times respectively, Trump’s mastery of social media – 5.5 million and 4.5 million follower on Twitter and Facebook respectively – accorded them insulation from thoughtful public analysis, laying the foundation for “a steady stream of boast, insults, and policy assertions.” From a neutral point of view, President Trump’s inaugural speech is highly punctuated with these elements that have only served to cast a dark cloud on the president’s prospective governance and policy approach.

Similarities to Predecessors

Significant similarities exist between President Trump’s inaugural speech and those of their predecessors. Teddy Roosevelt recognized the need of Americans to be of service to humanity while safeguarding their own interests. “Toward all other nations, large and small, our attitude must be one of cordial and sincere friendship … While ever careful to refrain from wrongdoing others, we must be no less insistent that we are not wronged ourselves” (Roosevelt The American Presidency Project ). On the other hand, Trump observed, “We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first” (Trump The American Presidency Project ). It implies both Roosevelt and Trump recognized the need for serviceable diplomatic relations, but while the former adopted a subtle approach, the latter is assertive and aggressive in their foreign policy. The stark similarity between Richard Nixon and Trump’s speeches is that both defined the objectives of their candidacy and laid out the standards by which they wished their future presidency to be evaluated. The two addressed critical issues of domestic and foreign policy though their priorities varied significantly.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan inaugural speech was delivered in the wake of an economic slump in the American history. As expected, the address was majorly on domestic policy with emphasis on restoring the American economy. The similarity in Reagan and Trump’s speeches is that both recognized the need to address the growing influence of the federal government that has superseded the powers vested to it by the public. Reagan observed, “It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed” (Reagan The American Presidency Project ); while Trump observed, “What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people” (Trump The American Presidency Project ). One can argue that both presidents recognize the role of the federal government in creating the predicament of the American people where unemployment, welfare, equality, and justice among others were critical issues.

Similar sentiments were echoed in the inaugural address by George H. W. Bush who observed, “… it will remain with your judgment to decide, how far an exercise of the occasional power delegated by the Fifth article of the Constitution is rendered expedient at the present juncture by the nature of objections which have been urged against the System …” (George H. W. The American Presidency Project ). However, it is important to understand that unlike other presidents who addressed specific issues relating to domestic policy, George H. W. Bush focused on American people as the electorate, emphasizing on power balance between the people and the federal government. On the other hand, George W. Bush in 2001 focused on equality by observing, “The grandest of these ideals is an unfolding American promise that everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, that no insignificant person was ever born” (George W. Bush The American Presidency Project ). Trump refers to persistent inequality as “American Carnage” that must be stopped and reiterates the need for unity and solidarity. “We are one nation and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny” (Trump The American Presidency Project ).

Contentious Issues

The most justifiable conclusion that can be drawn from inaugural addresses of American presidents is that both had interests of the American people at heart, but the approaches adopted varied mainly due to prevailing events at each time. For instance, George H. W. Bush had no cause to dwell on foreign policy while the most pressing issue was curbing the growing powers of the federal government. On the other hand, Richard Nixon had to hand foreign policy issues in relation to the Soviet Union, the merging communist power in China, and Vietnam (Nixon The American Presidency Project ). Trump’s in-tray is overflowing with issues related to both domestic and foreign policy that require a radical and pragmatic approach as manifested in the inaugural address.

However, the most contentious issue is Trump’s voice in the speech, which can be taken to reflect their intended approach, especially in relation to foreign policy. During the announcement of their candidacy, Trump delivered an infamous statement:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” (Justice and Stanley 37)

Trump’s inaugural speech follows in the same spirit. After echoing what most people would accept as the plight of American people, Trump delivers vicious attacks that are speculated to have immense influence on their foreign policy. “For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, … And spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas, while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay …” (Trump The American Presidency Project ) in response, President Trump suggests a practical but cynical solution, “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families, … We will follow two simple rules: buy American, and hire American” (Trump The American Presidency Project ). A similar stern approach is adopted towards terrorism where Trump suggests reinforcing old alliances and forming new ones to eradicate the vice from the face of the earth. The contentious issue in the address is that despite recognizing the need to respect the interests of others, President Trump appears bent on forcing the will of America on the world, an approach Teddy Roosevelt warned against as it can only lead to long term diplomatic problems.


Inaugural speeches have been delivered at different times in American history, which informed the specific issues of critical importance addressed by the respective presidents. Most of the addresses have similarities in that they share in the American dream of freedom and prosperity for all, which were to be achieved through various policies. However, none has been as direct and candid as that of President Donald Trump. Trump attributes American problems to the inconsiderate foreigners, and their speech speaks volumes of the backhanded approach they are likely to adopt in implementation of domestic and foreign policy.

Works Cited

Amber, Philips. “The surprising genius of Donald Trump’s Twitter account.” (2015, Oct). The Washington Post . Web.

Blumberg, Nick. “What past presidents tell us about Trump’s inaugural speech.” (2017, January). Chicago Tonight. Web.

Donald J. Trump: "Inaugural Address," January 20, 2017. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley,  The American Presidency Project . Web. Accessible at: www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=120000.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Inaugural Address," March 4, 1933. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley,  The American Presidency Project . Web. Accessible at: www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=14473.

George W. Bush: "Inaugural Address," January 20, 2001. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley,  The American Presidency Project . Web. Accessible at: www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25853.

George Washington: "Inaugural Address," April 30, 1789. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley,  The American Presidency Project . Web. Accessible at: www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25800

Ingraham, Christopher. “How Trump’s inaugural address compares to his predecessors, charted.” (2017, January). The Washington Post. Web.

Justice, Benjamin and Stanley, Jason. “Teaching in the time of Trump.”  Social Education 80 (1), 36-41. (2016). Print.

Michael, Barbaro. “Pithy, mean and powerful: How Donald Trump mastered Twitter for 2016.” (2015, Oct). The New York Times. Web.

Ronald Reagan: "Inaugural Address," January 20, 1981. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley,  The American Presidency Project . Web. Accessible at: www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=43130.

Van, Jones. “Trump: The social media president?” (2015, Oct). CNN . CNN.com.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Review and Comparison of Policy and Messages in US Presidents’ Inaugural Addresses.


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