After getting re-elected, George Bush, as a tradition and custom of United States Presidents, gave his second Inaugural Speech to begin his second term on 20th January 2005. Three former presidents were present; Carter, Bush Snr, and Clinton. It took place inside the United States Capitol, Washington D.C. as this was a precedence set before him by Jefferson, who was first sworn in in the capital (Lepore, 309). The speech focused and expounded on George’s prior foreign policies aimed at the promotion of democracy, and human rights, among other American-centered policies. Just as the other presidents before him whose speeches were written with the help of speechwriters, Bush’s speech was Michael Gerson. The significance of Bush’s second Inaugural speech has been termed by historians as unique since it sought to address issues that had previously not been of key significance to the American leadership like foreign policy on democracy of other countries and countering terrorism, not to mention any inaugural speech before. This paper is a comparative analysis of Bush’s inaugural address using Jill Lepore’s 2012 book chapter, “To Wit” in The Story of America.
Bush significantly begins his speech by addressing observing protocol, unlike his predecessors who were subtle in whom they were to address in their speeches “Vice President Cheney, Mr. Chief Justice, President Carter, President Bush, President Clinton, members of the United States Congress, reverend clergy, distinguished guests, fellow citizens” (Bush 1: L1). By this, he is making clear his intention of who he wants to talk to. The significance of this line is that Bush wants to reaffirm his intention a call/summon every single individual in America. This is a strong point which might have been picked from Kennedy’s speech, “Now the trumpet summons us again…” (Lepore, 304-305) This is as opposed to President Washington’s inaugural address to, “Fellow Citizens of the Senate and the House of Representatives” (Lepore, 308-309) or Jefferson’s subtle address to the Congress but calls people thus, “Friends and Fellow Citizens.” (Lepore, 309)The significance of this line is that Bush wants to directly address every individual in American society and draw their attention to what he wants to put across. Further, he wants to make people realize that they are worthy just equally as the Senate and other government officials are.
Bush demonstrates his willingness to adhere to the constitution and terms of office thereby can be termed as an address to the constitution. He also addresses the people when he tells them that they are the witness of the oath he has taken. From the start, he is focused at reconstituting the people as he mentions that there are deep commitments that unite the citizenry as a whole, from his assertion, “…we celebrate the durable wisdom of our Constitution, and recall the deep commitments that unite our country… determined to fulfill the oath that I have sworn and you have witnessed.” (Bush 2: L1). Different former presidents have had different descriptions of the constitution, for example, Quincy Adam’s description as, “a precious inheritance”, or Van Buren’s “a sacred instrument” (Lepore, 312). Contrary to those before him, Bush is insisting on committing the oath and sees the citizenry as the witnesses which make his speech stronger than his predecessors. This particular line where he terms citizens as his witnesses help in setting him as a different individual who views citizens as central to his administration. Further, Bush’s assertion, “grateful for the honor of this hour, mindful of the consequential times in which we live…” introduces an eloquence and poetry like Lincoln’s frequently quoted line “…fervently do we pray, that this scourge of war may speedily pass away…” (Bush 2: L2, Lepore, 304)). This is significant to show the people that they should be aware of the period/era they are in. This is strong because people can connect the ills of war and show the president’s awareness of the times and wishes for a peaceful nation.
From the onset, Bush appeals to the history of the American people so as to appeal to the people the reason why they are united and why together they can succeed in anything by giving them their historical background, “by the history we have seen together. For a half a century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders.” (Bush 3: L1- L2) This is echoed in Obama’s speech where he mentions, “to choose our better history” (Lepore, 315). History has a way of connecting people to their values. Bush further reminds the people of how far they have come together from history, “After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical—and then there came a day of fire.” (Bush 3: L3). This is significant since it takes people down the memory lane in the realization of their strengths and makes them realize that they could be now vulnerable. This is a strong line since he now has the full attention of the audience and the next proposition that he will make will be based on the fact that it is meant to seal their vulnerability.
It is at this stage that Bush introduces phenomena which supersede all his predecessors’ call for unity, as Lincoln’s call was centred on just the Union or the American continent. Bush, however, calls Americans to a discourse of universality recognizing the effect that hatred, murder, and violence will have an impact in the American soil in the long run, “For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny—prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder—violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat.” (Bush 4: L2). This can be viewed as the line that makes Bush’s argument weak since he appeals to the emotions and passions of the people and not reason. It shows Bush’s willingness to use any means possible to make the citizens agree to his proposal and shifts attention from the domestic problems to others. However, this still enables him to achieve what he wants; people realize that they may not live alone as independent individuals but in connection to the world. It is clear for anyone that if something has become a mortal threat, then it would only make sense to undertake cautious measures that are aimed at preventing such a threat. This makes the audience ready to support Bush’s ideas.
Bush proposes what needs to be done to address the condition that bedevils other countries. His diction clearly reiterates his position as a hardliner who wants to change things and present a solution which choice of freedom is central (Chapanga and Choto, 5). He asserts, “There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants…” can be equated to Lincoln’s speech; “…we are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies…” (Bush 4: L3, Lepore, 310). The significance of this line and the succeeding lines in the paragraph is for the American people to understand that they cannot be single entities in the globe and that the problems other countries face may eventually find their way into America. He shows the need to break the current state of other countries to be like that of Americans. This is the point that makes his speech stronger than Lincoln’s call for a bigger and larger phenomenon, touching on the well-being of the American citizenry. His next line further adds strength to his line, as he asserts, “…and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom” (Bush 4:L3). Bush’s speech draws strength from the mention of the word “freedom” which has a great meaning in the history of America such as the freedom that was accorded to the blacks from slavery. The people can well relate to his speech since they know the weight of the term ‘human freedom’ as a humanitarian term and therefore the audience will likely to be inclined to support his ideology of responsibility to give other human beings their freedom.
Bush takes the audience to a perception of the American dream, which every single American draws their fundamental ideologies from and which takes into consideration the freedom of everyone, as he says, “From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value…” (Bush 6: L2). The significance of this line is that it takes the audience to a view of the values that are inherent in American society drawn from the American dream. This can be seen as a view to the accomplishment of Bill Clinton’s speech where he asserts, “Our founders saw themselves in light of posterity…” (Lepore, 306) The significance of this line is to show the American citizenry the responsibility that their forefathers placed upon them. This makes this speech stronger than even Clinton’s speech since he elucidates further on what exactly the posterity wants the American people to do. This speech places Bush as a leader who values not just the American people but also others. In the succeeding line, “…they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth…,”(Bush 6:L2) Bush is appealing to a bigger cause as it can be seen that religion has been incorporated in this phenomenon, recognizing what the creator meant for everyone. Bush is trying to incorporate religion which usually places all people in the world as equal and deserving equal treatment.
At this point, Bush since he wants to be clear enough on his policy to the world, wisely chooses to use shorter sentences, “The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it” (Bush 9: L1-2). This is a contradiction of what Garfield considered as lacking precision, having paucity in his notions, and evading arguments (Lepore, 315). Bush goes into detail to tell the Americans how much power and influence they have when they want to change the other societies, and ties this with the reaffirmation of his duty to the citizenry. He affirms the strength that Americans possess and the stability they enjoy, “Some have unwisely chosen to test America’s resolve, and have found it firm” (Bush 10: L2). By this statement he reaffirms that America’s resolve is firmly impeccable and that those trying to test it are unwise. He presents an antithetical categorization that either the world supports America’s policy or they do not and there is no in between(Chapanga and Choto, 4). This is a strong message to the world that they either join America or they will be considered unwise. In a series of the subsequent paragraphs, paragraph 10 and 11, he introduces them with the pronoun ‘we’ to show everyone that the contribution of each and every individual he is addressing will be vital for the attainment of the goal. This makes his point strong as everyone in his audience knows that they are worthy and relevant.
Bush makes a strong argument on slavery since he uses lack of free will to mean slavery as thus, “The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies” (Bush 11: L1-L2). The significance of this assertion was evident in Garfield’s draft, “We cannot overestimate the fervent love of liberty, the intelligent courage, and the sum of common sense with which our fathers made the great experiment of self-government” (Lepore, 315). The strength of his whole speech lies herein as the issue of slavery has been addressed before him and his policy is just an accomplishment of the others before him. Van Buren had recognized slavery as a cause of discord and disaster in the human societies. Bush’s speech has provided an extension to Van Buren’s as it provides a clear way in which slavery can be ended so that the discord and disasters can be obliterated from societies. Bush capitalizes on Monroe’s speech, “how near our government has approached to perfection…. who has been deprived of any right of person or property?” (Lepore, 316) to show that America can achieve perfection on a universal stage if it defeats the pangs of slavery. Lincoln believed slavery was wrong. Bush’s speech has some strength at this point since the idea is drawn by others after him, “America’s belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty” (Bush 12: L2-L3). This was drawn Garfield by in his draft, “To violate the freedom and sanctities of the suffrage is more than evil…” (Lepore, 317) Just as William Taft asserted, “The Negroes are now Americans,”( Lepore, 317) Bush wants to show everyone that the plans he has are achievable just like those plans that the nation had in achieving freedom for the negroes to become Americans through concerted efforts. This means that similarly, concerted efforts towards helping those experiencing servitude can help them achieve freedom like that enjoyed by Americans. Bush envisages a time when he will say that the rest of the world is now at the level of freedom that America is enjoying. Bush is well aware that revisiting a topic which has been dealt with times and again such as slavery can breed monotony in his audiences. But he believes that people will much put themselves in the shoes of slaves if he goes a little further in the topic to strengthen his argument and this makes his efforts be considered as acts of faith (Lepore, 317).
In his second inaugural speech, Bush has foreign and domestic policy centered on the interest of America incorporating the current affairs and problems facing the nation and draws the attention of his audiences to what his plans are, going forward(Sameer, 48). Bush has incorporated the ideological framework of democracy in other countries of the world in his speech and connected it with the security and well-being of Americans. He has explicitly explained his foreign policy in a view to moving the American populace towards perfection, a viewed also shared by Roosevelt when he asserted, “…the spirit and purpose of our nation, we will not listen to comfort, opportunism, and timidity. We will carry on” (Lepore, 317). Bush clarifies to the world that America will use everything within its power and influence to espouse support to democratic movements in the world, but the strength of his argument is that he mentions that while supporting other governments, it will not impose their power on them. He idealizes democracy as something that can be nurtured from any form of government.