Anna Quindlen recently wrote that "there are moments in history when a leader needs to be much more than a manager. He needs to unite, to inspire and to challenge. There's no better way to do that than by delivering a great speech about great matters."
Today, after an interminably long, dry season, eloquence is restored to the White House. Here's a sampling of fine words from former orators-in-chief:
The foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world.
- George Washington, the nation's First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789
Employed in the service of my country abroad during the whole course of these transactions, I first saw the Constitution of the United States in a foreign country. Irritated by no literary altercation, animated by no public debate, heated by no party animosity, I read it with great satisfaction, as the result of good heads prompted by good hearts, as an experiment better adapted to the genius, character, situation, and relations of this nation and country than any which had ever been proposed or suggested.
- John Adams, 1797
Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.
- Thomas Jefferson, 1800
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
- Abraham Lincoln, 1865, in the last days of the U.S. Civil War
Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither. We have become a great nation, forced by the fact of its greatness into relations with other nations of the earth, and we must behave as beseems a people with such responsibilities.
- Theodore Roosevelt, 1905
These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933
So let us begin anew, remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.
- John F. Kennedy, 1961
:(photo) the crowd surrounding the east front of the nation's capitol, still under construction, during the first inauguration of president abraham lincoln, March 4, 1861.