Jim Bendat on the history of presidential inaugurations

Historians in the News
tags: inauguration, WaPo, interviews, inauguration day, Jim Bendat

Jim Bendat is an expert on U.S. presidential inauguration history, and has written the book “Democracy’s Big Day: The Inauguration of Our President 1789-2013.” Bendat spoke with Tom Fox, who is a guest writer of the Washington Post’s Federal Coach blog and vice president for leadership and innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up the Partnership’s Center for Government Leadership.

Can you reflect on some of your favorite leadership moments from past inaugurations?

My favorite leadership moments are those inaugurations which served to heal the nation. Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration in 1801 marked the first real change of power in Washington. Jefferson became president after a bitter election, and during his inaugural address — in an attempt to bring the nation together — he declared, “We are all Republicans; we are all Federalists.” Then in March of 1865, in his inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln stated, “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” a phase that he used to indicate that the Civil War was ending and we were going to come back together.  Finally, in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt became president during the Great Depression. He showed leadership when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”...

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