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tv   QA Presidential Inaugural Addresses  CSPAN  January 17, 2021 11:00pm-12:02am EST

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finance committee holds a confirmation hearing for janet yellen to serve as transportation -- treasury secretary. ♪ host: our guests this week are two presidential speechwriters, john mcconnell, senior speechwriter for george w. bush and sarada peri, a senior speechwriter for barack
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obama and we will explore presidential inaugural speeches. i think about joe biden's task. he has got the speech of his lifetime ahead of him on january 20. how did the events of january 6 at the capitol change the urgency and the kind of messaging that he needs to do in this speech? let's start with john mcardle. mr. mcconnell: the most important thing is that the events of last wednesday i have expanded the audience for president biden's inaugural address. everybody is going to be paying attention to very closely to not just to what he says but how he says it. biden has been a public figure for almost 50 years. he is very familiar to americans, especially because his service as vice president to barack obama for eight years. people have a sense of his character and personality. what he needs to do on inauguration day is just to
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project his best thoughts and show what kind of person he is. if you look inaugural addresses throughout history, the best ones, the most effective ones are the ones in which the new president points forward and really talks about his agenda, not necessarily integrate specificity because you do not have the time to do that and it is more of a thematic speech. point clearly and confidently forward, and as i say, i do not know how much recent events or current headlines really need to be talked about in an inaugural address, as opposed to the great principles and beliefs that the incoming president has and wants to put the service of his new administration. host: ms. peri? ms. peri: i agree with john. he does not necessarily have to
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articulate a series of policies, but he is going to offer not just a vision of where he wants to take america but a sensibility. inaugural addresses have a kind of feel, a sense of the ambience of where the new president plans to take the country. thinking about jfk's inaugural there was a feeling of freshness, newness, turning a page on an older generation and bringing in a new one. this is going to be an opportunity for president-elect biden to offer what he thinks the tone of this moment ought to be, and it is not a job i envy, considering recent events. well keep may not speak about them specifically, is affirmative vision of the america he plans to govern almost implicitly will be a response to current events. host: as presidential
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speechwriters are inherently students of history, joe biden will be taking the oath dealing with so many issues, and angry and divided electorate, the pandemic and economic crisis, it can either review think of any historical parallels for this many issues facing an incoming president? mr. mcconnell: well, it is really interesting when you look across american history. how many times the nation has been closely divided. it is amazing, not just in modern times, bush v gore, kennedy and nixon, nixon and humphrey, kennedy and nixon separated by 100,000 votes. wilson running for reelection, 1916, and a series of elections after the civil war where it was really on the knife's edge. that is number one.
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number two, there have been a pretty large number of presidents coming in at moments of crisis. you think right away of franklin d roosevelt at the height of the great depression. ronald reagan came in at a moment of real economic -- not calamity, but great concern in the country, and i -- you know, there are many instances of this. biden has a series of crises and challenges of his own. you go back through history, and there are many instances of presidents having to deal with these things. i go back to the point that if he is confident and pointing forward and speaks about principles, and may even about american history as many presidents have done in his inaugural address, and he will set just the right tone for his administration going forward.
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host: john mcconnell mentioned the audience will be much larger for incoming president biden for this speech. but i'm wondering, what are the key audiences that this and any inaugural address aim toward? ms. peri: an inaugural address is no longer a campaign speech, right? it is the president's first official address. it is not a coronation, but it is the moment when a president is becoming a president of all americans, no longer speaking to just democrats, speaking against republicans. in a way, unlike many other speeches, this speech is directed toward the american
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people, but it is also actually the world. you are activity minimizing the audience. i would argue this speech has a global audience because the world is looking for what this new leader will bring. what will a new president biden and his administration bring? for any speech, you want to consider the emotional center, and in this moment when the country is so divided he needs to come back to those first principles, as john said, and speak about the values that bind us while being sure and clear eyed that the things at the moment are causing such division. he does need to be mindful of frankly the vastness of the audience. that does not mean he is offering different messages to those audiences. if he speaks about that patient that he has it will reach all audiences. what is unique about joe biden among all lot of politicians is what you see is what you get. he has been the same person in public life for as long as we has been in public life, and i think we will see that again on
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the biggest stage of his life. host: john mcconnell, and how important is speaking to history when you are crafting an inaugural address? mr. mcconnell: well, i used to get that question when i was writing speeches for president bush. i always try to change the subject, because if you are thinking about history and writing a speech it does not help in the process. you really need to keep focused on the project at hand and on putting your best thoughts down and getting the president's best -- getting. -- getting the president's voice. people look back on inaugural addresses and they set the stage in a certain sense for administrations. for most presidents their most significant speech were not there inaugural address. people go back to them but i cannot think of many presidents of whom the typical american
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would say that inaugural address, that was the thing i remember about him. there are very few of them. it is a very important speech, but it is part of a narrative arc of that presidents -- that president, and joe biden will say things that are much more newsworthy within a few days of being inaugurated. that speech just needs to be forward looking, conversational in tone. i do not think people are looking for in the times we live in high oratory. they are looking for i think right now especially a really good sense of the man, and that is why sarada is right about world watching. people are just very curious about this man who they are
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familiar with but have never seen in this world. -- in this role. host: following up on john mcconnell's point, lincoln's second inaugural is considered the greatest of all time. are there any other gold standard inaugural presidential speeches you might go back and study if you were given this test? ms. peri: sure, it is worth going back and reading as many of them as you can as you are preparing for the address or just in history in general. while fewer of them stand out, it together when you read them, they offer a snapshot for american history. you get a sense of what these leaders were dealing with in context. they are worth reviewing. the first inaugural was remarkable and coming in a time of crisis, coming out at a point when the american people were
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truly in crisis, people that lost their jobs and the banks were going under, and it was a horrible time. people for so long had been feeling that there was nothing that could be done about it. not even talking specifically about programs, what fdr did was a possibility, not wide-eyed naive possibility but the people having agency. the tone shift from this other administration, i think that is one of their gold standards. jfk's inaugural is one considered to be particularly beautiful and had a particular tone about it. his head speech writer wrote what the process was like and they had been collecting fragments of ideas and phrases and he had to dip into that in order to write president kennedy's farewell speech to the senate.
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and then president kennedy asked him to read previous inaugural's and he found the ones that he noted were also very long. his goal was to make president kennedy's as short as possible and it ended up being the shortest since teddy roosevelt. it was an opportunity to offer a vision of what america could be. we are turning away from what we have been going through. we are the postwar generation. we are trying to objectified not just the committee of our country but a community of nations. introducing this idea of what citizenship really is. for a bunch of reasons the candy -- the kennedy inaugural is considered a gold standard. president obama was kind enough to speak as a speechwriter and president obama said he is
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inaugural was no kennedy inaugural but it was an honest conviction of what america was. host: we have dipped into videos archives. we are going to start with joe biden, play a little clip from his election night speech in wilmington. i would like to have both of you offer your professional opinions of his style, it gives -- his rhetorical style as you listen to this clip. [video clip] president-elect biden: [video i seem to be a president who seeks not to divide but unified. who does not see where it states -- red states or blue states, only sees the united states. i want with all my heart for the confidence of the whole people to win the confidence of all of you. and for that is what america i believe is about. it is about people.
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and that is what our administration will be all about. i start this office to restore america, to rebuild the backbone of this nation, the middle class, and to make america respected around the world again. [applause] and to unite us here at home. it is the honor of my lifetime that so many millions of americans have voted for that vision. host: let's start with sarada. ms. peri: i think it was sort of quintessential biden anyway. i do not think he is wrong about that. he has long been someone because -- someone who is moderate in his policies. and is someone known for working across the aisle. his whole theme throughout the campaign was restoring the soul of america.
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in speaking to that at that moment and offering a unifying message of i am going to do my very best to bring everybody together, he was laying the groundwork and frankly saying now it is going to be on everyone else to join that vision and to come along and to be willing to be open. i think it was a pretty clear statement of where he wants to go. mr. mcconnell: very good tone, and if that is going to be the tone of his inaugural address it will be a success, and the most important thing is after a presidential election, especially if you win the election is to stop campaigning. if biden remembers that in his inaugural address he will be fine. when i was a boy, i was at the
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inauguration of ronald reagan, and i was a big reagan fan and admired him as far back as i remember them and now he was president of the united states, and i was going to hear him speak as president, and i was so excited, because i thought i was going to hear something entirely different from what i had heard listening to reagan speeches. in my immaturity i had been a little bit disappointed because he sounded just like you did before he was president. he spoke about the same ideas, the same themes. it was not a campaign speech. he was not contrasting with anyone else, attacking anyone or going down that road, but it was just the same man. now i look back over the years and reagan's inaugural address was one of the best, consistent with the man's entire
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character, and if i were joe biden right now that would be the most important thing to me, not to go up there and sound different from the joe biden of the past, but to be the best joe biden. that is what we will be waiting to see. host: we have learned from press reports that the incoming white house director of speechwriting is chief speechwriter for then vice president biden during the second obama term. do you know him? ms. peri: he is a very good friend of mine. host: do you know how he works with the vice president? ms. peri: they have a remarkable partnership. they have worked together for a long time. he has spent a lot of time with him personally which is one of the best ways to develop a writing relationship. they work together on ideas,
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and there are other speechwriters i have worked with as well and that biden has worked with. longtime advisors. he in a way shares some of biden's qualities. he has a deeply empathetic person, a brilliant writer and a brilliant guy, but someone who operates with the same empathy that biden does. i think because they share that sensibility they have a real connection in terms of their values and how they see the world. and how they see worth in every single person. i think you will see that, not just in the inaugural but in all that is to come in terms of the administration and the white house. host: we are going to go back in history and start with the jfk inaugural. sarada has already talked a little about that. this is in the modern age one of the iconic speeches, the astronaut speech. let's listen to a little bit of
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this. [video clip] president kennedy: in the long history of the world only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. i do not shrink from this responsibility. i welcome it. [applause] i do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. the energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. and so, my fellow americans, as -- ask not what your country can do
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for you. ask what you can do for your country. >> he took office at the height of the cold war and what we think of that astronaut rays and called in his direction for our own country, most of the peach was about foreign policy issues. what are your observations? mr. mcconnell: my general observation is that is the work of a highly literate, educated man with a natural sense of the english language that was basically unmatched in his generation of politicians. ted sorensen was a beautiful writer and a modest man, always gave credit to the president himself, and we know from the documents and some of the books that have been written about the speech that it really was john f. kennedy's best in that speech. that collaboration with him was very important. i think it was -- i think
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kennedy edited the speech something like 30 times while delivering it, alterations on the text. he was just a person with a natural sense of how words sounded, what the cadence should be, what the choice of words should be, and he could make snap decisions in delivery and it all just came together in a beautiful piece of work that anyone who has worked on a presidential inaugural address can tell you is very hard to do. as you say, it was mostly about foreign policy at about america to obvious place in the world. the late senator from pennsylvania had a small role in that speech. there was a line when president kennedy talked about the human rights that america seeks to advance around the world, and the sentence was changed to
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include the words at home, and that was his influence. he was simply hoping in doing that to at the inaugural address make a reference to civil rights in the united states. host: i am going to move on to 1969 and the first nixon administration to set the stage, perhaps some parallels today, massive protests over vietnam, both conventions disrupted with violent protest. he was the only president in the 20th century to be defeated and come back to win. he said in his memoir is the major theme of his speech was going to be peace. protesters on pennsylvania avenue. rocks were thrown at the presidential limo as he moved between the white house and capitol hill. 81 people arrested, 12 injured including 12 policemen. that is the background from we are going to annex from
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-- that were going to hear from january 20, 1969, first nixon inaugural. [video clip] president nixon: when we listen to the better angels of our nature we find that they celebrate the simple things, the basic things such as goodness, decency, love, kindness, greatness comes in simple trappings. the simple things are the ones most needed today if we are to amount what this advises and cement what unites us, to lower our voices would be a simple thing. in these difficult years america suffered from a fever of words, from inflated rhetoric of promises more than it can deliver, from angry rhetoric that fans discontent, from hatred, we cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another, until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.
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[applause] host: what did you hear there? ms. peri: this is a fascinating speech. he is delivering it at this moment of incredible crisis, and when people are not just yelling for the sake of yelling, that they have genuine grievances. 1968, the death of two heroes in rfk and jfk. civil-rights interest, the antiwar movement, it was a moment when people had real grievances and were worried about the state of the country. you might think the right thing to say at that moment is to talk about lowering our voices, but it felt a little empty. it was not addressing the very real grievances that people had or offering a way forward. his speech does not have any specific proposals, but he was also not offering a vision of where we went to to go.
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-- where we wanted to go. back to john's earlier point is the central point of inaugural two paint a picture of the future. it reminds me a little of some of what we hear today for calls of civility. civility is a often a way of those in power to silence those without power. i feel like nixon did not strike the right -- the words he were saying were not meeting the moment although these have been -- although the sentiment of wanting to lower the temperature was admirable but that was not addressing the real issue. there is a line, the crisis of the spirit, we need to answer the spirit and that sounds like a pretty line but it does not mean anything. it does not attach itself to anything. that speech, it was unusual for a bunch of reasons. one of the funny things about that moment is that nixon was actually sworn in by chief
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justice earl warren a longtime political rival. the whole thing was a discordant moment i think. host: john? mr. mcconnell: i do not know mr. mcconnell: i do not know whether the speech was judged a success. it probably was because inaugural addresses tend to be well received. i will just note that at the beginning nixon talked about the better angels of our nature, which is a conscious echo of president lincoln's first inaugural address. the closing passage of president lincoln's first inaugural address. that term better angels we have , heard from biden and we may here again on inauguration day. host: president nixon trophy s -- nixon's speech from 1963, key use the word peace 19 times. more than any other presidential reference.
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he uses it more than that. what does that suggest you in terms of where you thought the country needed to be? mr. mcconnell: nixon, in his first inaugural address i think he said the greatest title x -- greatest title that history can stow is the title of peacemaker. it was very much on his mind. that is the epitaph on his tombstone. host: interesting. we will move on to ronald reagan's first. you talk about this being the first inaugural address yard in -- the first inaugural address that you heard in person. set the stage for us. what was the country going through as he was beginning to take the oath of office? mr. mcconnell: the first one i heard in person was carter in 1977 on the east front of the capitol and four years later as carter was leaving and ronald reagan was coming in the inauguration had been moved to
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the west front of the capitol for the first time. reagan is given credit for that, but in truth that was done by congress. carter trivia second inauguration would have been on the west front of the capitol. i just remember it as a very unusual day, having seen the carter event four years before and having read about other inaugurations. it is january 20. it tends to be mighty cold going through the years. ronald reagan's inauguration, it was 55°. people were bundled up but it was a beautiful day, a little bit overcast. it got sunny around noon time. it was also a formal event. president reagan was dressed in morning clothes, and that was the dress code.
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everyone on the platform were all dressed in formal attire, and i think the only other inauguration to have a formal dress code in modern times when john f. kennedy's. i remember it as a very polished event, beautiful day, and the country was -- we had just gone through a divisive election. there had been three candidates for president, the third-party candidate got 5% of the vote. reagan ended up winning 44 states. president carter carried only six, but carter four years before in his inaugural address had begun his remarks by thanking president ford for all he had done to heal the nation. ronald reagan at the beginning of his inaugural address thanked jimmy carter for his assistance in the transition. from then on inaugural addresses have had exquisite thanks to the outgoing president.
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host: ronald reagan's chief speechwriter for this, let's listen to a minute and 14 seconds. [video clip] ronald reagan: the economic woes we have suffered have come upon us and against they will not go away in days or months but they will go away. and they will go away because we as americans have the capacity now as we have had in the past to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom. in this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. government is the problem. [applause] my intention to curb the size and influence of the federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the federal government and those reserved to the states or to the people. [applause]
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all of us need to be reminded that the federal government did not create the states. the states created the federal government. [applause] host: sarada, ronald reagan ushering in the new federalism era. what do you think there? ms. peri: folks involved in the preparation said it would set a tone rather than an agenda, and he did do that, although in the tone of calling for the end of the government did sit in agenda. in truth, the rhetoric of the speech is reagan at its finest, but we you hear is ironically the person who is taking over the government demonizing the government, which i suppose is what he had done throughout the
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campaign and his eight years in office. it was quintessential reagan in that sense. he did not deviate from anything that he had said in the campaign, and he did not offer anything new from that perspective either, not that he had to, but the vision that he was putting forward is almost entirely about reducing the strength and power of the federal government, and that was what he had been doing. mr. mcconnell: another interesting thing about the reagan inaugural address is that unlike a lot of other inaugural addresses reagan really made an argument in that speech, and he is often quoted just in the abstract. you say reagan was the one who said government is not the solution, government is the problem. we just heard that line from the speech. what he said in the speech is in this present crisis government is not the solution to our
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problems. he was making an argument. government had shown signs growing beyond the consent of the governed, and despite the size and strength and scope of the government it still had not -- it still exceeded the tax revenues of the government, and therefore you had deficits, inflation. all of these problems he talked about. when he said government is not the solution, he was saying government has done these things and therefore it is the problem. ms. peri: one more interesting thought about this speech. it ended up having residents in terms of making an argument for a philosophy of how government ought to work. i think it was this inaugural
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where he made the comparison between a family with a budget and the federal government's budget. it resonated in terms of folks who believe in that argument of economic theory that a federal government ought to manage its budget the way a family does. that has staying power in terms of being -- four reagan's philosophy and government. host: next we will look at 1993, the first inaugural of bill clinton. the generational change to the first baby boomer president and his theme was american renewal. this is from january 20th, 1993. [video clip] president clinton: our democracy must not only be the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal. there is nothing wrong with america that cannot be cured by what is right with america. [applause]
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and so today we pledge an end to the era of deadlock and a new season of american renewal has begun. [applause] to renew america, we must be bold. we must do what no generation has had to do before. we must invest more in our own people, in their jobs and in their future, and at the same time cut our massive debt. and we must do so in a world in which we must compete for every opportunity. it will not be easy. it will require sacrifice, but it can be done and done fairly. not choosing sacrifice for its
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own sake but for our own sake. host: let's start with john this time. what did you hear in that speech? mr. mcconnell: well, in pretty much fits with how his presidency turned out in terms of the economic successes. it is interesting in that two years later he was facing a republican house and a republican senate that had run on a set platform -- made a congressional midterm election a nationwide election and clinton had to contend with that republican congress for the next six years. and had in economic terms a successful presidency, and may be the divided government was part of the reason for that. host: and ultimately impeachment. sarada, your thoughts about the era of deadlock is over and also
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his concern about the debt. ms. peri: it is interesting. it certainly was not over, and a couple of years later it would only get more entrenched, and one might argue the revolution of 1994 with newt gingrich hearkened a new era of partisanship we are still living with, and of course he was able to oversee a strong economy. it was interesting, by that point democrats had taken on that which it started earlier during reagan's terms. this is a criticism of the left wing of his own party that he was too moderate, thinking too much about debt, persistent policies like welfare reform that progresses were vehemently against. you start to see what this administration will look like,
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what his white house will look like in terms of trying to appeal to all types of the party. what is striking about the language is his use of renewal. he starts the speech talking about how it is a cold winter day but we are starting to see the renewal of spring. in a way that was really a tone commentary about the tone of the moment. he offered a beautiful tribute to president george h.w. bush, a lifetime of service to the country, and was also turning the page to a new generation, his own generation and the first , baby boomer president. you see it more in 1997 in his second inaugural address. it was the first one i attended, i was a senior in high school, and you are struck by the moment he is speaking. throughout his presidency but
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especially at that second inaugural where the internet is getting bigger. younger generation becoming more aware of technology and its role and president clinton trying to figure out what role america as in leading this revolution. we are building a bridge to the 21st century. it became his catchphrase. he really did take office and leading at a time that was pivotal not just for america but for the world in terms of where we were going. mr. mcconnell: and give him credit for setting the right tone. in talking about the importance of -- or his aspiration of putting an area of deadlock and division behind us. who knows whether he thought the chances of that were great or small but at least we have to credit him for wanting to get past it. >> will go to the new millennium, george w. bush, 20 years ago. here he is on january 1 --
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january 20 of 2001. i want to play this clip and then i'm going to ask and move right into his second inaugural. the first one took place before anyone had conceived of 9/11, and i want to have you compare the tone of the two speeches just four years apart. let's listen to george w. bush's first inaugural and that we will take a break and come back and listen to his second inaugural. [video clip] president bush: the peaceful transfer of authority as -- is rare in history, yet common in our country. with a simple oath we affirm new traditions and affirm all beginnings. as i begin i think president -- as i begin i thank president clinton for his service to our nation. [applause] and i thank vice president gore
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for a contests conducted with spirit ended with grace. [applause] the ambitions of some americans are limited by failing schools and hidden prejudice and circumstances of their birth, and sometimes our differences run so deep it seems we share a continent but not a country. we do not accept this, and we will not allow it. our unity, our union is the serious work of leaders and citizens and every generation, and this is my solemn pledge. i will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity. host: that was george w. bush's first inaugural address and now we will listen to a portion of his second inaugural address. [video clip] president bush: there is only one force of history that can break the rain of hatred -- reign of hatred and expose the
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pretensions of tyrants and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom. [applause] we are led by a vast and common sense to one conclusion. the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. [applause] the best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world. [applause] host: john, let's start with you. were you involved in either of these speeches? mr. mcconnell: the second inaugural, yes. i was involved with my colleague but mike was the real
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intellectual driver in that speech. we did spend a week or so together on the drafting. the first inaugural address i did not. it was mike and our colleague. host: our world had changed a lot in those quandaries. -- in that four years. how do we care that in the tones in the two speeches? mr. mcconnell: it has been a while since i listen to either one of them. i remember impressionisticly they both sounded a lot like him because in each case he spent so much time working on the speech. that was true for all of the years i worked with them. speeches were very important to him and he wanted to bond with the speech by the time he got up and delivered it. he wanted it to be the representation of his best thoughts. he thought every speech was important. in looking back and listening to
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those inaugural addresses, it really sounded like him because it is him. a goodhearted man, a man clear in his purposes and eager to explain them to the audience. host: sarada, william safire reported george w. bush said i want my second inaugural to be my freedom speech. he used the word freedom 27 times in that speech. what is your reaction? ms. peri: given where we were at that point, we were knee-deep in the iraq war, after 9/11. it made sense. freedom as an outsized, almost mythic quality to it. it very much was in the air, and it became a point of derision
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because whose freedom are we fighting for, and what we were doing in terms of the iraq war. after 9/11 that tone of speaking for freedom from terrorism here but also for democracy abroad was really important for president bush. i also want to say what struck me -- i had not gone back and listened much to those in a long time but going back to that first one, it was before 9/11. it is a beautifully written speech. parts of it sound so different from what we might hear today. there is a line where he says it is the american story, a story of flawed and fallible people
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united by grand ideals. today i do not know if you would hear republican say the american story of flawed and fallible people. there is an undercurrent today between politicians about what is the american story and is it unpatriotic to look back and question some of the choices that were made and to call out our flaws. it struck me that president bush did put that in his first inaugural. host: let's move on to barack obama presidency. we will turn to you for background on how those speeches were crafted. what can you tell us about them? ms. peri: i was not involved in crafting either of them, but my understanding is that the first speech president obama worked with his longtime chief speechwriter and john had said it was one of the hardest speeches he worked on. president obama and said that first inaugural happened in the
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world at the time. we were in the middle -- he had inherited this financial crisis and the transition as john will know better than anyone was a series of meetings about how bad things were. it was a really challenging time. the speechwriters met with ted sorensen and he said whenever we had a big speech to write he said let's make sure this one is that as we books. -- this one is in the history books. for president obama he wanted it to be a more sober tone and less lofty and rhetorical that what people had heard in the campaign and what people expected because the moment called for that. as we talked about earlier, inaugurations are the first official speech as president. you are not campaigning anymore. he was coming into a very serious situation and had worked
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with president bush throughout the transition to be ready to take on the role of governing. you campaign in poetry but you govern in prose. the speech was prose. host: there is an interesting speech from the guardian and his relationship with the speech and writing this. the inaugural speech shuttled between the two of them four or five times following an initial hour-long meeting at which the president elect spoke about the vision for his address. john favreau took notes on his computer. he then ran away and spent weeks on research as his team interviewed historians and studied periods of crisis and listen to best inaugurations. when ready he took up residence in a starbucks in washington and wrote the first draft. that probably sounds familiar to both of u.s. presidential speechwriters. we are going to listen to barack obama's first inaugural address and when we come back let's hear what you had to say about it. [video clip] president obama: that we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence
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and hatred. our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. homes have been lost, jobs have been shed, businesses shuttered, our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the way we use energy have strengthened our adversaries and threaten our planet. these are the indicators of crisis, subject of data and statistics. less measurable but no less profound is a sad thing of confidence across our land. a nagging fear that america's decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower the sights. today i say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious, and they are
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many. they will not be met easily or in a short span of time. but know this, they will be met. [applause] host: john? mr. mcconnell: isn't that interesting. there is a line in the regular -- in the reagan address where he talks about our problems not going away in days, weeks, or months but they will go away and obama says something very similar to that. that is a lesson for inaugural addresses. the country likes hearing a president, especially an incoming president say something like that. we can get through this. whatever we are facing we can get through it. i just want to add that i have been reading president obama's book. i do not remember knowing this at the time. i was on the white house staff until the morning of the inauguration, but i do not remember reading about it since until i read obama's book.
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he was briefed the night before and was told that there was a credible threat of a terrorist attack at the inauguration, and so he had in his jacket pocket a set of instructions to read to the audience to tell them how to get away from the scene and go on to safety. i had never heard that story. it is pretty jarring when you think about it. host: and as fences are going up right across the street from us as we talk right now it is reminiscent of the times we are going through as joe biden makes his inaugural address. we have about eight minutes. i have time to do president obama's second inaugural. this clip is one minute long. let's listen to how it changes. [video clip] president obama: we must be a source of hope to the poor, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice, not out of mere charity buddy because peace in
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-- not out of charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles. our common creed describes, tolerance and opportunity. human dignity, and justice. our journey is not complete until our wives, mothers, and daughters can earn an equal living to their efforts. [applause] our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law. [applause] for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another it be equal as well. [applause] our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. [applause] our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving hopeful
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immigrants who still see america as a land of opportunity. host: policy initiatives and the second address. ms. peri: we do, and all of them have a tone of progressivism, right? this is someone who just won reelection and it was a historic moment when president obama won the first time but i've heard people who said in a way that could have been a way for them to be a reelected but had so much meaning. not only did that emotional and symbolic resonance, but it also meant this was -- again knowing he was going to have a congress that would oppose him at this point. he was in a position to sort of say i am going to push for progressive legislation that i want. he had used the phrase earlier
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>> it had been taking on its own resonance. to tie stonewall to these other civil rights moments of consequence for our country was a watershed moment in terms of the rhetoric around the lgbtq community. it is a pretty forward thinking speech and a forward leaning speech painting a picture of a president who intends to push for big ideas. host: we have about five minutes left and i do want to get president trump's speech written with the help of steve miller and steve bannon. [video clip] pres. trump: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out
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factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation. an education system flushed with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge, and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. this american carnage stops right here and stops right now. [applause] we assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, and every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. from this day forward a new vision will govern our land.
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from this day forward it is going to be only america first. america first. [applause] host: john mcconnell? mr. mcconnell: that was vintage donald trump. as a speechwriter i was always hesitant, and i can show you my bosses, dick cheney, dan quill before that -- dan quayle before that, there was always a sensitivity to saying something completely categorical such as this stops right here, right now. is that right? is this really true that something stops here and now? i think sometimes in politics there can be overpromising and overstating, and sometimes an
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inaugural address there are other examples of that. host: sarada, what are your thoughts and listening that speech? ms. peri: i had a similar reaction to john. categorical assertions of anything is a dangerous move to make. i was struck by that phrase. devoid of all knowledge. that is something anyone i've ever worked for would've allowed to be written. what is chilling about it actually is that his suggestion of american carnage was really just more prophecy and prediction that it was an accurate picture of what was happening inside. he had just inherited a roaring economy from president obama i -- the economic policies had started before him, and he was painting a false picture of what was happening. the phrase in particular,
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american carnage is haunting considering what he just unleashed a few days ago at the capital. it is a striking comparison to make side-by-side, the two pictures together, and i think somebody who speaks in such absolute and who at the convention said i alone can fix it is probably not going to be the kind of leader that will offer us of the kind of forward thinking vision. host: you both have been terrific and thinking back in history. we have two minutes left. i will ask each of you to close where we began. if you were working with incoming president joe biden on his inaugural address at this point what would your best advice to him be? ms. peri: my advice would be what is the one true thing you can say and to think of this
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particular moment in the most honest way that you possibly can. host: john mcconnell? mr. mcconnell: take yes for an answer. you are president of the united states. the campaign is over. the country is looking to you with great expectations, great goodwill. this is not a country obsessed with politics. this is a country that has a lot of problems and a nasty tone in its politics. none of that has to be reflected in the inaugural address. you are the president. look forward, look ahead, tell the country where you want to go, what do you want to do. it is not about your adversaries, who you defeated. it is about you and this is probably -- you are probably not going to run for office again, so just be every inch the president of the united states.
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but he does not need my advice. host: both former presidential speech writers, thank you so much for spending an hour with c-span in advance of joe biden's inaugural. appreciate your time. mr. mcconnell: thank you. ms. peri: thank you. ♪ >> all q&a programs are available on our website or as a podcast on c-span.org. ♪ >> wednesday, joe biden will be sworn in as the 46 president of the united states in our nation's capital. there is a temporary closing of the national mall and the
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traditional ceremony has been modified. volatile our live coverage starting at 7:00 eastern. watch the arrivals at the capital and the swearing in of joe biden and kamala harris and the inaugural address. the a now you ration of joe biden, live coverage on c-span and c-span.org or listen live on the c-span radio app. >> british prime minister boris johnson takes questions from the british house of commons. they focus mainly on the government's response to the corona pandemic and the post brexit trade agreement.

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