On 20 July 2017, Donald John Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. He takes office at the end of the most acrimonious campaigns in recent history, and with Americans deeply divided, as witnessed by the protests that erupted across the country (and the world) the next day.
An inaugural address is an opportunity to bring the country together, to heal the wounds that were opened during the election campaign. For Donald Trump, it was a missed opportunity.
Trump’s address was dark and aggressive. He talked about healing and coming together, but his tone and the content of his speech were more confrontational than conciliatory. Given the bitterness of the campaign, this did not come as a complete surprise. Yet, Trump’s speech stands in stark contrast to the inaugural addresses delivered by his predecessors.
When Abraham Lincoln gave his second inaugural address in 1865, just months before the end of the American Civil War, he said:
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.
For too much of his speech it sounded like Trump was speaking with malice toward many and charity toward too few.
During his inaugural address, delivered while World War II raged, Franklin Roosevelt said:
We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger.
By contrast, Trump spoke of America first, strengthening borders and protectionism.
In 1977, Jimmy Carter said:
Let our recent mistakes bring a resurgent commitment to the basic principles of our Nation, for we know that if we despise our own government we have no future.
Throughout his address, Donald Trump raged against the very politicians who were all around him. He even took another thinly disguised shot at Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis when he mentioned “politicians who are all talk and no action”.
In his first inaugural address, George W. Bush spoke frequently of civility and compassion. He also thanked Al Gore “for a contest conducted with spirit and ended with grace.” Trump had the perfect opportunity to reach out to supporters of Clinton with a simple statement but he ignored it. And there was little evidence of civility or compassion in his words or tone.
Furthermore, and worryingly, some of the things that Trump has said in public in the days following his inauguration stand in stark contrast to his words on Capitol Hill.
The video of Trump’s speech is immediately below. Like I did with Barack Obama’s final speech, I have set out the entire text of Trump’s speech after the video. At various places, I have added my thoughts in [red]. They refer to the text that comes immediately before.