True to their Word
True to their Word
True to Their Word
Teaching American History in
The American Institute for History Education
Using State of the Unions and
Inaugural Addresses in your
• These speeches are
excellent ways of
benchmarks in history
to provide peeks into
the goals and vision of
the United States of
• The American
Presidency Project is
available online through
the University of
California – Santa
Why Inaugurals and State of the
• They happen (usually) regardless of history.
• Other speeches have historical reasons for
their occurrence. While they can be used, we
want a bird’s eye view of history – popping in
the see how things are doing.
• It’s an EXCELLENT way for students to become
less chronologically impaired without
constantly memorizing dates. (more analytic
• This activity is not used to portray
Presidents as liars or deceptive figures.
– It is designed to allow their speeches to serve
as windows into administrative aspirations;
the tone and mood of the American people;
and the various challenges that government
faces in enacting their plans.
Here’s how to start . . .
• Begin with the broad topic that
you’d like to cover – American
prosperity, war, economic
troubles, significant social
• Then pick the speeches during
and around the events so that
you get a sense of where the
• You can examine foreshadowing,
or a lack of seeing what is
• Once you pinpoint a speech, take
a look outward about 3 years to
see how the world was before
Before Woodrow Wilson; the State of the Union
Messages are basically procedural. They are not
the same type of speeches that we hear today.
YES – THAT MEANS BORING
Let’s take a look at some examples before
we delve into the specific content of this
the hubris of prosperity
Sixth Annual Message
December 4, 1928
The country is in the midst of an era of
prosperity more extensive and of peace
more permanent than it has ever
before experienced. But, having
reached this position, we should not fail
to comprehend that it can easily be
lost. It needs more effort for its support
than the less exalted places of the
world. We shall not be permitted to
take our case, but shall continue to be
required to spend our days in
unremitting toil. The actions of the
Government must command the
confidence of the country. Without this,
our prosperity would be lost. We must
extend to other countries the largest
measure of generosity, moderation, and
patience. In addition to dealing justly,
we can well afford to walk humbly. The
end of government is to keep open the
opportunity for a more abundant life.
Bill Clinton, Address Before a Joint Session of the
Congress on the State of the Union
January 27, 2000
• We are fortunate to be alive at
this moment in history. Never
before has our Nation enjoyed, at
once, so much prosperity and
social progress with so little
internal crisis and so few external
threats. Never before have we
had such a blessed opportunity.
The Federalist Era
Boo to Partisanship
March 4, 1801
• But 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
• What are the historical
roots for such a statement?
• What are the events we can
have our students look for
in order place context and
causation into their
Have things changed? – Harry S. Truman
• “I realize that on some matters the Congress and the
President may have honest differences of opinions. Partisan
differences, however, did not cause material disagreement as
to the conduct of the war. Nor, in the conduct of our
international relations, during and since the war, have such
partisan differences been material.
• On some domestic issues we may, and probably shall,
disagree. That in itself is not to be feared. It is inherent to
our form of government. But there are ways of disagreeing,
men who differ can still work together sincerely for the
common good. We shall be risking the Nation’s safety and
destroying our opportunities for progress if we do not settle
and disagreements in this spirit, without thought of partisan
What a difference 4 years makes!
James Madison – March 4, 1809
James Madison – March 4, 1813
• On the issue of the war are
staked our national sovereignty
on the high seas and the security
of an important class of citizens,
whose occupations give the
proper value to those of every
other class. Not to contend for
such a stake is to surrender our
equality with other powers on
the element common to all and
to violate the sacred title which
every member of the society has
to its protection.
Under the benign influence of our
republican institutions, and the
maintenance of peace with all
nations whilst so many of them were
engaged in bloody and wasteful wars,
the fruits of a just policy were
enjoyed in an unrivaled growth of our
faculties and resources. Proofs of this
were seen in the improvements of
agriculture, in the successful
enterprises of commerce, in the
progress of manufacturers and useful
arts, in the increase of the public
revenue and the use made of it in
reducing the public debt, and in the
valuable works and establishments
everywhere multiplying over the face
of our land.
So . . .
• How about teaching the War of 1812 with a
human voice instead of the typical
– Look at causes and historical significance through
the speech to give students a research topic.
James Monroe – Inaugural Address 3/4/1817
How does he view the American people? Are we True to his word?
• The Government has been in the hands of the people. To the people,
therefore, and to the faithful and able depositaries of their trust is the
credit due. Had the people of the United States been educated in different
principles, had they been less intelligent, less independent, or less
virtuous, can it be believed that we should have maintained the same
steady and consistent career or been blessed with the same success?
While, then, the constituent body retains its present sound and healthful
state everything will be safe. They will choose competent and faithful
representatives for every department. It is only when the people become
ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are
incapable of exercising the sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy
attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become
the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin. Let us, then,
look to the great cause, and endeavor to preserve it in full force. Let us by
all wise and constitutional measures promote intelligence among the
people as the best means of preserving our liberties.
Andrew Jackson 3/4/1829
• It will be my sincere and constant desire to
observe toward the Indian tribes within our
limits a just and liberal policy, and to give that
humane and considerate attention to their
rights and their wants which is consistent with
the habits of our Government and the feelings
of our people.
Now for some fun . . .
•Hoping I’m true to my
The Great Depression/ New Deal
(Which I guess isn’t that new anymore)
Sixth Annual Message
December 4, 1928
No Congress of the United States ever assembled, on surveying the state
of the Union, has met with a more pleasing prospect than that which
appears at the present time. In the domestic field there is tranquility and
contentment, harmonious relations between management and wage
earner, freedom from industrial strife, and the highest record of years of
prosperity. In the foreign field there is peace, the good will which comes
from mutual understanding, and the knowledge that the problems which
a short time ago appeared so ominous are yielding to the touch of
manifest friendship. The great wealth created by our enterprise and
industry, and saved by our economy, has had the widest distribution
among our own people, and has gone out in a steady stream to serve the
charity and the business of the world. The requirements of existence
have passed beyond the standard of necessity into the region of luxury.
Enlarging production is consumed by an increasing demand at hom6 and
ail expanding commerce abroad. The country can regard the present with
satisfaction and anticipate the future with optimism.
Anchor this speech to a large event
• What comes next?
• Examine the events during the Coolidge
Administration that caused the Great
– It is a human gateway into history.
The Stock Market Crash
• October, 1929
– What do we know?
• What were the causes?
• What were the immediate effects of the crash?
• I would ask my students some basic leading questions:
– Around when did it occur?
– Were there significant events before and after that we can
– Who was the President OR are there any Presidents that you
associate with this event?
State of the Union
December 3, 1929
Fortunately, the Federal reserve system had taken measures
to strengthen the position against the day when speculation
would break, which together with the strong position of the
banks has carried the whole credit system through the crisis
without impairment. The capital which has been hitherto
absorbed in stock-market loans for speculative purposes is
now returning to the normal channels of business. There has
been no inflation in the prices of commodities; there has been
no undue accumulation of goods, and foreign trade has
expanded to a magnitude which exerts a steadying influence
upon activity in industry and employment.
He said what?
• Was he true to his word?
Well – If my students did some
digging . . .
– In fact – the Dow Jones Industrial Average did
see partial improvement in November and
December; possibly accounting for a rosier
outlook than we would have imagined with the
gift of knowing what comes next!
A little more . . .
• I have, therefore, instituted systematic, voluntary measures of
cooperation with the business institutions and with State and
municipal authorities to make certain that fundamental
businesses of the country shall continue as usual, that wages
and therefore consuming power shall not be reduced, and
that a special effort shall be made to expand construction
work in order to assist in equalizing other deficits in
employment. Due to the enlarged sense of cooperation and
responsibility which has grown in the business world during
the past few years the response has been remarkable and
satisfactory. We have canvassed the Federal Government and
instituted measures of prudent expansion in such work that
should be helpful, and upon which the different departments
will make some early recommendations to Congress.
“We’d like to thank you Herbert Hoover!”
Was he “true to his word”?
• What did Emergency Relief and Construction
– Use the excerpt from the speech to examine
A New Deal for Christmas?
Give FDR Goalpoasts:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
1st Inaugural Address: 3/4/33
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
2nd Inaugural Address: 1/20/37
• Finally, in our progress, toward a
resumption of work we require
two safeguards against a return
of the evils of the old order; there
must be a strict supervision of all
banking and credits and
investments; there must be an
end to speculation with other
people’s money, and there must
be a provision for an adequate
but sound currency.
• To hold to progress today,
however, is more difficult. Dulled
conscience, irresponsibility, and
ruthless self-interest already
reappear. Such symptoms of
prosperity may become portents
of disaster! Prosperity already
rests the persistence of our
progressive purpose. Let us ask
again: Have we reached the goal
of our vision of that fourth day of
March 1933? Have we found our
The New Deal
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
– Helped unemployed young men 18 to 25 years old
Agriculture Adjustment Act (AAA)
– Helped farmers by paying them not to grow crops
National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA)
– Helped business by requiring that businesses in the same industry cooperate
with each other to set prices and output
– Started Public Works Administration (PWA)
– Labor received federal protection for the right to organize.
Federal Securities Act
– Helped investors, restored confidence in the markets
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
– Helped build dams and other projects along the Tennessee River and its
Roosevelt launched the Second New Deal in
the spring of 1935.
• Emergency Relief Appropriations Act –
stopped direct payments to Americans in
• Works Progress Administration (WPA) –
largest peacetime jobs program in U.S.
• Social Security - Provided guaranteed,
regular payments for many people 65 and
older Included a system of unemployment
Just a quick note about his first
• The State of the Union in 1935 is very short
and concentrates almost solely on domestic
• 1936 begins with a rather lengthy assessment
of international affairs and then delves into
domestic economic and employment policy.
– Even without knowing the specifics – students can
figure out shifting priorities.
Instead of the alphabet soup:
• Give the myriad of acts
and letters some
grounding in the words
of President Roosevelt.
• What path is he laying
• Is he following the
• We can play it safe and
have them memorize
the chart – OR . . .
A Game if you will . . .
• Step 1: Give the kids the • THIS will get them
text or summarized
considering the acts
version of the speech.
and proposals as more
than just a chart to
• Step 2: Call out the
memorize. They will
alphabet soup and a
consider the intent and
• Step 3: If the act is in
line with his message
the kids give a physical
or verbal indication.
Red light green light.
The “Spiral” of Uncertain Times
Franklin D. Roosevelt 3 - Annual Message to Congress
on the State of the Union
January 6, 1941
George Bush, Address Before a Joint Session of the
Congress on Administration Goals
February 27, 2001
• Our Nation also needs a clear
strategy to confront the threats of
the 21st century, threats that are
more widespread and less
certain. They range from
terrorists who threaten with
bombs to tyrants in rogue nations
intent upon developing weapons
of mass destruction. To protect
our own people, our allies, and
friends, we must develop and we
must deploy effective missile
• A strong America is the world's
best hope for peace and freedom.
The first phase of the invasion of this
Hemisphere would not be the landing
of regular troops. The necessary
strategic points would be occupied by
secret agents and their dupes- and
great numbers of them are already
here, and in Latin America.
As long as the aggressor nations
maintain the offensive, they-not we—
will choose the time and the place and
the method of their attack.
That is why the future of all the
American Republics is today in serious
That is why this Annual Message to the
Congress is unique in our history.
You can even compare a president
within the term of office.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, State of the Union Address.
January 6, 1942
Exactly one year ago today I said to this Congress: "When the
dictators. . . are ready to make war upon us, they will not wait
for an act of war on our part. . . . They—not we—will choose
the time and the place and the method of their attack."
We now know their choice of the time: a peaceful Sunday
morning— December 7, 1941.
We know their choice of the place: an American outpost in the
We know their choice of the method: the method of Hitler
Or use the documents to answer
and essential question . . .
• What were the causes and effects
of the U.S.’s increased and
assumed responsibility of
defending democracy around the
Harry S. Truman
State of the Union January 21,1946
• “In his last Message on the State of the Union,
delivered one year ago, President Roosevelt said:
– “This new year of 1945 can be the greatest year of
achievement in human history.
– 1945 can see the final ending of the Nazi-Fascist reign of
terror in Europe.
– 1945 can see the closing in of the forces of retribution
about the center of the malignant power of imperialist
– Most important of all – 1945 can and must see the
substantial beginning of the organization of world peace.
Harry S. Truman
State of the Union: January 21, 1946
• I believe it possible that effective means can be
developed through the United Nations Organization
to prohibit, outlaw, and prevent the use of atomic
energy for destructive purposes.
• The power which the United States demonstrated
during the war is the fact that underlies every phase
of our relations with other countries. We cannot
escape the responsibility which it thrusts What we
think, plan, say, and do is of profound significance to
the future of every corner of the world.
• Our Nation has always been a land of great
opportunities for those people of the world who
sought to become part of us. Now we have become
a land of great responsibilities to all the people of all
the world. We must squarely recognize and face the
fact of those responsibilities. Advances in science, in
communication, in transportation, have compressed
the world into a community. The economic and
political health of each member of the world
community bears directly on the economic and
political health of each other member.
• How can we explain the causes of our
increased and assumed responsibility from
this excerpt? Will my students be able to
easily find the content to link to these words?
A Few years later . . .
• Harry S. Truman – State of the Union 1/4/1950
– We have taken important steps in securing the North
Atlantic community against aggression. We have
continued our successful support of European recovery.
We have returned to our established policy of expanding
international trade through reciprocal agreement. We
have strengthened our support of the United Nations
– In foreign policy, they mean that we can never be tolerant
of oppression or tyranny. They mean that we must throw
our weight on the side of greater freedom and a better life
for all peoples. These principles confirm us in carrying out
the specific programs for peace which we have already
What’s up with Truman?
• He begins to take a great deal of flack for
“losing China” to the Communists.
– Where will the next front of the Cold War be for
What event starts on June
State of the Union: January 8, 1951
• As we meet here today, American soldiers are
fighting a bitter campaign in Korea. We pay
tribute to their courage, devotion and
• My students will probably never remember
the starting date for the Korean War – but I
can use these words to give them a hint to
start looking without announcing it in class.
What about the Vietnam War?
• The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution:
– August 7, 1964
– Allows President Johnson to deploy combat troops
to South Vietnam
What should my students start to look for in the
• Lyndon Johnson: State of the Union 1/17/68
– The enemy has been defeated in battle after battle.
– The number of South Vietnamese living in areas of
Government protection tonight has grown by more than a
million since January of last year.
– The enemy continues to pour men and materials across
frontiers and into battle despite his continuous heavy
– He continues to hope that America’s will to persevere can
be broken. Well – he is wrong. American will persevere.
Our patience and out perseverance will match our power.
Aggression will never prevail.
– But our goal is peace – and peace at the earliest possible
One year later (1/14/1969)
• What we do, we do in the interest of peace in the world. We
earnestly hope that time will bring a Russia that is less afraid
of diversity and individual freedom. The quest for peace
tonight continues in Vietnam, and in the Paris talks. I regret
more than any of you know that it has not been possible to
restore peace to South Vietnam.
• What was a turning point in between these two speeches???
The Tet Offensive
Which was a turning point in American popular opinion towards
the Vietnam War.
And insight into the present and
• Finally, the quest for stable peace in the
Middle East goes on in many capitals tonight.
America fully supports the unanimous
resolution of the UN Security Council which
points the way. There must be a settlement of
the armed hostility that exists in that region of
the world today. It is a threat not only to
Israel and to all the Arab States, but is a threat
to every one of us and to the entire world as
• the easing of strained relations, especially in a
• Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
• Think we can find proof in the speeches?
Richard Nixon Inaugural Address
• We shall continue, in this era of negotiation,
to work for the limitation of nuclear arms, and
to reduce the danger of confrontation
between the great powers.
Maybe the best way to defend
democracy is with a strong economy?
• Think about how our economy and its
strength impact the world:
• Current events:
• Past events: Let’s explore Reaganomics.
– (a plan heavily debated – Conservatives hail it’s
creation of new jobs and an era of prosperity.
Liberals claim that it focused wealth at the top
and widened the gap between rich and poor.
Ronald Reagan State of the Union
• This plan is aimed at reducing the growth in government spending and
taxing, reforming and eliminating regulations which are unnecessary and
unproductive or counterproductive, and encouraging a consistent
monetary policy aimed at maintaining the value of the currency. If enacted
in full, this program can help America create 13 million new jobs, nearly 3
million more than we would have without these measures. It will also help
us to gain control of inflation.
• It's important to note that we're only reducing the rate of increase in
taxing and spending. We're not attempting to cut either spending or taxing
levels below that which we presently have. This plan will get our economy
moving again, [create] productivity growth, and thus create the jobs that
our people must have.
• And I'm asking that you join me in reducing direct Federal spending by
$41.4 billion in fiscal year 1982, and this goes along with another $7.7
billion in user fees and off-budget savings for a total of $49.1 billion. And
this will still allow an increase of $40.8 billion over 1981 spending.
Ronald Reagan State of the Union
• Tonight the American people deserve our thanks for 37
straight months of economic growth, for sunrise firms and
modernized industries creating 9 million new jobs in 3 years,
interest rates cut in half, inflation falling over from 12 percent
in 1980 to under 4 today, and a mighty river of good works-a
record $74 billion in voluntary giving just last year alone. And
despite the pressures of our modern world, family and
community remain the moral core of our society, guardians of
our values and hopes for the future. Family and community
are the costars of this great American comeback. They are
why we say tonight: Private values must be at the heart of
John F. Kennedy
Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union. January 11, 1962
• But America stands for progress in human rights as well as
economic affairs, and a strong America requires the
assurance of full and equal rights to all its citizens, of any
race or of any color. This administration has shown as never
before how much could be done through the full use of
Executive powers--through the enforcement of laws
already passed by the Congress-through persuasion,
negotiation, and litigation, to secure the constitutional
Let’s dig . . .
• What is happening in American History with
regard to Civil Rights when Kennedy is giving
• What is Kennedy saying about the relationship
between the Executive and Legislative
Don’t find yourself in a Ford
INSTEAD OF USING THE COINCIDENTAL SIMILARITIES – USE CONTENT!
Fourth Annual Message December 6, 1864
• At the last session of Congress a proposed amendment of the Constitution
abolishing slavery throughout the United States passed the Senate, but
failed for lack of the requisite two-thirds vote in the House of
Representatives. Although the present is the same Congress and nearly
the same members, and without questioning the wisdom or patriotism of
those who stood in opposition, I venture to recommend the
reconsideration and passage of the measure at the present session. Of
course the abstract question is not changed; but in intervening election
shows almost certainly that the next Congress will pass the measure if this
does not. Hence there is only a question of time as to when the proposed
amendment will go to the States for their action. And as it is to so go at all
events, may we not agree that the sooner the better? It is not claimed
that the election has imposed a duty on members to change their views or
their votes any further than, as an additional element to be considered,
their judgment may be affected by it. It is the voice of the people now for
the first time heard upon the question.
Let’s ask the same questions.
• What is happening in American History with
regard to “Civil Rights” when Lincoln is giving
• What is Lincoln saying about the relationship
between the Executive and Legislative
What is similar and/or different?
No More Tears?
First Annual Message
December 4, 1865
• It is one of the greatest acts on record to
have brought 4,000,000 people into
freedom. The career of free industry must be
fairly opened to them, and then their future
prosperity and condition must, after all, rest
mainly on themselves. If they fail, and so
perish away, let us be careful that the failure
shall not be attributable to any denial of
justice. In all that relates to the destiny of the
freedmen we need not be too anxious to
read the future; many incidents which, from
a speculative point of view, might raise alarm
will quietly settle themselves. Now that
slavery is at an end, or near its end, the
greatness of its evil in the point of view of
public economy becomes more and more
apparent. Slavery was essentially a monopoly
of labor, and as such locked the States where
it prevailed against the incoming of free
Lyndon B. Johnson
Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the
Union. January 8, 1964
Let me make one principle of this
administration abundantly clear: All of
these increased opportunities--in
employment, in education, in housing,
and in every field-must be open to
Americans of every color. As far as the
writ of Federal law will run, we must
abolish not some, but all racial
discrimination. For this is not merely an
economic issue, or a social, political, or
international issue. It is a moral issue, and
it must be met by the passage this session
of the bill now pending in the House.
What about tracing Civil Rights
Use the Inaugurals and
State of the Unions
around the passing of
key legislation or events
to get a sense of how
things play out.
You can chronologically hook your
What about a non-textual way?
Cartoon from December 19, 1929
Find a cartoon just before or after
these speeches are given
• How are people reacting to the President and
• What are the pitfalls of using the cartoons?
– (not to say don’t use them – but make sure the
students get the bias and all that good rich
information fit for a top-notch discussion)
Yes Virginia, there are videos!
• The Miller Center for Public Affairs (located at
the University of Virginia) has amassed a TON
of video and audio files of these speeches.
Some with that neat bouncing ball technology
– Inaugurals, State of the Unions, White House
Tapes, policy speeches, etc.
– Credit to Dr. Marc Selverstone for this incredible
What about Extension activites?
• The American Presidency Project also contains
the Party Platforms:
– Has the President remained true to the Party
– What is the position of the opposite party? Is
there compromise in the actual politics? Who,
What, When, Where, Why? (How)
How can we alter this strategy to
fit our classrooms?
• Modifications are where it’s at!!!
• A Textbook Scavenger Hunt
• Elementary teachers?
– Handing your students a lengthy speech probably
isn’t something that you’re going to do . . .
• Based on the Presidents you teach:
– stick to the inaugurals.
– Use excerpts and link them to the big-ticket events of the
– What type of activities can we develop????
John Quincy Adams - 1825
• Treaties of peace, amity, and commerce have been concluded
with the principal dominions of the earth. The people of other
nations, inhabitants of regions acquired not by conquest, but
by compact, have been united with us in the participation of
our rights and duties, of our burdens and blessings. The forest
has fallen by the ax of our woodsmen; the soil has been made
to teem by the tillage of our farmers; our commerce has
whitened every ocean. The dominion of man over physical
nature has been extended by the invention of our artists.
Liberty and law have marched hand in hand. All the purposes
of human association have been accomplished as effectively
as under any other government on the globe, and at a cost
little exceeding in a whole generation the expenditure of
other nations in a single year.
Doesn’t it sound a little like . . .
In each generation, with toil and tears, we have had to earn our heritage again. If
we fail now then we will have forgotten in abundance what we learned in
hardship: that democracy rests on faith, that freedom asks more than it gives, and
the judgment of God is harshest on those who are most favored.
If we succeed it will not be because of what we have, but it will be because of
what we are; not because of what we own, but rather because of what we believe.
For we are a nation of believers. Underneath the clamor of building and the rush
of our day's pursuits, we are believers in justice and liberty and in our own union.
We believe that every man must some day be free. And we believe in ourselves.
And that is the mistake that our enemies have always made. In my lifetime, in
depression and in war they have awaited our defeat. Each time, from the secret
places of the American heart, came forth the faith that they could not see or that
they could not even imagine. And it brought us victory. And it will again.
For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed
ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest that is sleeping in the
unplowed ground. Is our world gone? We say farewell. Is a new world coming? We
welcome it, and we will bend it to the hopes Of man.
Inaugural Address (January 20, 1965)
Lyndon Baines Johnson