Teaching with the News
From George Washington to Donald Trump: Comparing Inaugural Addresses
- Explore significant moments in selected historical inaugural addresses and identify important themes, continuities, and discontinuities
- Identify and record themes and ideas in President Donald J. Trump’s inaugural address
- Assess the social and political implications of the speech with classmates
- Consider their own role in U.S. democracy
Note: This activity requires internet access.
In the Classroom:
1. History of the Inaugural Address
Write the words “Inaugural Address” on the board. Invite students to come up to the board and write down any words, phrases, or questions that come to mind. Encourage students to add to the ideas of their classmates. What sorts of themes do students notice? What types of questions did students have about the inaugural address or inauguration day? What do students think the purpose of the inaugural address is? Tell students that they will be exploring a number of inaugural addresses by analyzing historic addresses as well as President Trump’s address.
2. Historic Inaugural Addresses
Break the class into groups of two or three. Distribute “Graphic Organizer: Historic Addresses” to each student. Direct students to the interactive timeline. Depending on the amount of time available, assign each group a few or all of the presidential speeches and have them fill in the graphic organizer.
Have students report back to the class. Tell students to record information from the other groups’ reports on their graphic organizer.
3. Previewing the President’s Address
Tell students that they will be watching President Donald J. Trump’s Inaugural Address given on January 20, 2017.
Distribute “Graphic Organizer: President Trump’s Address.” Ask the class to brainstorm topics about which they suspect the president may speak. What do students think will be the overarching message? What themes or issues do they think will be important? Have students explain their reasoning. Students record their answers to these questions on their graphic organizer. Inform students that as they watch the Inaugural Address, they should continue to fill in their graphic organizers. Watch the Inaugural Address as a class or assign it for homework.
4. Making Connections
Have students refer to their graphic organizers and present their findings to the class. What do students think was the main message of the speech? Are students familiar with any of Donald J. Trump’s positions throughout his presidential campaign? How does this message compare to the messages of other speeches or statements that Donald J. Trump has made? Did Trump make any points that students agreed or disagreed with? Ask students to explain their reasoning. Do students have any other reactions to what Trump said? What policies do students think will be most important over the next four years? What role do students think they might be able to play to advocate for policies they hope to see enacted?
Tell students that, throughout history, many presidents have spent time reading letters everyday and even responding to some. Distribute the handout “A Letter to the President” to the class. Have students write a letter to the president about some aspect of his Inaugural Address. Students can mail their letters to the president or use the White House website.