George Washington made the shortest inaugural address in American history on March 4, 1793: 133 words. On March 4, 1841, William Henry Harrison delivered the longest speech (8,443 words). His death two days later prevented him from being inaugurated as president.
The next day, John Tyler took the oath of office and gave a short speech (133 words). He too died within two days of inauguration day, and so Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as the 24th president without ever having taken an official act as commander-in-chief. Coolidge's only words as president were "God save the United States and this honorable court."
William Howard Taft had the shortest presidential term when he left office after one single 8-year-old term; he died in 1930 before completing his second term. The most recent inauguration saw Barack Obama take the oath for a second time on January 20, 2017. In his brief remarks, he said only that "we are here today to mark the beginning of a new chapter. A chapter that will build upon the promise of our nation and its people, and extend the boundaries of hope, opportunity, and change forever."
His final word count was 1,079 words.
The typical presidential inauguration address is roughly 2,000 words, according to the American Presidency Project. The shortest address was made by George Washington, who said only 135 words at his inauguration on March 4, 1793. The longest address was given by Lyndon B. Johnson, who said 11,172 words at his second inauguration on January 3, 1969.
The most recent inauguration with full text available online was that of Barack Obama in 2013. His address lasted for approximately 1,781 words. The least-spoken word in any inauguration address is "we," which does not appear in any president's speech until Franklin D. Roosevelt uses it in his first inaugural address in 1933. The most-used word is "now," which is used by every president. It appears 10 times in Roosevelt's speech.
Words like "formerly", "once", and "long ago" are also very common in inauguration addresses. They indicate that the previous administration had something to do with the fact that there is a new president now running things. A frequent phrase used in inaugurations is "I believe..." followed by a statement about what the new president believes.
In addition to words, presidents often use examples and stories to make their points during speeches.
On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated as the first President of the United States. His speech is available here. Following a difficult campaign, Adams did not attend Jefferson's inauguration on March 4, 1801, which he had served as vice president.
President William Henry Harrison gave the longest inaugural address, according to the American Presidency Project. The speech lasted approximately 8,500 words. In comparison, President Barack Obama's first inaugural address was around 2,400 words long, whereas President Bill Clinton's inaugural address was only 1,600 words long.
Lengths of Inaugural Addresses William Henry Harrison delivered the longest inauguration address, at 8,460 words, in one hour and 45 minutes. This was 3,000 words longer than Taft's, who came in second. At 135 words, George Washington's second inaugural address was the shortest.
(His address may be found here.) On March 4, 1841, William Henry Harrison delivered the longest address, lasting 1 hour, 45 minutes (or 8,460 words). He was followed by James A. Garfield, who spoke for 30 minutes, and then by Arthur J. Glickman, who said only 12 words.
The most recent inauguration was that of Donald J. Trump on January 20, 2017. The president's speech lasted just under seven minutes and can be read in its entirety here. That's one short sentence for every word of the speech! The president was followed by the oath of office taken by Andrew G. McCabe, former director of the FBI.
The oldest inauguration was that of James K. Polk on February 3, 1845. The then-president-elect addressed Congress for half an hour, and his speech has been called "one of the greatest inaugural addresses in American history".
You may remember that during Barack Obama's second inauguration in 2013 there were reports that he had gone over time, but this wasn't the case. In fact, he said everything expected of him within the allotted time and didn't go over any boundaries set by the Constitution.
George Washington, the first president of the United States, delivered his second inaugural address in March 1793. With only 135 words, it is remains the shortest inaugural address in history. It was a straightforward address on the "distinguished honor" of being President. There was no lengthy dissertation, no rhetorical flourishes, and no oratory tricks used by great speakers before him.
In less than 150 years, a new type of oration had emerged: the presidential speech. With its growing length, more and more artists have tried to include more topics and arguments to keep audiences interested. This has led to some very long speeches over time. The longest ever given as president was by William Howard Taft at 10 minutes longer than George Washington's address. In fact, there are now two presidents who have given speeches over 300 words: Roosevelt with 411 words and Truman with 345.
The short speech is coming back into style today. Politicians, candidates, and speakers are choosing words carefully again after becoming tired of being lectured to by experts on TV. A few decades ago, using statistics in your speech would have made you appear dull and uninteresting. But today's voters like hearing about other people's failures and successes instead!
So, if you want to win over an audience quickly, write short, effective sentences with relevant information.
George Washington's second inauguration address, delivered on March 4, 1793 in Philadelphia, was just 135 words long. This is the shortest inaugural address ever delivered by a U.S. President.
In modern times, this record was broken by Ronald Reagan when he became the first president to deliver an inaugural address using only a teleprompter. His 1985 speech was found to be only 70 words long.
The longest speech in history is considered to be Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Gettysburg Address which was 3,547 words long. It has been estimated that listeners would have needed at least three hours to read all of it from beginning to end.
The most recent speech in history which was not given at a national occasion was made by Barack Obama on January 21, 2017. He spoke for about eight minutes at a dinner held in his honor by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Overall, the president-elect said he was honored to receive such a prize and praised several people including his teachers.
He ended his speech with these words: "Now I'm going to try something new. I'd like to invite you all to join me in saying hello to our future leaders through Facebook Live."
At 135 words, George Washington's second inauguration address remains the shortest ever delivered. The previous record was held by William Henry Harrison, who used 160 words at his 1889 inauguration.
In terms of content, it's a fairly standard speech, outlining the principles that would guide him as president. It doesn't contain any new ideas or policies, but rather simply restates what Harrison had said during his own swearing-in ceremony the previous month.
Harrison died only 30 days into his term, so he never got a chance to do anything else with his presidency other than make this short speech twice. But even so, it was quite a bit of work for Washington to cut down to such a brief length. After all, his first inauguration speech was one of the longest ever delivered at that time, lasting over an hour.
And yet, despite its brevity, this inaugural speech is considered one of Washington's best, if not the best. This may have something to do with the fact that it was written by his friend and former secretary John Jay.