At 135 words, George Washington's second inauguration address remains the shortest ever delivered. Behind him are John Adams (227 words), James Monroe (242 words), Andrew Jackson (270 words), and William Henry Harrison (180 words). In front of him is Abraham Lincoln (500 words).
In modern times, Gerald Ford's 1970 speech was given only five days after the assassination of Richard Nixon's predecessor, Lyndon Johnson. It was also a brief one - only 88 words. Jimmy Carter repeated this performance in 1977 with a 90-word address on the steps of the Capitol after he was sworn in as president himself. Bill Clinton went even further - his 1993 address was only 57 words long!
George W. Bush's 2001 speech was the longest up to that point at 700 words. He spoke again at his first inauguration in 2005 but didn't cover any new ground compared to the previous year: it was exactly the same speech he had given in 2001. Barack Obama broke this trend in 2009 by delivering a more expansive address than anyone before him. He covered many issues for which he received positive feedback from critics, including race relations, the economy, and health care.
Obama's second inaugural address in 2013 was even longer at over 8000 words.
135 words By far the shortest inaugural address ever delivered is George Washington's Second Inaugural Address. Washington focused on what is, of course, the important aspect of the inaugural ceremony—the oath of office and the duties that that oath imposes—in only 135 words and said nothing else. The longest speech at its inauguration was James Buchanan's fourth address, which ran to 595 words.
Buchanan had been elected in a complex series of elections in 1856 and 1857 after the death of President Franklin Pierce. These elections were made necessary by the fact that no candidate received a majority of votes in the first election held after the passage of the Twelfth Amendment, which established a system of choosing presidents by electoral college rather than directly by popular vote. The final election took place in February 1857 with both Lincoln and Buchanan being nominated by their parties for the presidency. Lincoln won the election in a landslide, but not before Buchanan gave four speeches during this period.
Lincoln's second inaugural address was one of his most famous speeches because of its dramatic opening line: "Fellow citizens." It has been estimated that it took Lincoln less than an hour to give his speech from the steps of the Capitol building on March 4, 1861.
It should be noted that this is the only presidential inauguration during which the speaker did not also take the oath of office.
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 given by a US President.
It is also one of the most important American documents. By writing and delivering this short but powerful address, George Washington transformed a war against Britain over money and taxes into an act of patriotism that united the country behind its new government.
The word "inauguration" comes from a Latin term meaning "entering ceremony." In Washington's day, it referred to the official installation of a president and vice president on office.
In 1789, Congress passed the Presidential Elector Act, which established rules for determining the first presidential candidate on a national election ballot. The law provided for each state to appoint a number of electoral votes, based on the size of its congressional delegation. These electoral votes were then to be cast for either the president-elect or for anyone else on the ballot. If no one received a majority of the electoral vote, the House of Representatives would decide the winner.
Washington had already been elected president by the Congress on December 13, 1788. He was sworn in as our nation's first president at noon on Friday, January 20, 1789, at the Old Federal Hall in New York City.