Obama Inauguration Speech: Will He Take Ideas From Roosevelt or Truman?

Editor's Note: This article is an installment in an 11-part series on the inaugurations of incumbent presidents who were elected to additional terms in office, culminating in an on-the-ground report of Obama's second inauguration.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (January 20, 1945) and Harry Truman (January 20, 1949).

Roosevelt (1945)

Like Abraham Lincoln 80 years earlier, Franklin Roosevelt's inauguration in 1945 occurred near the end of one of America's bloodiest and most pivotal wars. What's more, just as Lincoln used his inauguration to preach a generous policy toward the post-Civil War South, so too did Roosevelt argue that America should work assertively with other nations to cultivate peace and a sense of global community. While the vision of benign internationalism that he espoused remains controversial to this day, there is little denying that his ideas have managed to profoundly shape the entire world.

And so today, in this year of war, 1945, we have learned lessons—at a fearful cost—and we shall profit by them.

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.

We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.

We can gain no lasting peace if we approach it with suspicion and mistrust or with fear. We can gain it only if we proceed with the understanding, the confidence, and the courage which flow from conviction.

Truman (1949)

If ever a president had reason to appreciate the value of re-election, it was Harry Truman. Of all America's myriad political upsets, none surpass Truman's unexpected victory over Thomas Dewey in the 1948 presidential election. Newly minted by his dramatic and inspiring re-election, Truman used his inaugural address to deliver a stirring denunciation of Communism, and with it, the rationalization that would drive four more decades of Cold War foreign policy.

The American people desire, and are determined to work for, a world in which all nations and all peoples are free to govern themselves as they see fit, and to achieve a decent and satisfying life. Above all else, our people desire, and are determined to work for, peace on earth--a just and lasting peace--based on genuine agreement freely arrived at by equals.

In the pursuit of these aims, the United States and other like-minded nations find themselves directly opposed by a regime with contrary aims and a totally different concept of life.

That regime adheres to a false philosophy which purports to offer freedom, security, and greater opportunity to mankind. Misled by that philosophy, many peoples have sacrificed their liberties only to learn to their sorrow that deceit and mockery, poverty and tyranny, are their reward.

That false philosophy is communism.

Communism is based on the belief that man is so weak and inadequate that he is unable to govern himself, and therefore requires the rule of strong masters.

Democracy is based on the conviction that man has the moral and intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern himself with reason and justice.

Communism subjects the individual to arrest without lawful cause, punishment without trial, and forced labor as the chattel of the state. It decrees what information he shall receive, what art he shall produce, what leaders he shall follow, and what thoughts he shall think.

Democracy maintains that government is established for the benefit of the individual, and is charged with the responsibility of protecting the rights of the individual and his freedom in the exercise of those abilities of his.

Communism maintains that social wrongs can be corrected only by violence.

Democracy has proved that social justice can be achieved through peaceful change.

Communism holds that the world is so widely divided into opposing classes that war is inevitable.

Democracy holds that free nations can settle differences justly and maintain a lasting peace.

These differences between communism and democracy do not concern the United States alone. People everywhere are coming to realize that what is involved is material well-being, human dignity, and the right to believe in and worship God.