Farewell Addresses: Lyndon Johnson (1969)

On January 14, 1969, Lyndon Baines Johnson said goodbye to US politics. Johnson had been a member of the House of Representatives, a US Senator, Vice-President and President, a Washington DC fixture since 1937. He had seen Presidents come and go. He was now turning the reins of power over to a man who he believed had sabotaged his Vietnam peace plans and who he had great distrust for. He was leaving office after having initially enjoyed unparalleled success in bringing about tremendous social welfare legislation as part of his "Great Society", only to have his reputation tarnished by the quagmire that became the Vietnam War.

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Johnson delivered his farewell message in the form of a State of the Union Address to a joint session of both Houses of Congress. It was, as Johnson pointed out, "the sixth and the last time" that he would give such an address. He began by acknowledging that there were problems which existed in the nation. He said:

"Urban unrest, poverty, pressures on welfare, education of our people, law enforcement and law and order, the continuing crisis in the Middle East, the conflict in Vietnam, the dangers of nuclear war, the great difficulties of dealing with the Communist powers, all have this much in common: They and their causes--the causes that gave rise to them--all of these have existed with us for many years. Several Presidents have already sought to try to deal with them. One or more Presidents will try to resolve them or try to contain them in the years that are ahead of us."

He contrasted that with the nation's assets: a strong economy, its democratic system, "our sense of exploration, symbolized most recently by the wonderful flight of the Apollo 8, in which all Americans took great pride, the good commonsense and sound judgment of the American people, and their essential love of justice." Johnson said that the nation should not ignore its problems, nor should it ignore its strengths. He characterized his time in office as a time "when a watershed is reached--when there is--if not really a break with the past--at least the fulfillment of many of its oldest hopes, and a stepping forth into a new environment, to seek new goals." he reminded his audience of great things that had been achieved o his watch, such as Medicare, Voting rights that were now open "at last to all Americans regardless of their color", federal assistance to schools, preschool education, advances in conservation, and new Federal job training programs. he boasted that

"This Nation is close to full employment--with less unemployment than we have had at any time in almost 20 years. That is not in theory; that is in fact. Tonight, the unemployment rate is down to 3.3 percent. The number of jobs has grown more than 8 1/2 million in the last 5 years. That is more than in all the preceding 12 years."

He did not take all the credit for this, but rather said that it was the product of "Congress and the executive branch, with their checks and balances, reasoned together and finally wrote them into the law of the land. They now have all the moral force that the American political system can summon when it acts as one." he referred to the Housing Act of 1968 and said that "this year more than 500,000 homes for needy families in the coming fiscal year" were being built. He said that "an urban development bank should be created by the Congress. This bank could obtain resources through the issuance of taxable bonds and it could then lend these resources at reduced rates to the communities throughout the land for schools, hospitals, parks, and other public facilities."

Next he discussed the Social Security Act, passed in 1935. He said "The time has come, I think, to make it more adequate. I believe we should increase social security benefits, and I am so recommending tonight. I am suggesting that there should be an overall increase in benefits of at least 13 percent. Those who receive only the minimum of $55 should get $80 a month."

On the subject of health care, he said that it should be remembered "that our country ranks 15th among the nations of the world in its infant mortality rate" and he called for "decent medical care for every expectant mother and for their children during the first year of their life in the United States of America."

Johnson reminded Congress of its pledge made in 1964, when they said: "It is the policy of the United States to eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty in this nation." Johnson went on to state:

"This is the richest nation in the world. The antipoverty program has had many achievements. It also has some failures. But we must not cripple it after only 3 years of trying to solve the human problems that have been with us and have been building up among us for generations. I believe the Congress this year will want to improve the administration of the poverty program by reorganizing portions of it and transferring them to other agencies. I believe, though, it will want to continue, until we have broken the back of poverty, the efforts we are now making throughout this land."

Johnson said that the key to eliminating poverty was job creation and he recommended that $3.5 billion be allocated for a job training program.

Johnson next spoke about "The Nation's commitment in the field of civil rights" and said that "On January 1 of this year, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 covered over 20 million American homes and apartments. The prohibition against racial discrimination in that act should be remembered and it should be vigorously enforced throughout this land. I believe we should also extend the vital provisions of the Voting Rights Act for another 5 years.

Crime was next on his list and he asked Congress to "provide the full $300 million that the Congress last year authorized" in the fight against crime. He said that this was "an essential contribution to justice and to public order in the United States." He next spoke about his failure to get adequate gun control legislation passed. He said:

"Frankly, as I leave the Office of the Presidency, one of my greatest disappointments is our failure to secure passage of a licensing and registration act for firearms. I think if we had passed that act, it would have reduced the incidence of crime. I believe that the Congress should adopt such a law, and I hope that it will at a not too distant date."

Johnson acknowledged "that most of the things we do to meet all of these commitments I talk about will cost money. If we maintain the strong rate of growth that we have had in this country for the past 8 years, I think we shall generate the resources that we need to meet these commitments." He said that government "must continue to budget our resources and budget them responsibly in a way that will preserve our prosperity and will strengthen our dollar."

Johnson was very proud to announce that, because of "greater revenues and the reduced Federal spending required by Congress last year", the nation's financial picture had improved such that, instead of a projected deficit of $8 billion, he said: "I am glad to report to you tonight that the fiscal year ending June 30, 1969, this June, we are going to have not a deficit, but we are going to have a $2.4 billion surplus." He predicted a $3.4 billion surplus for the following year.

Next on his agenda was Vietnam. Johnson expressed "the hope that the Paris talks will bring an early peace to Vietnam. And if our hopes for an early settlement of the war are realized, then our military expenditures can be reduced and very substantial savings can be made to be used for other desirable purposes, as the Congress may determine." He said that the pending nonproliferation treaty-which was now before the Senate, needed to be ratified. He said:

"In my opinion, delay in ratifying it is not going to be helpful to the cause of peace. America took the lead in negotiating this treaty and America should now take steps to have it approved at the earliest possible date. Until a way can be found to scale down the level of arms among the superpowers, mankind cannot view the future without fear and great apprehension. So, I believe that we should resume the talks with the Soviet Union about limiting offensive and defensive missile systems. I think they would already have been resumed except for Czechoslovakia and our election this year."

Johnson asked for increased funding for foreign aid, which he said would "further peace throughout the world." He said that "the quest for peace, I believe, requires that we maintain the liberal trade policies that have helped us become the leading nation in world trade, that we strengthen the international monetary system as an instrument of world prosperity, and that we seek areas of agreement with the Soviet Union where the interests of both nations and the interests of world peace are properly served." He was critical of the recent Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and he said "we earnestly hope that time will bring a Russia that is less afraid of diversity and individual freedom."

Johnson expressed his regret "more than any of you know that it has not been possible to restore peace to South Vietnam", but said that "the prospects, I think, for peace are better today than at any time since North Vietnam began its invasion with its regular forces more than 4 years ago." He was concerned that there would be "hard fighting before a settlement is reached; but, I can assure you, it will yield no victory to the Communist cause." He expressed his gratitude to America's armed forces, stating "I have been honored to be their Commander in Chief. The Nation owes them its unstinting support while the battle continues, and its enduring gratitude when their service is done." He also expressed his support for the unanimous resolution of the U.N. Security Council which proposed a middle east peace plan.

Johnson concluded on a sentimental note, stating:

"Most all of my life as a public official has been spent here in this building. For 38 years-since I worked on that gallery as a doorkeeper in the House of Representatives, I have known these halls, and I have known most of the men pretty well who walked them. I know the questions that you face. I know the conflicts that you endure. I know the ideals that you seek to serve. I left here first to become Vice President, and then to become, in a moment of tragedy, the President of the United States. My term of office has been marked by a series of challenges, both at home and throughout the world. In meeting some of these challenges, the Nation has found a new confidence. In meeting others, it knew turbulence and doubt, and fear and hate. Throughout this time, I have been sustained by my faith in representative democracy--a faith that I had learned here in this Capitol Building as an employee and as a Congressman and as a Senator. I believe deeply in the ultimate purposes of this Nation--described by the Constitution, tempered by history, embodied in progressive laws, and given life by men and women that have been elected to serve their fellow citizens."

He thanked many of those who had come before him and who had been his mentors, including "two great former Presidents, Harry S. Truman and Dwight David Eisenhower" as well as "my pleasant and close association with the beloved John F. Kennedy, and with our greatest modern legislator, Speaker Sam Rayburn. He thanked Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and a number of congressional leaders. He said "No President should ask for more, although I did upon occasions. But few Presidents have ever been blessed with so much."

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Johnson observed that his successor, Richard Nixon, "is going to need your understanding, just as I did. And he is entitled to have it." He finished with these words:

"I hope every Member will remember that the burdens he will bear as our President, will be borne for all of us. Each of us should try not to increase these burdens for the sake of narrow personal or partisan advantage. Now, it is time to leave. I hope it may be said, a hundred years from now, that by working together we helped to make our country more just, more just for all of its people, as well as to insure and guarantee the blessings of liberty for all of our posterity. That is what I hope. But I believe that at least it will be said that we tried."

Farewell Addresses: Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon's "farewell address" was unique because it preceded his resignation as President. Thus far he is the only person to have resigned from the office, and he did so with the knowledge that he was likely facing impeachment and conviction at a subsequent trial in the Senate if he did not resign, because of conduct that had come to light in the Watergate investigation. Indeed, Nixon expressly cited Watergate as the reason for his resignation when he spoke to the nation on television on the evening of August 8, 1974. As he pointed out at the beginning of his address, it was the 37th time that Nixon had spoken to Americans from the Oval Office.


Nixon began by stating that he had "always tried to do what was best for the Nation", but now, "the long and difficult period of Watergate" was such that it was no longer possible for him to complete his term of office. Speaking the pragmatism of the situation, he said:

"In the past few days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort. As long as there was such a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of that deliberately difficult process and a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future. But with the disappearance of that base, I now believe that the constitutional purpose has been served, and there is no longer a need for the process to be prolonged."

Nixon said that he would have liked to finish his term, notwithstanding any "personal agony it would have involved" and he said that his family had "unanimously urged me to do so" but that "the interests of the Nation must always come before any personal considerations." He continued:

"From the discussions I have had with Congressional and other leaders, I have concluded that because of the Watergate matter, I might not have the support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the way the interests of the Nation will require. I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interests of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad. To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.

"Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office.

Nixon expressed sadness over the fact that "the high hopes for America with which we began this second term" would not come to fruition under his presidency. He expressed confidence in his successor, Gerald Ford, adding that he was passing along the responsibility of the Presidency to his successor "with the profound sense of the weight of responsibility that will fall on his shoulders tomorrow and, therefore, of the understanding, the patience, the cooperation he will need from all Americans." He said that Ford "will deserve the help and the support of all of us." He added that "the first essential is to begin healing the wounds of this Nation, to put the bitterness and divisions of the recent past behind us and to rediscover those shared ideals that lie at the heart of our strength and unity as a great and as a free people." Nixon expressed the home that his resignation "hastened the start of that process of healing which is so desperately needed in America."

Nixon expressed an a apology of sorts, without being specific about what his wrongdoing may have been. He said:

"I regret deeply any injuries that may have been done in the course of the events that led to this decision. I would say only that if some of my judgments were wrong--and some were wrong--they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest of the Nation."

Nixon thanked his supporters, "those who have stood with me during these past difficult months--to my family, my friends, to many others who joined in supporting my cause because they believed it was right" and said that he would "be eternally grateful for your support." He said the he was not bitter towards those who opposed him, stating that, "in the final analysis, have been concerned with the good of the country, however our judgments might differ."

Nixon said that he regretted not being able to finish my term, but expressed "gratitude for the privilege of serving as your President for the past 5 1/2 years" which he called "a momentous time in the history of our Nation and the world" and "a time of achievement in which we can all be proud". While much had been accomplished, Nixon said that the nation still faced challenges ahead and asked the nation and Congress to work with the new Administration in confronting those challenges. He summarized some of his administration's accomplishments, especially in the field of foreign relations. He said:

"We have ended America's longest war, but in the work of securing a lasting peace in the world, the goals ahead are even more far-reaching and more difficult. We must complete a structure of peace so that it will be said of this generation, our generation of Americans, by the people of all nations, not only that we ended one war but that we prevented future wars. We have unlocked the doors that for a quarter of a century stood between the United States and the People's Republic of China. We must now ensure that the one quarter of the world's people who live in the People's Republic of China will be and remain not our enemies, but our friends. In the Middle East, 100 million people in the Arab countries, many of whom have considered us their enemy for nearly 20 years, now look on us as their friends. We must continue to build on that friendship so that peace can settle at last over the Middle East and so that the cradle of civilization will not become its grave.

"Together with the Soviet Union, we have made the crucial breakthroughs that have begun the process of limiting nuclear arms. But we must set as our goal not just limiting but reducing and, finally, destroying these terrible weapons so that they cannot destroy civilization and so that the threat of nuclear war will no longer hang over the world and the people. We have opened the new relation with the Soviet Union. We must continue to develop and expand that new relationship so that the two strongest nations of the world will live together in cooperation, rather than confrontation. Around the world in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America, in the Middle East-there are millions of people who live in terrible poverty, even starvation. We must keep as our goal turning away from production for war and expanding production for peace so that people everywhere on this Earth can at last look forward in their children's time, if not in our own time, to having the necessities for a decent life."

Nixon said that a national priority should be "a goal, not only of more and better jobs but of full opportunity for every American and of what we are striving so hard right now to achieve, prosperity without inflation."

Nixon said that he had, for more than a quarter of a century in public life, "fought for what I believed in. I have tried, to the best of my ability, to discharge those duties and meet those responsibilities that were entrusted to me." He continued:

"Sometimes I have succeeded and sometimes I have failed, but always I have taken heart from what Theodore Roosevelt once said about the man in the arena, 'whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again because there is not effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deed, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumphs of high achievements and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.'"

He pledged to continue on in that spirit "as long as I have a breath of life in my body"to pursue "the cause of peace, not just for America but among all nations-prosperity, justice, and opportunity for all of our people." He reminded his audience that when he became President, he pledged to devote his energies to the cause of peace. He concluded his remarks with a self-evaluation of that pledge:

"I have done my very best in all the days since to be true to that pledge. As a result of these efforts, I am confident that the world is a safer place today, not only for the people of America but for the people of all nations, and that all of our children have a better chance than before of living in peace rather than dying in war. This, more than anything, is what I hoped to achieve when I sought the Presidency. This, more than anything, is what I hope will be my legacy to you, to our country, as I leave the Presidency. To have served in this office is to have felt a very personal sense of kinship with each and every American. In leaving it, I do so with this prayer: May God's grace be with you in all the days ahead."

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Nixon's speech received generally favorable responses from network commentators. Only Roger Mudd of CBS was critical, saying that Nixon had not expressly admitted any wrongdoing. Following his resignation, the Nixons flew to their home La Casa Pacifica in San Clemente, California.

The YouTube video below contains the entire address, as well as some interesting footage of what went on before the TV cameras were turned on.


Farewell Addresses: Andrew Jackson

On March 4, 1837, Andrew Jackson left office after serving two terms as President. His had been a somewhat turbulent presidency, with battles being fought over the Bank of the United States, and the forced removal of indigenous people from Georgia, but in spite of this, Jackson was turning the reigns of power over to his chosen successor, Martin Van Buren. It would turn out to be a poisoned chalice, as Jackson's bank policy would lead to a coming financial panic, and his Indian removal policy would result in a "Trail of Tears". Jackson saw none of this with regret as he presented his 8,247 word written farewell address to the nation.

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Jackson began his message by thanking his "fellow citizens" for their "many proofs of kindness and confidence which I have received at your hands." While he acknowledged that the presidency had "frequently" left him "in difficult and trying situations, where prompt decision and energetic action were necessary, and where the interest of the country required that high responsibilities should be fearlessly encountered", and that it was not "at all times been free from errors", Jackson nevertheless considered the presidency to have been a rewarding experience.

Jackson reflected on how the nation had "now lived almost fifty years under the Constitution framed by the sages and patriots of the Revolution." He observed that while European nations were waging war with one another, in his nation, the "Constitution is no longer a doubtful experiment, and at the end of nearly half a century we find that it has preserved unimpaired the liberties of the people, secured the rights of property, and that our country has improved and is flourishing beyond any former example in the history of nations."

Domestically, the first subject he addressed was the matter of Native Americans, after stating that "nothing can impede your march to the highest point of national prosperity." He went on to make what now appears to be a remarkably insensitive statement, at odds with reality:

"The States which had so long been retarded in their improvement by the Indian tribes residing in the midst of them are at length relieved from the evil, and this unhappy race, the original dwellers in our land, are now placed in a situation where we may well hope that they will share in the blessings of civilization and be saved from that degradation and destruction to which they were rapidly hastening while they remained in the States; and while the safety and comfort of our own citizens have been greatly promoted by their removal, the philanthropist will rejoice that the remnant of that ill-fated race has been at length placed beyond the reach of injury or oppression, and that the paternal care of the General Government will hereafter watch over them and protect them."

Jackson next addressed foreign relations, stating that he considered "our condition equally gratifying." He said that "Difficulties of old standing have been surmounted by friendly discussion and the mutual desire to be just", adding that "our relations with every foreign power are now of the most friendly character, our commerce continually expanding, and our flag respected in every quarter of the world."

National unity was a concern at that time, following the "Nullification Crisis". Jackson credited the Constitution with keeping the nation united, stating "It is no longer a question whether this great country can remain happily united and flourish under our present form of government. Experience, the unerring test of all human undertakings, has shown the wisdom and foresight of those who formed it, and has proved that in the union of these States there is a sure foundation for the brightest hopes of freedom and for the happiness of the people. At every hazard and by every sacrifice this Union must be preserved." He referenced George Washington who, in his Farewell Address, had said that "while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands". Jackson said: The lessons contained in this invaluable legacy of Washington to his countrymen should be cherished in the heart of every citizen to the latest generation; and perhaps at no period of time could they be more usefully remembered than at the present moment."

Jackson said that the Constitution, which had once been regarded as "an experiment" was no longer such. "The trial has been made. It has succeeded beyond the proudest hopes of those who framed it" he wrote. He was critical of those whose "systematic efforts publicly made to sow the seeds of discord between different parts of the United States and to place party divisions directly upon geographical distinctions; to excite the South against the North and the North against the South". He went on to write:

"Has the warning voice of Washington been forgotten, or have designs already been formed to sever the Union? Let it not be supposed that I impute to all of those who have taken an active part in these unwise and unprofitable discussions a want of patriotism or of public virtue. The honorable feeling of State pride and local attachments finds a place in the bosoms of the most enlightened and pure. But while such men are conscious of their own integrity and honesty of purpose, they ought never to forget that the citizens of other States are their political brethren, and that however mistaken they may be in their views, the great body of them are equally honest and upright with themselves. Mutual suspicions and reproaches may in time create mutual hostility, and artful and designing men will always be found who are ready to foment these fatal divisions and to inflame the natural jealousies of different sections of the country. The history of the world is full of such examples, and especially the history of republics."

He continued to address those who viewed secession as an option and asked "What have you to gain by division and dissension?" He said that these people were deluding themselves if they thought that "a breach once made may be afterwards repaired. If the Union is once severed, the line of separation will grow wider and wider". He described how he thought secession would unfold if allowed to occur. He said that "in order to maintain the Union unimpaired it is absolutely necessary that the laws passed by the constituted authorities should be faithfully executed in every part of the country, and that every good citizen should at all times stand ready to put down, with the combined force of the nation, every attempt at unlawful resistance, under whatever pretext it may be made or whatever shape it may assume." He said that the courts were the place to address "unconstitutional or oppressive laws" and if that failed, "then free discussion and calm appeals to reason and to the justice of the people will not fail to redress the wrong. But until the law shall be declared void by the courts or repealed by Congress no individual or combination of individuals can be justified in forcibly resisting its execution."

Jackson warned that "the citizens of every State should studiously avoid everything calculated to wound the sensibility or offend the just pride of the people of other States, and they should frown upon any proceedings within their own borders likely to disturb the tranquility of their political brethren in other portions of the Union." He acknowledged the right of "every State" to "be the sole judge of the measures proper to secure the safety of its citizens and promote their happiness" but he added that "everyone, upon sober reflection, will see that nothing but mischief can come from these improper assaults upon the feelings and rights of others. Rest assured that the men found busy in this work of discord are not worthy of your confidence, and deserve your strongest reprobation."

Jackson warned that all should be on guard against "those amongst us who wish to enlarge the powers of the. General Government" when doing so would "overstep the boundaries marked out for it by the Constitution." He thought that the Federal Government's "legitimate authority is abundantly sufficient for all the purposes for which it was created", and any "attempt to exercise power beyond these limits should be promptly and firmly opposed". He specifically referred to the Federal Government's power of taxation as one rife for abuse. He said that "Congress has no right under the Constitution to take money from the people unless it is required to execute some one of the specific powers entrusted to the Government; and if they raise more than is necessary for such purposes, it is an abuse of the power of taxation, and unjust and oppressive."

Jackson was critical of the tariffs which he said was "bearing most oppressively on the agricultural and laboring classes of society and producing a revenue that could not be usefully employed within the range of the powers conferred upon Congress, and in order to fasten upon the people this unjust and unequal system of taxation extravagant schemes of internal improvement were got up in various quarters to squander the money and to purchase support." He concluded this issue by stating: "The good sense and practical judgment of the people when the subject was brought before them sustained the course of the Executive, and this plan of unconstitutional expenditures for the purposes of corrupt influence is, I trust, finally overthrown." He noted that the nation had paid off its debt and accumulated a surplus. He warned that "Designing politicians" would use high tariffs "to conciliate their favor and to obtain the means of profuse expenditure for the purpose of purchasing influence in other quarters." He said that this would lead to "lavish expenditures exceeding their resources" and said that soon Americans would "before long find themselves oppressed with debts which they are unable to pay, and the temptation will become irresistible to support a high tariff in order to obtain a surplus for distribution." He said that high tariffs would "inevitably lead to corruption, and must end in ruin."

Jackson next addressed the issue of currency and of the national bank. He wrote: "The Constitution of the United States unquestionably intended to secure to the people a circulating medium of gold and silver. But the establishment of a national bank by Congress, with the privilege of issuing paper money receivable in the payment of the public dues, and the unfortunate course of legislation in the several States upon the same subject, drove from general circulation the constitutional currency and substituted one of paper in its place." He said that "experience has now proved the mischiefs and dangers of a paper currency". He elaborated, writing:

"In times of prosperity, when confidence is high, they are tempted by the prospect of gain or by the influence of those who hope to profit by it to extend their issues of paper beyond the bounds of discretion and the reasonable demands of business; and when these issues have been pushed on from day to day, until public confidence is at length shaken, then a reaction takes place, and they immediately withdraw the credits they have given, suddenly curtail their issues, and produce an unexpected and ruinous contraction of the circulating medium, which is felt by the whole community. The banks by this means save themselves, and the mischievous consequences of their imprudence or cupidity are visited upon the public. Nor does the evil stop here. These ebbs and flows in the currency and these indiscreet extensions of credit naturally engender a spirit of speculation injurious to the habits and character of the people. We have already seen its effects in the wild spirit of speculation in the public lands and various kinds of stock which within the last year or two seized upon such a multitude of our citizens and threatened to pervade all classes of society and to withdraw their attention from the sober pursuits of honest industry."

Jackson said that it was "the duty of every government so to regulate its currency as to protect" the people "from the impositions of avarice and fraud." He added that "the paper-money system of this country may be used as an engine to undermine your free institutions, and that those who desire to engross all power in the hands of the few and to govern by corruption or force are aware of its power and prepared to employ it." Jackson felt that this put too much power in the hands of the banks, warning that "in the present state of the currency these banks may and do operate injuriously upon the habits of business, the pecuniary concerns, and the moral tone of society". He portrayed his curtailment of the banks as in the public interest. He wrote:

"The distress and alarm which pervaded and agitated the whole country when the Bank of the United States waged war upon the people in order to compel them to submit to its demands can not yet be forgotten. The ruthless and unsparing temper with which whole cities and communities were oppressed, individuals impoverished and ruined, and a scene of cheerful prosperity suddenly changed into one of gloom and despondency ought to be indelibly impressed on the memory of the people of the United States. If such was its power in a time of peace, what would it not have been in a season of war, with an enemy at your doors?

Jackson hoped that "The severe lessons of experience" would "prevent Congress from again chartering such a monopoly, even if the Constitution did not present an insuperable objection to it." He reminded Americans that "eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing." He warned about the Bank, saying: "You have already had abundant evidence of its power to inflict injury upon the agricultural, mechanical, and laboring classes of society", and said that "With such a bank and a paper currency the money power would in a few years govern the State and control its measures".

Jackson next turned his mind to foreign policy, saying that it was "unquestionably our true interest to cultivate the most friendly understanding with every nation and to avoid by every honorable means the calamities of war". Oblivious to how he had treated Native Americans, Jackson called for the "faithful execution of treaties", and "justice and impartiality in our conduct to all." But Jackson called for a strong national defense, noting that the nation was "in a season of peace and with an overflowing revenue", and said that the nation should "year after year add to its strength". He especially called for the building of a strong navy. He said: "The abundant means we now possess can not be applied in any manner more useful to the country, and when this is done and our naval force sufficiently strengthened and our militia armed we need not fear that any nation will wantonly insult us or needlessly provoke hostilities. We shall more certainly preserve peace when it is well understood that we are prepared for War."


Jackson closed his farewell address by observing "that the path of freedom is continually beset by enemies who often assume the disguise of friends" and said that he had "devoted the last hours of my public life to warn you of the dangers." He commented on how the nation had made progress and experienced growth that was "rapid beyond all former example in numbers, in wealth, in knowledge, and all the useful arts which contribute to the comforts and convenience of man". He told Americans that there was "no longer any cause to fear danger from abroad" and that if there was any danger to their liberty, it would come from within. He asked that "He who holds in His hands the destinies of nations make you worthy of the favors He has bestowed and enable you, with pure hearts and pure hands and sleepless vigilance, to guard and defend to the end of time the great charge He has committed to your keeping." He then closed with these words:

"My own race is nearly run; advanced age and failing health warn me that before long I must pass beyond the reach of human events and cease to feel the vicissitudes of human affairs. I thank God that my life has been spent in a land of liberty and that He has given me a heart to love my country with the affection of a son. And filled with gratitude for your constant and unwavering kindness, I bid you a last and affectionate farewell."

Farewell Addresses: Dwight Eisenhower (1961)

One of the most famous Farewell Addresses by a President was delivered one week and fifty-six years ago today, on January 17, 1961 by outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower. The former five star general was still loved and admired by many for his service to the nation and his genial, avuncular nature, though some of the luster from his star had worn off by this time, as some saw the septuagenarian president as past his prime, opting to change direction in leadership for the much younger John F. Kennedy. Eisenhower had also suffered recent embarrassment when a U-2 spy plane was shot down in Russia and its pilot, Gary Powers, was captured. Eisenhower was caught by the Russians in a lie about the plane, and negotiations to ease cold war tensions were set back.

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Eisenhower's speech is best remembered for his warning about the "military industrial complex", but there was more to it than that. He opened by commenting that "Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country," he would leave the Presidency, and wished "to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen." He wished his successor well, and expressed his hope "the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all." He also said that the nation expected the President and Congress to "find essential agreement on issues of great moment".

Eisenhower reflected on his long career from his days as a cadet at West Point to the Presidency and said that "Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the national good rather than mere partisanship". He said that he "official relationship with the Congress ends in a feeling, on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together."

He then moved on to the subject of world peace, commenting that "We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country" and that "America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world." He said that this position of power required wise use "in the interests of world peace and human betterment." He saw America's "basic purposes" as being "to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations." He added, "To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people." He observed that achieving these goals was difficult in modern times, as America faced "a hostile ideology--global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method", one that posed a danger which "promises to be of indefinite duration."

Eisenhower said that meeting this challenge called for sacrifices. He said that in meeting these challenges, "there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties". But he cautioned that a balanced approach had to be taken to consideration of these costly solutions:

"Balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage, balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable, balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual, balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration."

Eisenhower then turned to the subject of oversight of "our military establishment." While he acknowledged the need for military preparedness to meed the challenges faced by the nation, he noted how the nature of military conflict had changed. Previously, "the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well." But he cautioned:

"We can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations."

Eisenhower then advised Americans to be alert to the rising power and influence of "an immense military establishment and a large arms industry" and cautioned "we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications." He then uttered the most quoted words from his address:

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

This pronouncement was all the more remarkable for the fact that it was coming from a man who had reached the pinnacle of military authority. Coming from such a credible source, the nation knew that the threat Eisenhower spoke of was real.

He then discussed " the technological revolution during recent decades" and how military research had become "more formalized, complex, and costly." He said:

"Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present--and is gravely to be regarded."

Once again calling for a balanced approach, Eisenhower said that oversight should not be too great, and that "we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite." He said that it was "the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system--ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society."

Eisenhower stressed the importance of keeping an eye on the future and of resisting "the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow." He said, "We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow."

Eisenhower discussed how all nations should be respected and how "The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we". He saw disarmament as "a continuing imperative." He injected his personal feeling and experience into the progress that had been made in this regard thus far, stating:

"I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war, as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years, I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight. Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road."

Eisenhower concluded by thanking the nation for the opportunities given to him to be of "public service in war and peace". He I said that everyone needed to remain strong in their faith and diligent in pursuing the goals he had spoken of. He ended with this prayer:

"We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love."


Eisenhower's farewell address remains one of the most thought-provoking and the most eloquent. Its wisdom remains relevant over half a century after its words were spoken.

Farewell Addresses: George Washington (1796)

By 1796 George Washington had served two terms in office. During the Revolutionary War, Washington served as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. He was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and had presided over the convention that drafted the United States Constitution. He established the national and lasting model of the military being subject to civilian authorities, something that was amazing for its time, and something that remains a fundamental tenet of democracy today. He became known as the "father of his country" during his lifetime and it is a title that he retains to this day.

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Washington was unanimously elected president by the Electoral College in the first two national elections. No one has done that since. He supervised the creation of a strong national government that maintained neutrality during the French Revolutionary Wars. He established many precedents still in use today, including the cabinet system, the inaugural address, and the title Mr. President. His decision to retire from office after two terms established a tradition that lasted until 1940, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt won an unprecedented third term. The 22nd Amendment, passed in 1951, now limits the president to two elected terms.

The election of 1796 was the third presidential election, but the first in which two political parties vied for power, something Washington had hoped would never come to pass. The election was held from Friday, November 4 to Wednesday, December 7, 1796. It was not only the first contested presidential election, but it would end up being the only one in which a president and vice president were elected from opposing tickets.

The campaign was an acrimonious one, with Federalists attempting to associate the Republicans with the violent French Revolution and the Democratic-Republicans accusing the Federalists of wanting to turn the country into a monarchy ruled by an elite aristocracy. Republicans sought to identify Adams with the policies developed by fellow Federalist Alexander Hamilton, which they portrayed as too much in favor of Great Britain. Paradoxically, Hamilton himself opposed Adams and worked to undermine his election. In foreign policy, Republicans denounced the Federalists over Jay's Treaty.

Adams won the election, receiving 71 electoral votes. Jefferson received the second highest number of electoral votes, 68, and was elected vice president according to the prevailing rules of the day. This election marked the beginning of a polarization in electoral politics that would continue forward, with only a brief period of respite during the time of James Monroe.

As his presidency was coming to an end, Washington published his Farewell Address, issued as a public letter on September 17, 1796. It was drafted primarily by Washington himself with help from Hamilton. James Madison had helped with an earlier draft. In the address, Washington wrote of the necessity and importance of national union, the value of the Constitution and the rule of law, the evils of political parties, and the proper virtues of a republican people.

Washington stressed the need for unity in government, and warned Americans to be on guard against those who would undermine that unity. He said:

"The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts."

For Washington, an important concept was morality, which he called "a necessary spring of popular government", He said:

"Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Washington also warned against foreign influence in domestic affairs as well as against American meddling in European affairs, and against bitter partisanship in domestic politics. He also called for men to move beyond partisanship and serve the common good. He warned against "permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world". Washington told the nation that the United States must concentrate primarily on American interests. He supported friendship and commerce with all nations, but advised against involvement in European wars and entering into long-term "entangling" alliances. For Washington, the notion of non-involvement in foreign affairs was of paramount importance. He told Americans:

"In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim."

Washington retired from the presidency in March 1797 and returned to Mount Vernon with a profound sense of relief. He turned his attention to his plantations and other business interests (including his distillery, which produced its first batch of liquor in February 1797).


In January 1862, a large group of Philadelphia residents signed a petition requesting Congress to commemorate the 130th anniversary of Washington's birth by reading his Farewell Address "in one or the other of the Houses of Congress.” It was first read in the United States House of Representatives in February 1862, and the reading of Washington's address became a tradition in both houses by 1899. The House of Representatives abandoned the practice in 1984, but the Senate continues this tradition to the present. Washington's Birthday is observed by selecting a member of the Senate to read the address aloud on the Senate floor, alternating between political parties each year.

Wrapping Up Inaugural Addresses

The inaugural address, especially for a brand new President, is often thought to be a road map for the coming administration, and to give the public that President's vision for the next four years. In most cases, it is a matter of "the best laid plans", but things rarely seem to turn out the way. More often the words of John Lennon apply: "Life is what happens to us when we're making other plans."


In some cases, it was clear that the President was being disingenuous about something set out in his inaugural address. Probably the most glaring example of this was when Andrew Jackson, minutes after taking his oath, told the nation:

" 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."

No doubt, the nation's indigenous people would not describe Jackson's policies towards them as "just and liberal" or one that was "humane and considerate." Conversely, despite the debate over whether or not James K. Polk "met his every goal", he did follow up on his expressed intention to seek to acquire Oregon and to promote expansionism.

In reviewing a number of inaugural addresses, there have been a number of common elements that could form part of a template for such speeches. These themes include:

1. Thanking the outgoing president: The praise is generally more glowing when the previous president was a member of the same party as the new president, while it is more brief when the president is from the other side of the aisle. In some cases, where the election has been particularly acrimonious or personal, this step is omitted. (Once again Andrew Jackson comes to mind, but 2021 was also a year when this was absent).

2. Expressing admiration for the constitution: It is difficult for someone who has just taken an oath or affirmed to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution" to then be critical of it. Some have promised to press for amendments, others have taken issue with how the courts have interpreted it, but to my knowledge, none have directly criticized it. Following the Constitution was especially underscored when slavery was still tolerated under it, as presidents like Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan and others reminded abolitionists that the practice was condoned under the nation's highest law. Early presidents would use their inaugural address as an excuse to educate their audience and give a primer of how government works. This is one of the reasons why William Henry Harrison's speech was four or five times as long as most of the others. Mercifully, recent presidents have departed from this practice.

3. Looking at how far the nation has come and how it has survived adversity: Presidents like to inject a note of optimism for the coming days under their watch by reminding their audience that "we've been through tough times before and we always come through." The difference in characterizing whether the nation is in tough times now turns on whether the president is succeeding someone from his own party or from the other team. President Trump's recent address is a good example of describing how bad the mess is that was left by the guy leaving office. This can also be seen in the inaugural addresses delivered by Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Grover Cleveland and Jimmy Carter. Conversely, the addresses delivered by George H. W. Bush, James Monroe and Theodore Roosevelt.

4. Promising peace to all nations, as long as they fly right: Every president seems to want to promise that the nation will not interfere with another nation's business, and to contribute world peace. The message seems to be accompanied by the warning that aggression against U.S. interests will not be tolerated. Presidents have generally phrased their commitment to peace in such a way as to assure the public that their sons and daughters will not be used as cannon fodder in intervening in a conflict on the other side of the world, while keeping the door propped open for the possibility that some muscle flexing by the world's strongest military power will be required to put the brakes on some tin pot dictator.


5. Invoking the Almighty: Presidents always ask for God's protection for the nation and many end their address by asking God to bless the nation. Thus far only Barack Obama has acknowledged in his address that agnostics make up a part of the nation. Many remind their audience of the importance of Freedom of Religion. Dwight Eisenhower once repeated the adage that there are no atheists in a foxhole, and perhaps all are acknowledging that the task they are about to embark on is too overwhelming without the aid of a Higher Power. It is reminiscent of the sign that John F. Kennedy kept on his desk: "Oh Lord, your sea is so great and my boat is so small."

Inaugural addresses are often fountains of tremendous eloquence. Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Barack Obama all have left a lasting legacy of presidential eloquence, such that "the better angels of our nature", and "nothing to fear but fear itself" have stood the test of time and remain a part of our political lexicon. They have also been a monument to the wisdom of George Washington, whose precedent setting example continues to guide presidents more than two centuries after his passing.

It will be a subject of debate whether inaugural addresses are mere window dressing for a presidency, or whether they cement the principles that the next administration is expected to follow. If nothing else, they can serve as a yardstick to measure whether or not, in the words of the new president, one is "all talk and no action." No doubt many pundits are already creating their scorecards to measure whether or not President Biden will "meet his every goal" and have already tallied up the results for the outgoing president.

Remembering Lyndon Johnson

On January 22, 1973 (48 years ago today), Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States died at his ranch near Stonewall, Texas at the age of 64 from a massive heart attack. Johnson had previously served as the 37th Vice President of the United States and he is one of only four people who served in all four elected federal offices of Representative, Senator, Vice President, and President. (Can you guess who the other three are?)

Lyndon Johnson was born in Stonewall on August 27, 1908. His father Samuel Ealy Johnson Jr. was a Democrat Texas Congressman and his son, the future president, also served as a United States Representative from 1937 to 1949 and as a Senator from 1949 to 1961. Johnson served six years as United States Senate Majority Leader, two as Senate Minority Leader and two as Senate Majority Whip. His prowess in brokering deals earned him the nickname "Master of the Senate". Johnson unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for President in 1960, and was then asked by John F. Kennedy to be his running mate for the 1960 presidential election. After their election, Johnson became President following President Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963. He completed Kennedy's term and was elected President in his own right, winning by a large margin over Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election.

Johnson's presidency was marked both with great success and great failure. He was responsible for designing the "Great Society" legislation that included laws that expanded civil rights, supported public broadcasting, created Medicare and Medicaid, aided environmental protection, education, the arts, urban and rural development. He declared "war on poverty", an initiative which helped millions of Americans rise above the poverty line during Johnson's presidency. Civil rights bills signed by Johnson banned racial discrimination in public facilities, interstate commerce, the workplace, and housing, and a powerful voting rights act guaranteed full voting rights for citizens of all races. With the passage of the sweeping Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the country's immigration system was reformed and all national origins quotas were removed. Johnson was known for his domineering personality. His methods of persuasion were known as the "Johnson treatment" through which he used various methods to convince powerful politicians to advance legislation that Johnson favored.

On the negative side of his legacy, Johnson escalated American involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave Johnson the authority to use any degree of military force in Southeast Asia without having to ask for an official declaration of war. The number of American military personnel in Vietnam increased dramatically on his watch, from 16,000 advisors/soldiers in 1963 to 550,000 combat troops in early 1968. As American casualties soared and the peace process bogged down, Johnson's popularity rapidly diminished. White House protesters chanted "hey hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" Massive bombing campaigns targeting North Vietnamese cities were ordered, and millions of gallons of the herbicide Agent Orange were sprayed on Vietnamese land. Despite the growing number of American troops and the sustained bombing, the war showed no signs of ending and the public became increasingly skeptical of the administration's optimistic claims that victory was close at hand. Growing unease with the war generated a large, angry antiwar movement based especially on university campuses in the U.S. and abroad. Johnson faced further troubles when summer riots broke out in most major cities after 1965, and crime rates soared. These problems caused a split in the Democratic Party. Johnson's poor showing in the 1968 New Hampshire primary prompted him to end his bid for reelection. Republican Richard Nixon was elected to succeed him.

After leaving the presidency in January 1969, Johnson went home to his ranch in Stonewall, Texas. Assisted by his former aid and speech writer Harry J. Middleton, he wrote two books: The Choices We Face, and also his memoirs entitled The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency 1963-1969, published in 1971. Also in 1971, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum opened near the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. He donated his Texas ranch in his will to the public to form the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, with the provision in the will that the ranch "remain a working ranch and not become a sterile relic of the past".

Johnson worried that his successor was being pressured into removing U.S. forces too quickly, before the South Vietnamese were really able to defend themselves. During the 1972 presidential election, Johnson endorsed Democratic presidential nominee George S. McGovern, a Senator from South Dakota, although McGovern had long opposed Johnson's foreign and defense policies. Privately McGovern's nomination and presidential platform disappointed him. Johnson believed that Richard Nixon could be defeated "if only the Democrats don't go too far left." He thought that Edmund Muskie would be more likely to defeat Nixon, but he declined an invitation to try to stop McGovern.

In March 1970, Johnson was hospitalized at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, after suffering an attack of angina. His weight had risen to about 235 pounds and he was urged to lose weight. In April 1972, Johnson suffered a massive heart attack while visiting his daughter, Lynda, in Charlottesville, Virginia. He required a portable oxygen tank beside his bed, which he periodically used during the day when needed. He continued to smoke heavily, and, although placed on a low-calorie, low-cholesterol diet, often ignored it. He also suffered from diverticulosis. Heart specialist Dr. Michael DeBakey, concluded that Johnson's heart condition presented too great a risk for any sort of surgery.

Johnson died at his ranch at 3:39 p.m CST on January 22, 1973, at the age of 64, from a massive heart attack. His death occurred just two days after the end of what would have been his final term in office had he successfully won reelection in 1968. He had suffered his first heart attack in July 1955 and suffered a second one in April 1972, but had been unable to quit smoking after he left the Oval Office in 1969. He was found dead by Secret Service agents, in his bed, with a telephone receiver in his hand. Shortly after Johnson's death, his press secretary Tom Johnson (no relation) telephoned iconic CBC news anchor Walter Cronkite, who was live on the air with the CBS Evening News. A report on Vietnam was cut abruptly while Cronkite was still on the line, so he could break the news to the nation.

Inaugural Addresses: Joe Biden

Yesterday, on January 20, 2021, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. took the oath of office to become the 46th President of the United States. His inaugural address was 21 minutes long, and 2,535 words long. In the speech Biden sought to present his vision on how to unite the nation, noting the problems presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic strife, climate change, political polarization, and racial injustice. Biden composed the speech with the assistance of speechwriter Vinay Reddy, senior advisor Mike Donilon, incoming Secretary of State Tony Blinken, and chief of staff Ron Klain. The New York Times described the speech as a "direct rebuttal" in tone to Trump's inaugural address (in which Trump spoke of "American carnage"). Biden called for an end to the "uncivil war" of political, demographic, and ideological American cultures through a greater embrace of diversity, whereupon Americans must "open our souls instead of hardening our hearts".

In the speech, Biden pledged to "fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did". He explicitly spoke out against white supremacy and nativism, calling them an "ugly reality" of American life that clouds the "American ideal" set out in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, that all Americans are equal. He also discussed the historical significance of Kamala Harris becoming the vice president recounting the movements for civil rights and women's suffrage that permitted African Americans and women to participate in politics.

Biden began by calling the day of his inauguration "democracy’s day; a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve." He went on to state that the nation "has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge." He said that this was not his personal triumph, but rather a triumph of "the cause of democracy." He went on to talk about the fragility of democracy, but added that it had withstood recent tests of its resilience. He said: "So now, on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries. We look ahead in our uniquely American way – restless, bold, optimistic – and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be."

Biden said of his country, "This is a great nation and we are a good people. Over the centuries through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we have come so far. But we still have far to go." He went on to describe the recent challenges that the nation had faced:

"Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now. A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War Two. Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer. A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat. To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity."

Biden referenced Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation and how Lincoln had said "My whole soul is in it." He used this as a springboard for setting out his goals:

"Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together; Uniting our people; And uniting our nation. I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the common foes we face: anger, resentment, hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, hopelessness. With unity we can do great things. Important things. We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome this deadly virus. We can reward work, rebuild the middle class, and make health care secure for all. We can deliver racial justice. We can make America, once again, the leading force for good in the world."

He went on to address skepticism about these goals, adding that facing daunting challenges was not something new for Americans:

"I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, and demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial. Victory is never assured. Through the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our 'better angels' have always prevailed. In each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward. And, we can do so now.

"History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity. We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward."

Biden called for civility in the face of political polarization. He said:

"Let us listen to one another, hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another. Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And, we must reject a culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured. My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this. America has to be better than this. And, I believe America is better than this."

Biden referenced past historic events such as the building of the Capitol dome during the Civil War, Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, and Woodrow Wilson's inauguration where "thousands of protestors tried to block brave women from marching for the right to vote" and contrasted that with the swearing-in of Kamala Harris, the first woman elected to national office, adding, "Don’t tell me things can’t change." He then added:

"Here we stand across the Potomac from Arlington National Cemetery, where heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion rest in eternal peace. And here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, and to drive us from this sacred ground. That did not happen. It will never happen; not today, not tomorrow, not ever."

Biden thanked those who had supported him and asked those who hadn't to "hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. And if you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably, within the guardrails of our Republic, is perhaps our nation’s greatest strength." He later added: "I pledge this to you: I will be a president for all Americans. I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did."

Biden defined "the common objects we love that define us as Americans" as including opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor and the truth. Of the latter, he said:

"Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders – leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation — to defend the truth and to defeat the lies."

He next addressed some of the fears that Americans had and how this fueled their frustration and polarized them. He said:

"I understand that many Americans view the future with some fear and trepidation. I understand they worry about their jobs, about taking care of their families, about what comes next. I get it. But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you do, or worship the way you do, or don’t get their news from the same sources you do. We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts; if we show a little tolerance and humility; if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes just for a moment. Because here is the thing about life: There is no accounting for what fate will deal you. There are some days when we need a hand. There are other days when we’re called on to lend one. That is how we must be with one another. And, if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future.

Biden predicted that Americans were "entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus" and called for them to "set aside the politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation." He followed with a biblical quotation: "as the Bible says weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning." He added, "We will get through this, together."

He promised to repair damaged alliances with other nations, and to "lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example." He added that America would be "a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security." He asked as his first act as president, for all to join him in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those lost this past year to the pandemic. He called this "a time of testing" listing the challenges facing the nation as an attack on democracy and on truth, a raging virus, growing inequity, systemic racism, and a climate in crisis. He called this a time for boldness and said that Americans would be judged by how the nation resolved these many crises. He concluded by quoting a verse from the song "American Anthem". He then added this promise:

"My fellow Americans, I close today where I began, with a sacred oath. Before God and all of you I give you my word. I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution. I will defend our democracy. I will defend America. I will give my all in your service thinking not of power, but of possibilities. Not of personal interest, but of the public good. And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity, not division. Of light, not darkness. An American story of decency and dignity. Of love and of healing. Of greatness and of goodness. May this be the story that guides us. The story that inspires us.The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history. We met the moment. That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived. That our America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world. That is what we owe our forebearers, one another, and generations to follow. So, with purpose and resolve we turn to the tasks of our time. Sustained by faith. Driven by conviction. And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you, America."

The Inauguration of Joe Biden

The inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States will take place today at noon (EST). The inaugural ceremony will take place on the West Front of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. and will be the 59th presidential inauguration. Biden will take the oath of office as president, and Kamala Harris will take the oath of office as vice president. In an time of extraordinary events, Biden's inauguration will be unique, taking place amidst the greatest pandemic in over a century, and in a tine of economic, and national security crises. It follows in the aftermath of outgoing President Donald Trump's unsuccessful attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, just two weeks after a storming of the Capitol, and on the heels of Trump's unprecedented second impeachment. Threats of widespread civil unrest have led to a nationwide law enforcement response, and this as well as the pandemic have caused festivities to be sharply curtailed. Unlike most inaugurations, the only live audience will be limited to members of the 117th Congress and one guest of each of their choosing, making it more like a State of the Union address. Public health measures such as mandatory face masks, testing, temperature checks, and social distancing will be all be in place.

The inaugural themes are "America United" and "Our Determined Democracy: Forging a More Perfect Union". Biden's victory was formalized by the Electoral College vote, which took place on December 14, 2020. In accordance with Article I, Section 6 of the United States Constitution, Harris resigned her seat in the United States Senate effective noon on January 18, 2021. President Trump continued to dispute the legitimacy of the election but committed to an orderly transition of power exactly two months after losing. He announced that he would not attend the ceremony, the fourth time in history that an incumbent will not do so and the first since Andrew Johnson decided not to attend the 1869 inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant.

Upon his inauguration, Biden will become the oldest president at 78 years and 61 days, older upon taking office than Ronald Reagan, who left office at 77 years, 349 days. He will also become the first president from Delaware, the second Catholic after John F. Kennedy, and the fifteenth former vice president to serve as president. Harris will become the first woman, first African American, and first Asian American vice-president.

The drastic reduction in crowd size at Biden's inauguration had been expected to reduce costs. But the storming of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 by a mob of pro-Trump extremists raised serious concerns about the security of the inauguration and has led to increased costs in order to provide better security. Mesh fencing and barriers that were previously installed for the construction of the inaugural stage were torn down in the attack. Rehearsals for the ceremony, originally set for January 17, were postponed until January 19, citing these security concerns. Biden chose not to move the ceremony indoors, stating that he was "not afraid of taking the oath outside" during a public ceremony as originally planned.

Following the attack and subsequent violent threats by the same groups and individuals to disrupt Biden's inauguration, the Secret Service has launched a massive security operation with the aim of avoiding a repeat of the deadly Capitol insurrection. On January 11, President Trump approved a request for an emergency declaration in Washington, D.C., allowing federal assistance through FEMA to help secure the event. On the same day, the National Park Service warned that groups who were involved in the riot "continue to threaten to disrupt" the inaugural ceremony. Seven foot-high crowd control barriers were installed around the perimeter of the Capitol grounds to prevent disruptions during the ceremony. On January 14, a thirteen-page "joint threat assessment" was issued by the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and other federal and local agencies, identifying domestic extremist groups as the most likely threat to the inauguration. Their concerns included foreign influence operations and extremist drone attacks. The bulletin also noted that since the January 6 Capitol attack, U.S. intelligence had identified Chinese, Iranian, and Russian efforts to inflame tensions and violence. A January 18 intelligence briefing from the FBI warned law-enforcement agencies that far-right extremists have discussed the possibility of impersonating National Guard members in D.C. in order to infiltrate the inauguration.

President-elect Biden and his wife Jill Biden, spent the night of January 19 at Blair House, the President's Guest House—a custom for incoming presidents. Traditionally, the president-elect meets with the outgoing president at the White House on the morning of their inauguration after a church service, but this tradition will not be followed this time. Biden will attend mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington. President Trump will depart for his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida this morning. He delivered his farewell address yesterday by releasing a video. Outgoing Vice President Pence plans to return to his home state of Indiana after attending Biden's inauguration.

Two hours before the start of the inaugural ceremony, actress Keke Palmer will host Our White House: An Inaugural Celebration for Young Americans, a livestream aimed at engaging youth in the day's events. Dr. Jill Biden will address viewers in a pre-recorded message, and historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Erica Armstrong Dunbar will discuss the ceremony's significance.

The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets will play ruffles and flourishes. The U.S. Marine Band will play a medley of patriotic music and perform "Hail, Columbia" (the official anthem of the vice president) after Harris is sworn in, and "Hail to the Chief" (the official anthem of the president) after Biden is sworn in. The band has appeared at every presidential inauguration since Thomas Jefferson's in 1801.

Former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, along with respective first ladies Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama, will attend. Former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter will not, as they are unable to travel.

Senator Roy Blunt, chair of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, will serve as the inauguration's master of ceremonies. Leo J. O'Donovan, a Catholic priest, member of the Jesuit order, and former president of Georgetown University, will deliver the invocation. Georgia firefighters' union leader Andrea Hall will lead the Pledge of Allegiance and Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem. National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman will recite her poem "The Hill We Climb", and Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks will perform. At age 22, Gorman will become the youngest inaugural poet. Rev. Dr. Silvester Beaman, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware, and a friend of the Bidens, will deliver the benediction.

Biden will be sworn in on a Bible, held by his wife, that has been in his family since 1893. It is the same one he used during his senatorial and vice presidential swearing-in ceremonies. Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor will administer the oath of office to Kamala Harris. Sotomayor administered Biden's oath at his 2013 swearing-in.

Chief Justice John Roberts will administer Biden's oath of office, reciting the words prescribed by the Constitution: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. So help me God."

When the oath is complete, the U.S. Army Band will play four ruffles and flourishes and the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment's Presidential Salute Battery will render a 21-gun cannon salute. Biden will then deliver his inaugural address. The presidential "nuclear football" which can authorize a nuclear attack while away from a command center, will be discreetly given to military aides of the new administration during the ceremony.

Biden has said that his speech will set out his vision to address the COVID-19 pandemic and to heal the nation. He wrote the speech with the assistance of speechwriter Vinay Reddy, senior advisor Mike Donilon, incoming Secretary of State Tony Blinken, and chief of staff Ron Klain.

Inaugural Addresses: Donald Trump (2017)

It was almost four years ago today, on January 20, 2017, at noon, that Donald John Trump was sworn into office by Chief Justice John Roberts and became the 45th President of the United States. He took the oath, with his hand on his childhood Bible and the historic Lincoln Bible. At 1,433 words, the inaugural address delivered by President Donald Trump was the briefest since that of Jimmy Carter in 1977.

The new President began his address by declaring that "We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people. Together we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come. We will face challenges. We will confront hardships, but we will get the job done." He proceeded to thank President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their part in carrying out "the orderly and peaceful transfer of power", adding "They have been magnificent."

President Trump declared that his inauguration was a special one because "today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people." He went on to excoriate Washington politicians who had prospered, while the nation suffered. He said:

"For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land."

He promised that things are going to change, "starting right here and right now, because this moment is your moment." He reminded his audience that "this, the United States of America, is your country." He declared that his inauguration day would "be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again." He echoed on the theme of "the forgotten man", an expression first coined during the Great Depression, and used by President Trump during his campaign for President. He said:

"The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of an historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists to serve its citizens."

President Trump listed what he believed Americans expect of their government. He said "Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public". However he said that this did not match reality and that "for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists". He described that reality as "carnage" and said:

"Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. We are one nation, and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams, and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny. The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans."

The next theme he addressed was one of protection of American industry. He complained that "For many decades we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military." He also lamented the fact that Americans have spent "trillions and trillions of dollars overseas" in the defense of foreign nations, "while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon."

He lamented the closing of American factories and the transfer of jobs overseas, stating that "The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world." He add :But that is the past, and now we are looking only to the future." He then declared, "From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only America first. America first." He expanded on what he meant by this:

"Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength."

The incoming President made these promises to his audience:

"I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never, ever let you down. America will start winning again, winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams. We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor."

He said that this would be accomplished by following "two simple rules: Buy American and hire American. We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first."

President Trump promised not to "seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example." He also said that the nation would "unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth."

He next discussed the concept of Patriotism and how in was antithetical to prejudice. "When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity." He called for a frank exchange of ideas and said that Americans "must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity." He added, "When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear. We are protected, and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we will be protected by God."

The President attacked self-interested politicians, emulating Harry Truman (who, in his day, complained about the "do-nothing Congress"). Trump said:

"We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action. Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again."

In closing, he looked to the future and said "We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow." He said that "A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights and heal our divisions." He referred to an old military adage that "whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag." He concluded his address with these words:

"And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the wind-swept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator. So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words. You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way. Together we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And, yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you and God bless America. Thank you. God bless America."

Following is a YouTube video of President Trump delivering his inaugural address: