Editorials

What should Donald Trump say in his inaugural address?

President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump attend a pre-inaugural “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration” at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.
President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump attend a pre-inaugural “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration” at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. AP

Today, Donald Trump will be sworn in as our 45th president.

Over the past several days, there has been no shortage of opinions about what he should say in his inaugural speech. Bookmakers in the United Kingdom have even gotten into the act, taking bets on what words or phrases Trump will use.

We’ve combed the internet and compiled suggestions from pundits, editorialists, a congressman, an economist and a college student. Some come in the form of general advice; others offer exact words they would like to hear from the new president.

Today, we’ll find out whether they hit the mark.

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Trump could set the tone for his first 100 days with an aspirational but clear agenda he can stick to. Today even Republicans aren’t sure what his priorities are or how he intends to accomplish them. This is most apparent with health care reform: Trump’s promises lately of universal care at affordable cost has GOP Congressional leaders hiding under their desks.

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One way to ensure the path to respectability is to shift from talking about himself to talking about us, his fellow countrymen. He must move from “I” to “we.” Every executive moving up the ladder learns this lesson sooner or later. The same holds for presidents.

No more “I.” It’s all about us now, Mr. Trump.

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Trump’s inaugural speech needs to turn a rhetorical corner. He must define “greatness,” not as a past condition but as a current mission. Mere nostalgia is the idealization of a time that many Americans — including women and minorities — find less than idyllic. For his speech to succeed, Trump requires not just a fabled past but a promised land.

Former presidential speech writer and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson

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We can only hope that in his address he will go beyond the generalities and bluster of the campaign.

That he will follow precedent in reaching out beyond his base to reassure those who didn’t support him, many of whom genuinely fear his presidency. Reach out to allies deeply fearful of what they hear. We can hope, but not expect.

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Keep it short. Don’t overdo the gravitas. Don’t gloat, the victory tour is over. No deviations from script.

Oh, and don’t undo a successful inaugural address with an intemperate tweet — or two or three — a few hours later.

The Associated Press, summarizing advice from veteran speech writers

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“I fully realize that half the nation would have preferred someone else being sworn in today — actually a little more than half, especially in California. In light of this, it’s my commitment to you, that I intend to truly be, president of ALL the people, whether you voted for me or not. …

“As you may know, I have a reputation for never apologizing, or admitting I was wrong — about anything. Well I’d like to turn over a new leaf, and acknowledge where I have been wrong.”

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, Ohio

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“The best country in the world will have the infrastructure to match the phenomenal success story that we have built. Hospitals, airports, schools, streets, and bridges are going to be beautiful. And they will be safe.”

Boston University student Cristina Gallotto, for a class assignment on writing a speech from Trump’s point of view

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… tell baby boomers the truth: They have created an appalling culture of selfishness toward future generations. We are witnessing an unfair collapse in young peoples’ faith in American possibilities.

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… consider doing what George H.W. Bush did and begin his inaugural address with a prayer … a prayer for wisdom and guidance, while asking God’s blessing on the American people, would be humble, respectful and resonate with an audience estimated to be in the tens of millions.

Mary Kate Cary, former presidential speech writer, contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report

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“You have hired me only to administer one of our three branches of government, and only for four years. So let’s avoid unseemly excitement about today’s routine transfer of power. Years ago, Dallas Cowboy Duane Thomas said this about another recurring extravaganza, the Super Bowl: ‘If it’s the ultimate game, how come they’re playing it again next year?’ I may ask Mr. Thomas to be my press secretary, if I decide to have one.”

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