A tale of two inaugurals: Comparing Biden and Trump's first presidential speeches
TORONTO -- There was no mistaking that Wednesday's U.S. presidential inauguration was different in many ways than the one four years earlier.
The lack of a big crowd, the wearing of masks and intermittent outbursts of physical distancing, and the heavy-even-by-inauguration-standards security presence were all indications that Joe Biden is becoming president at a time unlike any other.
Biden alluded to this in his inaugural address, saying near the beginning of his speech that "a new America has risen" to protect American democracy.
At a little over 21 minutes, Biden's inaugural address was five minutes longer than that of his predecessor, former president Donald Trump.
Biden also packed much more speaking into his allotted time. His address comprised 2,457 words, according to a CTV News transcript, making it the wordiest inaugural address since Ronald Reagan's second in 1985.
Trump's inaugural address, on the other hand, came in at 1,433 words – the shortest inauguration speech since 1977, when Jimmy Carter spoke 1,229 words.
Length and density are hardly the only ways Biden's speech on Wednesday differed from Trump's in 2017.
While Trump's address gave ample time to the grievances of those who consider themselves unheard, Biden's seemed to be directed more toward all Americans, urging greater unity. This desire for peace and harmony was also evident in Biden's remarks toward the rest of the world, in stark contrast to Trump's regular returns to the theme of "America first."
In some of the other parts of their speeches, the two presidents seemed to be somewhat on the same page.
Biden spoke repeatedly about the pandemic, warning that the U.S. is "entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus." Trump obviously had no inkling of the COVID-19 crisis when he gave his speech four years ago, but he did still mention health, saying the U.S. was "ready … to free the Earth from the miseries of disease."
CTVNews.ca has combed through transcripts of both speeches to show areas where the current and former presidents offered starkly different messages, as well as some cases in which their words were relatively similar.
Trump: "We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all of our people. Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come."
Biden: “This is America's day. This is democracy’s day, a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve. Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge."
Trump: "We are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent."
Biden: "I thank my predecessors of both parties for their presence here today. I thank them from the bottom of my heart and I know the resilience of our constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation, as does President Carter, who I spoke with last night, who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime of service."
Trump: "What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now."
Biden: "Politics doesn't have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in his path. Every disagreement doesn't have to be a cause for total war, and we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated, and even manufactured."
ON THEIR PURPOSE
Trump: "Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. 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 American people."
Biden: "On this January day, my whole soul is in this, bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation, and I ask every American to join me in this cause."
ON THOSE LEFT OUT
Trump: "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."
Biden: "I understand that many of my fellow Americans view the future with fear and trepidation. I understand they worry about their jobs. I understand, like my dad, they lay in bed staring at night, staring at the ceiling wondering ‘Can I keep my health care? Can I pay my mortgage?’ Thinking about their families, about what comes next. I promise you I get it. But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don't look like you, or worship the way you do, or don't get their news from the same sources you do."
ON WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU, OR WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY
Trump: "At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens."
Biden: "The American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us. On we the people who seek a more perfect union."
ON CURRENT CRISES
Trump: "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 knowledge; and the crime and gangs and 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."
Biden: "[A] once-in-a-century virus, it silently stalks the country. It has taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. 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 of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat."
ON DESIRED RESULTS
Trump: "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. We will follow 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."
Biden: "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 the deadly virus. We can reward work, and rebuild the middle class and make health care secure for all. We can deliver racial justice, and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world."
ON PRIORITIES ABROAD
Trump: "We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones – and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth."
Biden: "Here's my message to those beyond our borders: America has been tested, and we've come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday's challenges, but today's and tomorrow's challenges. And we’ll lead not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security."
Trump: "The Bible tells us 'how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.'”
Biden: "We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation, one nation. And I promise you this, as the Bible says, weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
Trump: "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."
Biden: "With purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time, sustained by faith, driven by conviction and devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America, and may God protect our troops. Thank you, America.”