Summary and Critique of George F. Will's View on Inaugural Addresses

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Wade Vierheller
Professor Combs
English 300
27 September 2012
‘Let Us’…? No, Give it a Rest Summary and Critique
George F. Will is a Pulitzer-Prize writer and an editor for Newsweek. He is well-known for his strong conservative political commentary. He discusses the history of Inaugural Addresses and how they reflect the way the country has changed throughout the years. He points out a number of differences such as sentence structure, tone, and topics. For example, he cites the numbering of words. He mentions George Washington’s second sentence of his address, which was 87 words. On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years--a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. Back then, the culture was much different, as most people learned to read were through difficult literature such as Pilgrim’s Progress and the King James Bible. Herbert Stein, “who for 60 years was an economist and connoisseur of American’s political culture,” discovered that the average number of words per sentence for Inaugural Addresses has steadily decreased: “from Washington through Buchanan the average number of words per sentence was 44; from Lincoln through Wilson, 34; since Wilson, 25.” Will believes that “the general shortening of sentences reflects, in part, a change in nature of Inaugural Addresses.” He refers to Teddy Roosevelt who called the presidency “a bully pulpit.” Later addresses have had an incentive to tell Americans how to behave with phrases such as “The only thing we have to fear…” and “Ask not…” A more popular phrase which was used by Kennedy and Nixon was “Let us…,” which according to...
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