Passing the Torch

Michael Dunne reflects on past US presidential Inaugurals, and the words which still resonate.

Inauguration of Lincoln, 4 March 1861. Library of Congress.

Oscar Wilde – who else? – beat all commentators to the punch when he quipped that the ‘youth of America is their oldest tradition’, adding the knockout blow that they had ‘been going on [about it] for three hundred years’. Yet in a paradox worthy of the great raconteur himself, this eternally young country established at its birth a political system whose constitutional framework has changed far less over the last two centuries than those of major European countries such as France, Germany, Italy or the United Kingdom.

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