What History Tells Us About Power of Presidential Speeches

What makes a president’s words ring throughout history?

Jake Neher/WDET

Think about the most memorable State of the Union speech you’ve seen.

Was it when a congressman shouted “You lie!” during one of President Obama’s addresses?

Was it watching President George W. Bush walking down the center aisle just a few short months after 9/11?

Maybe you think more about the interesting expressions made by the vice president and speaker of the House as they sit behind the president.

Whatever the moment is, you probably don’t remember much about the speech itself.

The State of the Union is rarely exciting. Instead it’s a policy-heavy speech punctuated by partisan cheering.

So what are the best presidential speeches in history and what makes a president’s words ring throughout history?

Click here to listen to a preview of President Trump’s first State of the State speech on Detroit Today

Wayne State University history professor Marc Kruman says the most impactful presidential speeches usually come at inaugural addresses when the leaders tend to be aspirational. 

Kruman says Trump’s first inaugural address, which referenced “American carnage” and other dark and negative imagery, played to his campaign style. Kruman says Trump is unlikely to change his style and delivery any time soon.

“I be surprised if he sought to redirect it,” says Kruman.

To hear more from Kruman on Detroit Today, click on the audio player above.


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