Schieffer: Keep that Inauguration Day feeling

John F. Kennedy delivers his inaugural address after being sworn in as the 35th President of the United States, January 20, 1961 in Washington, D.C. STF/AFP/Getty Images

(CBS News) It is hard to feel festive after the awful events of recent days.

Still, Inauguration Day with its ceremony and speeches can be a refreshing change of pace -- reminders that whatever the crisis of the moment, we remain a country of great accomplishment.

For the record, George Washington made the shortest inaugural speech: 135 words.

William Henry Harrison made the longest; he spoke for nearly two hours in a driving rain, caught pneumonia, and died a month later.

Herbert Hoover got his speech all wrong. Eight months before the Great Depression, he had declared that the country had "reached a higher degree of comfort and security than at any time in history." Oops!

But Lincoln got it so right. His "With malice toward none, charity for all" was more than a speech, it was a life guide. Yet, no more powerful than Roosevelt's "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

And no less inspiring than Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

As the nation was dividing into political parties, Jefferson warned, "We are all Republicans . . . we are all Federalists." Still so true.

And it was the first George Bush who looked out at the crowd and said, "We meet on democracy's front porch, on a day when our nation is made whole, when our differences for a moment are suspended."

Just think, if we could keep that feeling going for a while, who knows what great things might still be done?

  • Bob Schieffer On Twitter»

    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.

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