After learning some interesting facts about the inaugural addresses of early U.S.
presidents, I found myself wishing I could go back in time. Before each president uttered the first word of his speech, I would share with him some good “new-fashioned” blogging principlesâ€¦
You’ll recall how I’m always describing blogs as being less formal and more conversational than other kinds of marketing materials (See Between Crafted and Cranked Out). Well, it’s difficult to imagine anything less conversational and informal than George Washington’s two-minute inaugural address: “Among the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month.” (That’s just the first sentence of the address -can you believe it?) He then goes on (and on) to say, “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.” While George is to be commended for keeping it short, I imagine those two minutes must have seemed like two hours to the listeners. The biggest irony is that Washington understood the importance of having a ghostwriter help him with his speech; unfortunately, “ghost’ James Madison hadn’t been taught any better than Washington that short, clear sentences are the hallmarks of effective speeches and effective blogs!
Decades and many presidential terms later, William Henry Harrison delivered the longest inaugural address in history. While Harrison managed to avoid the stilted sentences of our first president, he could have used some good blog-based editing; his talk contained no fewer than 8443 words! Speaking of irony! Harrison’s over-long inaugural ushered in the shortest presidential term in history. Refusing to wear a coat or hat on his Big Day, Harrison caught a cold that turned into pneumonia and died thirty-one days after being sworn in.
In history’s inexorable march towards what would one day become our blogosphere, presidential inaugurals made use of the technology of the day, with James Polk’s being the first to be reported by telegraph, James Buchanan’s the first to be photographed, Harry Truman’s first to be televised, and Bill’s Clinton’s the first to be broadcast live on the Internet.
As I said, our early presidents might have been more effective at their inaugurations had they utilized best blogging practices, delivering fewer words in less formal tones. Perhaps what bloggers can learn from the early presidents is an old-fashioned respect for the power and beauty of the English language, not to mention old-fashioned respect for the dangers of winter colds!