The Inaugural II - Just Another Word

January 24, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

Barack Obama used the word freedom three times in his inaugural speech. Presidents often invoke values in their inaugurals, so I would have thought we’d hear more about freedom. I guess my baseline expectations had been raised during the Bush years. George W. used the word 27 times in his second inaugural. That was unusually high. But three is not unusually low. By historical standards, it’s about average.

I had been thinking of freedom as one of those eternal American values. But that’s not the picture that emerges from the chart of inaugural speeches.

Freedom seems to be mostly a word of the post-War era. Several earlier inaugurals use the word not at all – among them both of Washington’s, both of Lincoln’s, and FDR’s first two.

Freedom is also favored more by Republicans than by Democrats. Combining all post-War Republicans and all post-War Democrats, we get
  • Democrats – 2.4 freedom per 1000 words
  • Republicans – 4.4 freedom 1000 words

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