This is the Week of the Two Presidents—Donald Trump succeeds Barack Obama at noon on Friday January 20. Both men recently addressed major gatherings: Barack Obama made his official farewell to the nation, Donald Trump held his first formal press conference since being elected. Each event was highly characteristic. My take: I for one am glad we have heard the last of Obama. And Trump’s rumbustiousness is thrilling.
Obama stepped out in front of a huge audience in Chicago and delivered a long, gassy speech—51 minutes and 10 seconds. That’s 10 minutes longer than the Farewell Addresses of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan combined.
Bush 41 did not technically give a farewell address, although his speech to West Point cadets, the last of his presidency, is sometimes cited as such. I don’t know its duration, but the transcript runs to 3,300 words. The transcript of Obama’s farewell address is just short of 5,000 words, so he left Poppy Bush in the dust, too. This is a guy who really likes the sound of his own voice.
The gold standard in political speeches, so far as I’m concerned, was the one Calvin Coolidge delivered to the Massachusetts Senate 102 years ago, after being elected President of that body. It consisted of forty-four words, thus:
Honorable Senators: My sincerest thanks I offer you. Conserve the firm foundations of our institutions. Do your work with the spirit of a soldier in the public service. Be loyal to the Commonwealth and to yourselves, and be brief; above all things, be brief.
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