Why Students Should Hear Presidential Inaugural Addresses

By Marley Meltzer

New York City, New York

Presidential inaugural addresses are undoubtedly a part of history (Photo Credit: Time Magazine)

In January 2017, Brett Meteyer, an elementary school teacher in Michigan, received backlash from his students’ parents and from social media users when he sent an email to his students’ parents saying that he would not be showing them President Donald Trump’s inaugural address. He said he had previously shown his students President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush’s inaugural addresses in 2009 and 2005, respectively, but refused to show Trump’s because of his previous remarks about women, minorities and those with disabilities. This decision upset the parents who believed he was preventing the students from seeing a part of American history unfold. One parent said, “Whether the teacher shows it or not, they’re going to see it.” Meteyer’s decision promoted wrongful censorship and disregarded an important aspect of American politics. Knowing and caring about presidential inaugurations ought to be associated with being a proud and loyal resident of a country rather than a member of a political party.

Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, one of my teachers spent part of a class showing my classmates a YouTube video of Trump delivering his inaugural address. I was in middle school, and Trump’s inaugural address was the first I had ever listened to. When we were dismissed from class, I heard my classmates’ disappointed groans echoing through the hallway. While I shared their sentiment, being saddened and shaken by Secretary Hillary Clinton’s loss, I was grateful to have witnessed a historically significant event. Similarly, the daughter of my aunt’s close friend, a political science major, attended Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. with her classmates and was “bummed out” that the candidate she voted against was being sworn in in front of her very eyes. However, she felt “lucky” to have a firsthand view of the inauguration.

All educators should show their students presidential inaugural addresses. Presidential inaugural addresses are undoubtedly a part of history. Students are already taught about how governments function, including the different branches and forms of government, so schools should introduce inaugural addresses to curricula when suitable to create a more robust education on American government and politics.

My recommendations for educators who plan to show their students presidential inaugural addresses would be to briefly give a lesson on inaugurations beforehand, whether it merely refreshes or introduces the subject matter entirely. Resources I found helpful and comprehensive are from the Anti-Defamation League’s “7 Ideas for Teaching about the Presidential Inauguration and Teaching Tolerance’s “Teaching the Inauguration.”