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Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller administering the oath of office to Benjamin Harrison on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol, March 4, 1889

[Detail] Administering the oath of office to Benjamin Harrison, 1889.

The Cold War

Inauguration of Harry S. Truman

Inauguration of Harry S. Truman, Washington, DC, 1949.

The ideological and military struggles between the United States and the Soviet Union are reflected in the inaugural addresses from the second half of the twentieth century. From Harry Truman's definition of communism in his 1949 inaugural address as “a false philosophy [threatening] material well-being, human dignity, and the right to believe in and worship God” to Ronald Reagan's call for a nuclear missile defense system to protect against Soviet aggression in his 1985 inaugural address, the threat of communism was a familiar feature of presidential policies.

  • How does each president describe communism?
  • Are there any common images and ideas?
  • Does the description of communism change over time? How?