“Politicians have mastered the art of making so many words that afterwards they have to choose which one they want to stand by,” the cabaret artist Dieter Hildebrand once said. No matter where, whether in parliament, at party conventions or on talk shows – there is such an abundance of politicians’ speeches that public interest seems to be dwindling. Especially in times with an ever-increasing supply of information, politicians often have a hard time reaching their audience. With one exception: the inaugural address. Or in times of crisis, as Corona has shown again.

Few political speeches garner as much attention as the inaugural address. Whether Angela Merkel’s government statements, the inaugural addresses of American presidents or the British Queen’s speeches from the throne – inaugural addresses have an audience of millions. Some phrases become catchphrases, such as “We want to dare more democracy” (Willy Brandt) or “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” (John F. Kennedy). No political speech is associated with as many expectations as the first speech of a head of government.

German chancellors, on the other hand, tend to present a comprehensive government program. Their government statements are the longest and most detailed by international standards. This is how Klaus Stüwe has analyzed it in his publications. And not only many chancellors but also German presidents give inaugural speeches. In accordance with their tasks, however, the latter do not address day-to-day political issues or “4-year plans” but appeal to the people’s state of mind as a moral conscience.

The British Queen reads out a very factual government program drafted by the Prime Minister. It contains only a few concrete announcements, but these can then usually be realized in full during the head of government’s term of office. The style of American presidents’ inaugural addresses is quite different. These, too, rarely write their speeches themselves, relying instead on “ghostwriters” to test exactly what moods the speech should create. This is less about detailed government projects and more about the symbolic affirmation of American values. Stüwe’s conclusion: The problem is not the staging of the inauguration of a new government, but promises that cannot be kept.