Presidential Speeches

From 1789 to 2013

Project Objective

The purpose of this project is to compare speeches by U.S. Presidents. The comparisons are made by type of speech, by president, and by time. The main point of comparison is with the topics in the speeches.

Here are some of the questions that might be answered based on the comparisons:

Project Scope

A corpus consisting of all U.S. presidential speeches would be extremely large and outside the scope of this project. Some selection critiria were made to narrow down the corpus. The first criterion was to only use Inaugural and State of the Union (SotU) speeches. The second was to limit the number of presidents. Selection criteria for the presidents are as follows:

Final Selection:

Washington and Obama were selected for the obvious reason that they are the first and last presidents. They span the entire time frame for this project. Cleveland was the only president to serve non consecutive terms. FDR was the only president to serve more than two terms. Lincoln was president during a time of upheaval in U.S. history. Wilson was the president that reinstituted spoken SotU address.

Extending the Project

Given time, the scope of this project may be extended in various ways. One way is to expand the corpus to include all presidents and other types of speeches. Another way is to tag for different items of interest. Some examples might be:


This project is for the Autumn 2015 session of the Computational Methods in Humanities course. Course website can be found here.

Yi Ding, once upon a time, completed a BA in Linguistics from the University of Illinios at Urbana-Champaign. She has also completed a BS in Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh.