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Picking our presidents: Leaders and legacies

MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews and NBC News' Tom Brokaw take a special look at the American presidential inaugurations over the past four decades in "Picking our Presidents: Leaders and Legacies," premiering Sunday, January 16, 2005, 9-10 p.m. ET
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Inauguration day could be called the eye of the hurricane between the roaring campaign that just ended, and the clash of wills over the new national agenda.

Following months and even years of intense partisan battles, inauguration day is the one day when the new president and both parties try hardest to leave behind their differences in a spirit of unity.

Sometimes it’s the start of a honeymoon, and their time with the Congress, the press, and with the country.

Since 1789, we’ve been doing it pretty much in the same way. Someone is elected president, he gets sworn in, and the nation waits to hear what his plans are. It’s a ritual that has been part of American culture.

The inauguration is a time to appreciate the constancy of our political process. Like clockwork, since 1789, we’ve sworn in our Presidents and recommitted ourselves to our republic. No country in the world can match this record of legitimate government.

In this special program, “Picking our Presidents: Leaders and Legacies,” we’ll look at that moment of promise over four decades of inaugurations. We’ll see how the promise of a new administration has been matched— or missed— by the reality.

NBC News’ Tom Brokaw joins me in this special. Tom has distinct insight as a veteran White House correspondent for NBC News.

We'll reflect on everything— from the hope and promise of the 1961 Kennedy inauguration, the challenges facing Nixon in 1969 and the youthful zeal of the Clintons in 1994. It’s wondrous how much American history Tom and I have known, lived and reported— and it’s thrilling to have a ringside seat at yet another presidential inauguration.

Join us on Sunday, January 16, 2005, 9-10 p.m. ET on MSNBC. The special re-airs Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET.

This special is the third in MSNBC's series of "Picking our Presidents" documentaries— the first telecast prior to the Democratic National Convention and the second telecast prior to the first presidential debate in September. Tammy Haddad and Scott Hooker are the executive producers of "Picking Our Presidents: Leaders and Legacies."