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Guide To The Presidential Inauguration

Learning About The Presidency

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The swearing-in of the President of the United States is called the inauguration and it marks the beginning of a new term of the Presidency of the United States. The oath of office is the primary focus of the inauguration ceremony, and it is the only part required by law. Festivities, however, last for days and include a parade on inauguration day as well as the inaugural ball.

When Is The Presidential Inauguration?

Obama And Biden Sworn In During Official Ceremony
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Inauguration Day in the U.S. is 20 January and the swearing-in of the President marks the beginning of a new term of a President of the United States. The date is set by the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution.

The inauguration of the first U.S. president, George Washington, was held on 30 April 1789 in New York City. Inauguration Day was subsequently set for March 4, providing four months for electors to cast their ballots for president. In 1937, the Twentieth Amendment changed the date from March 4 to noon on January 20, beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt's second term.

Who Manages The Presidential Inauguration?

The oath of office is traditionally administered on the steps of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Since 1901, all inaugural ceremonies at the U.S. Capitol have been organized by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Since the 1953 inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Armed Forces participation has been coordinated by the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee (now called the Joint Task Force-Armed Forces Inaugural Committee).

However, the Presidential Inaugural Committee has final say on nearly every detail, including the choice of music.

Oaths of Office

Incoming Congressmen, Presidents and Supreme Court Justices must take an oath of office, swearing that the official will uphold the Constitution. The Constitution is quite clear on one aspect of the oath: "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." And yet every oath except the Presidential one -- which is explicitly detailed in the Constitution -- now ends with "So help me God."

The Constitution specifies an oath of office only for the President; it is traditionally administered by the Chief Justice of the United States at noon on inauguration day. The vice president is sworn in before the president.

Watch Presidents F.D. Roosevelt through George W. Bush.

Bibles and Scripture Passages Used by Presidents

This information on the details of swearing in US presidents is courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol. It was compiled by the Office of the Curator.

The Inaugural Address

Newly sworn-in presidents give a speech referred to as an inaugural address. Inaugural addresses provide a unique platform for the President to communicate his vision to the citizens of the country and the world. Here are a few of the great Presidential Inaugural Addresses: Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States - from Bartleby.com

The Inaugural Parade

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson was the first to be sworn in as president in Washington, D.C., which officially became the federal capital that year. After Jefferson was sworn into office for a second term, he rode on horseback from the Capitol to the President's house, surrounded by mechanics from the Navy Yard and accompanied by military band music. This procession evolved into the current-day Inaugural Parade.

One of the more colorful parades occurred in 1905. Theodore Roosevelt's parade had almost 35,000 participants, including cowboys, miners and his Spanish-American war Calvary regiment, the Rough Riders.

The Inaugural Ball

The first official Inaugural Ball was held in 1809 in conjunction with the inauguration of James Madison. First Lady Dolley Madison hosted the gala; 400 tickets sold for $4 each. In 1865, the ball following Lincoln's second Inauguration took place in the Patent Office, the first time a government building was used for the celebration.

In 1913, Woodrow Wilson asked the Inaugural committee to cancel the ball; he thought it too expensive. In 1921, Warren Harding also canceled the ball.

President Harry Truman revived the official ball in 1949. By the second inaugural of President William Jefferson Clinton in 1997, the number of official balls reached an all-time high of 14.

Who Pays For Inauguration Festivities?

Other than the swearing-in ceremony, events and festivities associated with a presidential inauguration are not government functions and are not paid for with taxpayer money. Presidential inaugural committees raise money from private donors to hold these events.
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