What happens on Inauguration Day? What does “inauguration” mean? How do we “swear in” a president? Here are some inauguration fun facts.
When Is Inauguration Day?
Inauguration Day is held on January 20 in the year following a presidential election. In 2021, Inauguration Day takes place on Wednesday, January 20. It will mark the 59th Presidential Inauguration in American history, a tradition begun in on April 30, 1789, by George Washington, the first U.S. president.
The Constitution originally fixed March 4 (the anniversary of the effective date of the Constitution in 1789) as Inauguration Day. That’s about four months after the Election Day (which occurs on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November).
Inauguration Day was moved to January 20, with the Oath of Office to be administered at noon, when Congress ratified the 20th constitutional amendment in 1933. Reasons cited included the unpredictability of March weather, improved roads, and the desire to reduce the time that the previous president remains in office as a “lame duck.”
The first president to be inaugurated on January 20 was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, when he took office for the second of his four terms.
On six occasions, the death or resignation of a president required his successor to be sworn in immediately, so the oaths were taken as quickly as possible. Presidents William Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, and Gerald Ford had no formal Inauguration Days.
What Number President is Joe Biden?
Joe Biden will be the 46th U.S. president.
What Does “Inauguration” Mean?
The word “inauguration” means “beginning,” and comes from the ancient practice of augury, which means predicting the future. The day marks the start of a president’s term in office.
Where Does Inauguration Day Take Place?
The Presidential Inauguration takes place in Washington, D.C., on the western side of the U.S. Capitol Building.
It has been conducted there since 1801, when Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated. The first Inauguration Day took place in New York City, which was serving as the U.S. capital in 1789. The inaugurals of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (the second time) happened in Philadelphia.
What Happens on Inauguration Day?
The most important event on Inauguration Day—and the only event required by the U.S. Constitution—is the swearing in of the new president at noon. With a recitation of the Oath of Office, the president-elect becomes the president and commander in chief.
What Is the Oath of Office?
The exact words of the Oath of Office are: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Who Administers the Oath of Office?
The Oath of Office is usually administered by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. (It has been the practice since 1797.)
Calvin Coolidge’s second Oath was administered by the only Chief Justice who was a former President, William Howard Taft.
Has a Woman Ever Administered the Oath of Office?
The only woman to administer the Oath was Federal District Court Judge Sarah T. Hughes. She was the closest Federal judge to the site of the swearing in of Lyndon B. Johnson—Air Force One, which was parked at Love Field—after Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.
Can a Family Member Administer the Oath of Office?
Yes, under unusual circumstances. After the death of President Warren G. Harding, the oath was administered by the light of a kerosene lantern to Calvin Coolidge by his father, John Calvin Coolidge, Sr., a notary public in Plymouth Notch, Vermont.
Has the Oath of Office Ever Changed?
So far, all presidents except Franklin Pierce have chosen to “swear” rather than “affirm.” At Barack Obama’s first Inauguration Day, in 2009, Chief Justice John Roberts stumbled over the wording, and the two men decided to do it over again the next day in the White House.
What Book Do Presidents Put Their Hand on for the Oath of Office?
Presidents usually take the Oath of Office with their left hand on a Bible, but that is not required by the Constitution. Franklin Pierce and John Quincy Adams swore their oaths on law books. Lyndon Johnson used a Catholic missal found on the airplane in Dallas. Theodore Roosevelt used no book at all. And Dwight D. Eisenhower, George H. W. Bush, and Barack Obama used more than one Bible.
What Is the Inaugural Address?
The Inaugural Address is a speech by the recently inaugurated president. In earlier days, the address was given before the newly elected president took the Oath of Office, but in 1897, William McKinley waited until after he was sworn in to deliver his speech, and all the presidents since then have done the same.
What Are the Shortest and Longest Presidential Inaugural Addresses?
George Washington’s second inaugural address was 135 words long, by far the shortest in history. (Despite his reputation for taciturnity, “Silent Cal” Coolidge gave a speech of more than 4,000 words in 1925.)
The longest Inaugural Address was more than 8,000 words long and given by William Henry Harrison in 1841. Harrison delivered it in an hour and 45 minutes outdoors in freezing weather. (Afterward, Harrison shook hands with admirers for three hours. He caught a cold, which became pneumonia, and then, a month after the ceremony, he died.)
What Are Some Famous Lines from Inauguration Day Addresses?
• Abraham Lincoln’s address called for “charity for all” and “malice towards none” when the Civil War ended.
• Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
• John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
What Else Happens on Inauguration Day?
After the oath and the address comes the celebrating: Typically, the newly inaugurated president reviews a parade and attends a lot of parties. In 2021, things will be slightly different: the parade will be virtual and feature performances from around the country.
How Can Citizens Celebrate Inauguration Day?
The U.S. flag can be flown on all days, but it should be flown on Inauguration Day. Learn more about how to display the U.S. flag.
How Have Presidential Inauguration Day Events Changed Over the Years?
The way we celebrate the beginning of a new Presidency has grown in size, pomp, and expense.
- George Washington was invited to a ball a week after his 1789 inauguration.
- The first official Inaugural Ball took place in 1809 at Long’s Hotel in Washington, after the first inauguration of James Madison. First Lady Dolley Madison was the hostess, and tickets cost $4.
- Since then, the number of balls has multiplied, with one exception: Woodrow Wilson did not like to dance, so his inauguration had no ball.
What Happens if Inauguration Day Is on a Sunday?
In years when Inauguration Day falls on a Sunday, the new president is sworn in at a private ceremony on January 20, and the public ceremony is postponed to January 21.
Who Pays for the Inauguration Day Events?
Taxpayers pay only for the swearing-in ceremony. The cost of all that follows it is borne by private donors.
Has There Been Any Unusual Weather on Inauguration Day?
Bad weather has not only disrupted several inaugurations, it was responsible for the deaths of one President and one First Lady.
- Bad weather and bad roads delayed Washington’s first inauguration until April 30, 1789.
- In 1841, Harrison gave the longest inaugural speech in history (1 hour, 45 minutes) outdoors in freezing weather, developed pneumonia, and died one month later.
- In 1853, at the snowy inauguration of President Pierce, outgoing First Lady Abigail Fillmore also caught a cold that led to pneumonia and death a few weeks later.
- Probably the worst weather occurred during the 1909 inauguration of President Taft. Powerful winds and a 10-inch snowfall forced the ceremony indoors and thousands of workers shoveled 58,000 tons of snow off the parade route. The Old Farmer’s Almanac had predicted “Strenuous winds and perhaps snow.”
What’s the Weather Forecast for Inauguration Day 2021?
Inauguration Day Recipes
Looking to celebrate Inauguration Day? Add one or two of these Presidential treats to your menu!
- President George Washington’s Eggnog
- President Warren G. Harding’s Limburger Cheese Spread
- Onion Sandwich, a favorite of President Calvin Coolidge
- A salad with President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Green Goddess Dressing
- Peanut Butter Cookies (President James A. Garfield spoke enthusiastically about peanut butter)
- President Coolidge’s Lemon Custard Pie
What fun fact above did you find most interesting? We welcome your comments below.