Change Is In The Air

Our country will undergo a major change this week.  The 58th United States Presidential Inauguration on Friday, January 20th, will see our 45th president, Donald Trump, sworn into office.

The word inauguration means “beginning” or “a ceremony to mark the beginning of something” or “the formal admission of someone to office.” I found it interesting that the word inauguration comes from the word, “augury” which is the ancient practice of predicting the future.  If only we could.

January 20th became our official Inauguration Day in 1933 with passage of the 20th Amendment. While Inauguration Day is a federal holiday, it is not a public holiday.  This means that only government employees in Washington D.C. observe it.  In years where January 20th falls on a Sunday, the Presidential Inauguration is held on Monday, January 21st.

The very first presidential inauguration for George Washington was held on April 30, 1789 in New York City, which was serving as the capital of the United States at that time. The city of Philadelphia was also a temporary inauguration site for Presidents Adams and Jefferson, but from the year 1801 until now, our presidential inaugurations have been held in Washington D.C.  beside the United States Capital Building.

The only event required by the U.S. Constitution on Inauguration Day, is the swearing in of the new president at noon.  After the recitation of the Oath of Office, the president-elect becomes the president and the day marks the start of his or her term in office.

The actual Oath of Office is usually administered to the incoming president by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Our current Chief Justice, the Honorable John Roberts, will lead President-elect Trump with the Oath of Office:

“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.”

So far, all presidents except Franklin Pierce, our 14th U.S. President, have chosen to “swear” rather than “affirm” the Oath of Office.

In our United States history, only one man has served both as President and as U.S. Supreme Court Justice.  William Howard Taft served as President from 1909 to 1913, then as the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1921 to 1930, until he resigned because of poor health.  He administered the Oath of Office to Calvin Coolidge for Coolidge’s second term as president in 1925.  This was the first presidential inauguration to be broadcast nationally on the radio.

Before the Oath of Office will be administered to President-elect Donald Trump, it will first be administered to Vice President-elect Michael R. Pence by Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas.  Justice Thomas (who has served on the Supreme Court for 25 years) will become the first African American Supreme Court Justice ever to administer the Oath of Office to a United States President-elect or Vice President-elect.

While it is not required by the U.S. Constitution, presidents usually take the Oath of Office with their left hand on a Bible.  Some presidents have taken the Oath of Office on a closed Bible, some have opened the Bible to a random page, and yet others took their Oaths of Office with the Bible opened to a verse that was personally significant to them.

Franklin Pierce and John Quincy Adams didn’t use a Bible but swore their oaths on law books.  Lyndon Johnson swore his oath on a Catholic Missal that was found on Air Force One after President John Kennedy’s assassination.

Theodore Roosevelt used no book at all, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, George H. W. Bush, and Barack Obama used two Bibles.  It has been reported that President-elect Trump who is Presbyterian, will also use two Bibles…the Lincoln Bible from the Library of Congress and the Bible given to him by his mother in 1955.

After the Oaths of Office are taken, it’s traditional for the new president to give an inaugural address. George Washington’s second inaugural address was 135 words long, and was the shortest one in United States history.

In 1841, William Henry Harrison gave the longest inaugural address of any new president.  It was 8000 words and lasted for an hour and 45 minutes.  He then shook hands with the public for three hours.  After being out in the cold for so long, President Harrison came down with pneumonia and died a month after taking office.

Once the inaugural ceremony is over, the celebrations usually include a luncheon, a parade and inaugural balls.  The first official Inaugural Ball took place in 1809 after the inauguration of James Madison. First Lady Dolley Madison was the hostess, and tickets cost just $4.  The only president to not have an inaugural ball was Woodrow Wilson.  President Wilson didn’t like to dance, so his inauguration had no ball.

For the new President Trump, there will be a parade with 8000 participants down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House on Friday afternoon, then three official inaugural balls that evening.  There will be two hours of live television coverage of two of the balls, the “Liberty Ball” and the “Freedom Ball.”

The third ball is “The Salute To Our Armed Services Ball” and is by invitation only for military personnel and families.  The new President-elect and Mrs. Trump and Vice President-elect and Mrs. Pence plan to attend all three inaugural balls.

If you plan to watch the swearing in ceremony, it will be held at noon Eastern Standard Time.  It’s also customary for Americans to fly their flags on Inauguration Day and we will be flying ours proudly in support of this great country!


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