This day marks the first day of the four-year presidential term, swearing in the elected president and vice president at noon on January 20.
Inauguration day consists of a swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol put on by the Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies followed by a parade. It is not considered a public holiday, but many schools and workplaces watch the inauguration on television.
The first inauguration took place on April 30, 1789, after George Washington’s election. Franklin Roosevelt’s March 4th inauguration in 1937 was the last ceremony to take place on this date; since then, it has been observed on January 20th.
The typical schedule of events starts with the vice president’s swearing in, after which the vice presidential song, “Hail, Columbia,” is played by bugles and drums. The president is then sworn in at noon, followed by “Hail to the Chief,” a 21-gun salute, and an inaugural address. Afterward, Congress hosts a luncheon and the president walks down Pennsylvania Avenue with the parade. If inauguration day falls on a Sunday, the ceremony is private, followed by a public ceremony the next day.
The oath of affirmation is the only part of the ceremony that is mandated by the constitution. In the case of a new president mid-term due to death or another reason that causes the president to leave their post, only the oath is administered.
Other elements include song performances and poetry readings. The ceremony’s actual location as varied, taking place on the Capitol’s East Portico from Presidents Jackson to Carter, moved to the Capitol’s West Front in Reagan’s inauguration in 1981.
Inauguration Day Facts
- Attendees typically include government workers, including members of Congress, the Supreme Court, military officers, ex-presidents, and award recipients. Traditionally, the outgoing president attends the ceremonies.
- The phrase, “so help me God,” at the end of the presidential oath was improvised by George Washington.
- Traditionally, the oath is taken on a bible, sometimes the George Washington Inaugural Bible, but the Constitution does not name a specific text that the president must take the oath with.
- President Barack Obama’s inauguration was the most widely attended event in Washington, DC. This ceremony also featured the first female MC, Senator Dianne Feinstein.
- President Harrison gave the longest inauguration address in 1841 during a snowstorm, refusing to move the ceremony inside in order to prove his resiliency. He caught a cold, which turned into pneumonia, dying 31 days after taking office.
- The oath is often given by a Chief Justice or another high-ranking official. Chief Justice John Marshall holds the record of giving 9 presidential oaths.
- Theodore Roosevelt is the only president that did not use a Bible for the oath, sworn in after the assassination of President McKinley.
- George Washington gave the shortest inaugural address at 135 words.
- McKinley’s inauguration in 1897 was the first to be video recorded. Truman’s inauguration in 1949 was the first to be televised.