Did You Know…Inauguration Day

Published on
The White House grounds on September 28, 2012.

By Pam Teel

Did you know that Inauguration Day takes place January 20th following a presidential election? The term of a president commences at noon that day when the Chief Justice administers the oath to the President. If January 20th happens to fall on a Sunday, the Chief Justice will still administer the oath to the President privately and then again publicly the next day on the 21st.  President Obama’s second term presidency was administered on the 21st.

The inauguration element mandated by the United States Constitution is that the presidents make an oath or affirmation before that person can enter on the Execution of the Office of the Presidency. The length of the inauguration has considerably expanded over the years to include a day-long event, parades, speeches and balls.  Since the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981, the ceremony has been held at the Capital’s West Front and moved indoors in inclement weather. Since Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth swore in President John Adams, no chief justice has missed an inauguration day. The ceremony is to mark the commencement of a new four-year term of a President of the United States. An inauguration takes place for each term of a president, even if the president continues in office.

When a new president takes over mid-term due to death or resignation of a president, the oath of office is administered without the fanfare. William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States, served for only 31 days in office before dying of Pneumonia.  Even though there was a snowstorm, Harrison refused to move his inauguration indoors. Harrison delivered the longest inaugural address in history, which was nearly two hours long. Wearing no overcoat, scarf or hat, he aimed to prove that he was still a hardy general who could brave the elements. Shortly after, he came down with a cold that developed into pneumonia.  His running mate and vice president elect, John Tyler took over the presidency. You might remember his famous campaign slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.” Harrison’s grandson, Benjamin Harrison, became the 23rd president.

According to Jim Bendat, author of the book, Democracy’s Big Day, “In 1873, at Grant’s inaugural ball, it was a bitter cold night and someone forgot to heat the place. The food was too cold, and everyone was bumping into each other because they were dancing in their long overcoats. But, the saddest thing of all was someone got the idea of having canaries to merrily chirp away for the guests, but alas the poor canaries all froze to death.”

The most infamous vice presidential inaugural address in history was recorded to be Andrew Johnson’s in 1865. Johnson wasn’t feeling very well on Inauguration Day and drank whiskey as a medicinal. By the time he made his speech, he was sloshed and rambling incoherently. Talk about embarrassing.

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.

Here’s to the next four years of making America great again!