Every four years, sometimes eight, a new President of the United States is sworn into office on a particular date: January 20th. That ceremony is called the Presidential Inauguration and it takes place on the steps of the United States capitol building in Washington D.C.
The first Inauguration Day was held in New York City in 1789 as President George Washington took the first oath of office on the steps of the City Hall in New York City. For his second term, Washington took the oath of office in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, which was the nation’s first capitol, as did President John Adams. When Thomas Jefferson became president, he took the oath of office in the Senate Chambers of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. President James Madison did likewise, and it was at his inauguration that the first inauguration ball was held.
There are many traditions involved in inauguration day ceremonies, including the participation of all branches of the American military branches. The oath of office is taken on the steps of the capitol at exactly noon, and is administered to the President by the Chief Justice of the United States. The Chief Justice recites the oath, which the President then repeats: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
After the president completes the oath of office, military bands play ‘Hail to the Chief’, followed by a twenty-one Howitzer gun salute. The President then makes a speech, some which last longer than others, which is followed, since 1953, by a luncheon held by Congress members.
Since the early 1800’s it’s been a tradition that the president then travel down Pennsylvania Avenue from the steps of the Capitol building to the White House, either by carriage, car or walking, as President Jimmy Carter did in 1977. The parade has been held every inauguration day since 1805, except in 1985 following President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration due to frigid temperatures.
The entire inauguration ceremony usually lasts ten days, with five days before and following the inauguration day ceremonies. Many security agencies are charged with keeping the peace and ensuring the safety of government officials, including the Secret Service, the Capitol Police, and the Police Department of the District of Columbia. Inaugural balls are held and attended by leaders and representatives from nations around the globe. It’s a time when Washington D.C. shines, and politicians and their families make appearances and speeches.
Generally, Inauguration Day is a time for all American’s, no matter what political party they belong to, to accept and recognize the new President of the United States. All Americans honor the position of the President and understand the traditions and solemnity due to the occasion, even those who didn’t vote for the President now in office. Especially in Washington D.C., red, white and blue decorations and banners line city streets, especially Pennsylvania Avenue, and the United States Capitol and White House are duly groomed and decorated.
Many schools and businesses have televisions available for people to watch the incoming president take the oath of office and listen to his speech, which often offers an indication to the citizens of America how the incoming president intends to take leadership of one of the greatest nations in the world.
Inauguration Day is unique to America, one that clearly illustrates to the world at large that once the vote for president has been cast, Americans stand united no matter which political party they belong to. Opposing party members may not agree with every decision or personal style of any individual president, but all look to the presidential office as one that belongs to their elected leader and Commander-in-Chief.