How Are U.S. Presidents Inaugurated?

Formerly occurring on March 4th, now the United States inaugurates newly elected Presidents on a January 20th or 21st.

US Presidential Inauguration Ceremony

The presidential inauguration is the ceremony that each President participates in before beginning the four-year terms in office they have been elected to. This event, held on January 20th, marks the end of the previous presidential term and the beginning of the new presidency. On this day, the new President officially takes office at noon. Few points describing how to carry out an inauguration are defined by the Constitution, with the exception of the words of the oath and the date of the ceremony.

What Happens on Inauguration Day?

This traditional ceremony has only one constitutionally mandated component, and that is the taking of the presidential oath of office. Before the public ceremony begins, however, the incumbent President has some final duties in office. One of these duties includes issuing pardons, which absolve convicted persons of crimes. In addition, custom dictates that the outgoing President leave a note for the incoming President. This note is congratulatory in nature. After these final duties, the President-elect and family arrive at the White House and share a morning coffee with the current presidential family.

When this cordial meeting has finished, the two proceed to the United States Capitol's inauguration grounds. The Vice President-elect takes the oath before the new President and then the US Marine Band plays two songs. This finishes just before noon, when the Chief Justice of the US administers the presidential oath of office. After swearing in, the new President gives the inaugural speech.

Once the speech is finished, the Vice President and President are invited to a Congressional luncheon. This lunch is held by the US Congress in Statuary Hall. The departing President and Vice President do not attend.

After having lunch, the new President then parades down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol towards the White House, often walking part of the way. The inaugural parade then continues down Pennsylvania Avenue, which is viewed by the newly sworn in officials and their families from the North Lawn of the White House.

History of US Presidential Inaugurations

The history of US presidential inaugurations began with George Washington, who took the oath for the first time on April 30th, 1789 in New York City. At that time, New York City was the capital of the newly formed country. For his second term, the inauguration took place on March 4, 1793. By 1801, Washington DC had been established as the nation’s capital and Thomas Jefferson holds the distinction of being the first President sworn in there. He was re-elected and in 1805, he rode a horse from the Capitol to the presidential residence. This action was the basis for the inauguration parade that takes place today. March 4th continued to be observed as the inauguration day until the second swearing-in of Franklin Roosevelt on January 20, 1937. This change was due to the 20th amendment to the Constitution, which amended the 12th amendment and shortened the time that a public official would serve after the election.

Significance of the Presidential Inauguration

Today, the inauguration signifies much more than a person assuming their role as President of the United States. It has grown into an important celebration that reaffirms the democratic system and function of the country. The celebration provides a way to remember the history of the nation and marks a peaceful transfer of presidential power.

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