How Are U.S. Presidents Inaugurated?

U.S. President Barack Obama taking the Oath of Office on January 20th 2009.
U.S. President Barack Obama taking the Oath of Office on January 20th 2009.

U.S. Presidential Inauguration Ceremony

The presidential inauguration is the ceremony that a U.S. president must partake in before beginning their four-year term in office. This event, held on January 20th or 21st, marks the end of the previous presidential term and the beginning of a new presidency. On this day, the new president officially takes office at noon. The constitution identifies a few points describing how to the inauguration ought to be carried out, 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 leaves 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 incumbent presidential family.

When this cordial meeting is finished, the two proceed to the United States Capitol's inauguration grounds. The vice president-elect takes the oath before the new president afterwhich the US Marine Band plays two songs. This finishes just before noon, when the Chief Justice of the U.S. administers the presidential oath of office. After swearing in ceremony takes place, 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 parades down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol towards the White House, often walking part of the way. The inaugural parade 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 U.S. Presidential Inaugurations

U.S. 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 4th 1793. By 1801, Washington DC had been established as the nation’s capital and Thomas Jefferson holds the honor of being the first president sworn in there. President Jefferson was re-elected and in 1805, he rode a horse from the Capitol to the presidential residence. This event 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 could 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 triumph of democracy in the U.S. The celebration provides a way to remember the history of the nation and marks a peaceful transfer of presidential power.


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