President Barack Obama's first term officially came to an end at noon E.S.T. Monday (well, technically, Sunday) and his second term begins as he was sworn in on the steps of the Capitol Building.
Monday caps off the busy weekend of celebrations and ceremony marking the 57th presidential inauguration, which included a National Day of Service on Saturday, the official swearing-in ceremonies of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday, and a a slew of inaugural balls, although fewer than four years ago.
But the main events take place Monday, beginning in the late morning when musical performances and other festivities bookended the presidential and vice presidential oaths of office and President Obama delivered his inaugural remarks.
When he put his left hand on the Lincoln Bible Monday, President Obama made history.
He became just the second president to be sworn in four times, except, unlike President Franklin D. Roosevelt, it wasn't because he served four terms.
At Obama's first inauguration four years ago, Chief Justice Roberts famously stumbled over the timing of the oath of office. Citing fears that detractors would use the mistake to challenge the legitimacy of Obama's presidency, Roberts returned to the White House the next day for a do-over, just to make sure.
This year, Obama said the oath twice again, but at least this time, it will be on purpose. The Constitution mandates that the presidential term begin on January 20th, but because that date fell on a Sunday this year, the public ceremony was be held Monday the 21st.
The official oath took place on schedule Sunday in the Blue Room at the White House, with just the first family, Chief Justice Roberts, and a few invited guests present.
This time, Obama and Roberts made sure to coordinate--even exchanging a copy of an oath card, complete with exact punctuation and emphasis--to avoid any errors.
"I did it!" Obama said to his younger daughter, Sasha, after the ceremony.
"You didn't mess up!" she responded.
On Monday, Obama maybe stumbled over the word "state", but it's unlikely anyone will challenge the legitimacy of his oath.
Place your left hand on the bible…
For his second inauguration, President Obama selected three Bibles to use for his oath of office: the Robinson family Bible, the Lincoln Bible and Martin Luther King's traveling Bible.
Presidents have historically chosen bibles (or even law books) of personal significance, sometimes closed, but often open to a particularly meaningful passage.
For his first inaugural ceremony, Obama chose the Lincoln Bible, the book on which Abraham Lincoln swore his oath of office in 1861. With the outbreak of the Civil War imminent, Lincoln was smuggled into Washington under the cloak of darkness, and his procession to the Capitol was surrounded by heavily-armed guards.
His belongings had yet to arrive, so the chief justice sent the clerk of the Supreme Court, William Thomas Carroll, to find a bible on which the president-elect would swear his oath.
President Obama was the first president (aside from Lincoln) to use Lincoln's Bible, a small book, bound in burgundy velvet with gilded pages, which is kept at the Library of Congress.
For Sunday's official swearing-in, Obama chose to use the Robinson family Bible, an heirloom from Michelle Obama's family.
According to the inaugural committee, the bible was a gift from Michelle's father, Fraser Robinson II, to his mother, Michelle Obama's grandmother, LaVaughn Delores Robinson, for Mother's Day in 1958. LaVaughn Robinson was the first African-American manager at a Moody Bible Institute bookstore.
On Monday, President Obama again used the Lincoln Bible and the 'traveling bible' belonging to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stacked one over the other. Both bibles were be closed, rather than open to a specific verse, when Obama took the oath of office Monday, as was the Robinson Bible on Sunday.
Anything but trivial…
The quadrennial celebration of a presidential inauguration, so full of pomp and circumstance, is ripe for trivia.
Here are some of the fun ones:
President George Washington's first inauguration took place on April 30, 1789.
From his second inauguration in 1793 until 1937, for Roosevelt's second term the subsequent ceremonies took place on March 4--the date on which the Constitution took effect in 1789--with a few exceptions.
- Four inaugurations (James Monroe's second term, Zachary Taylor, Rutherford B. Hayes and Woodrow Wilson's second term) were held on March 5, thanks to March 4 falling on a Sunday.
- Six inaugurations were held on other days, when a vice president was sworn in following the death of the president: John Tyler on April 6, 1841 (death of William H. Harrison), Millard Fillmore on July 10, 1850 (death of Zachary Taylor), Andrew Johnson on April 15, 1865 (assassination of Abraham Lincoln), Chester Arthur on September 20, 1881 (assassination of James Garfield), Theodore Roosevelt September 14, 1901 (assassination of William McKinley), and Calvin Coolidge on August 3, 1923 (death of Warren G. Harding).
In 1933, the Twentieth Amendment was ratified, setting the terms of elected federal offices and moving the end of the presidential term to January 20, with the intent of reducing the time between the election and the start of the new term.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1957, and Ronald Reagan in 1985 are the only other presidents to be sworn in on January 21, each for his second term.
- Three other inaugurations were held on other days following the death--and in one case, resignation--of the president: Harry S. Truman on April 12, 1945 (death of Franklin D. Roosevelt), Lyndon Baines Johnson on November 22, 1963 (assassination of John F. Kennedy) and Gerald Ford on August 9, 1974 (resignation of Richard Nixon).
Washington's second inaugural was the shortest address given at an inauguration at just 135 words.
William Henry Harrison, in 1841, delivered the longest address, 8,500 words, and paid the ultimate price: he refused to wear a coat, caught pneumonia and died a just a month into his term.
Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution gives the specific wording for the oath of office. It says:
"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."
Only Franklin Pierce and Herbert Hoover chose the word "affirm" instead of "swear" when taking their oaths.
Just two presidents (that we know) have chosen to use books other than a bible for their oaths: John Quincy Adams, who used a book of U.S. law, and Lyndon Johnson, who was sworn in aboard Air Force One following the assassination of Kennedy. Johnson used a missal--a book used for Catholic Mass--found on a side table in Kennedy's Air Force One bedroom.
Thomas Jefferson, on March 4, 1801, became the first president inaugurated in Washington.
James Madison, on March 4, 1809, became the first president for whom there was an inaugural ball held.
Andrew Jackson, on March 4, 1829, became the first president inaugurated outside the Capitol Building, on the East Portico.
James Buchanan, on March 4, 1857, became the first president whose inauguration was photographed.
William McKinley, on March 4, 1897, became the first president whose inauguration was recorded by motion picture cameras.
Harry S. Truman, on January 20, 1949, became the first president inaugurated in a televised ceremony.
Jimmy Carter, on January 20, 1976, became the first president to walk from the Capitol to the White House.
Ronald Reagan, on January 20, 1981, became the first president inaugurated on the West Front of the Capitol building.
Bill Clinton, on January 20, 1997, became the first president inaugurated in a ceremony live-streamed online.
Attending the inauguration
Downtown Washington, D.C., will be extremely crowded Monday, but those attending inaugural events can get through the day with minimal hassle by keeping a few things in mind.
Know where to go...
Ticketed attendees should pay careful attention to which gate they are supposed to enter.
Guests with blue, gold, green, orange, yellow or red tickets must enter by one of the gates surrounding the Capitol, while non-ticketed attendees can find a place on the National Mall using the gates between 7th Street and 14th Street NW.
...and how to get there
Officials recommend using the Metro, rather than trying to drive in and park.
The Metro will open early, at 4 a.m. and close late, at 2 a.m. Tuesday.
Three stations--Archives, Mt. Vernon Square, and Smithsonian will all be closed Monday, and Pennsylvania Avenue will be closed between, including to pedestrian traffic, the Capitol and the White House for the parade.
The weather forecast anticipates cool and cloudy, but not miserable conditions on Monday. Wear plenty of warm layers and comfortable shoes for standing in long lines and security.
...because you'll be out there for a while.
Gates open at 7 a.m. and the musical prelude begins at 10 a.m. Expect long lines and several security screenings.
Food and drinks will not be available for purchase within the ticketed perimeter (non-ticketed areas may have access to food trucks), so bring something to snack on--but not a whole picnic. Thermoses are not allowed.
Restrooms--well, port-a-potties--have been set up throughout the ticketed and non-ticketed areas.
Make sure to leave items on the prohibited list at home so you don't have to throw them away, or prevented from entering the viewing areas.
- Firearms and ammunition (either real or simulated)
- Explosives of any kind (including fireworks)
- Knives, blades, or sharp objects (of any length), including pocket or hand tools, such as the “Leatherman”
- Mace and/or pepper spray
- Sticks, poles, or sign supports
- Packages, backpacks, large bags, suitcases
- Thermoses or coolers
- Laser pointers
- Signs or posters
- Animals (other than service animals)
- Alcoholic beverages
- Aerosol sprays
- Glass containers
- Air horns
- Non-ADA portable chairs
- Other items that may pose a threat to the security of the event as determined by and at the discretion of the security screeners.
Watch the parade
Ticketed attendees can follow designated routes to the bleachers along the parade route (shown on their tickets) and doors open at 8 a.m.
Everyone else can watch the parade from the sidewalk, on a first-come, first-served basis. Those gates open at 6:30 a.m., and for a spot, you'll need to get there even earlier.
Entrance points to the parade route:
- 2nd Street NW and C Street NW
- John Marshall Park at C Street NW
- Indiana Avenue NW between 6th Street NW and 7th Street NW
- 7th Street NW and D Street NW
- 10th Street NW and E Street NW
- 12th Street NW and E Street NW
- 13th Street NW and E Street NW
- 14th Street NW and E Street NW
- 12th Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW
- 10th Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW
- 7th Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW
- Constitution Avenue NW between 6th Street NW and 7th Street NW
Stay safe, have fun, and good luck!