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President-elect Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the nation’s 44th president on January 20, an occasion steeped in over two centuries of American history and tradition.
On that day, he will take the oath of office, promising to “faithfully execute the office of President of the United States” and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
That oath and other inaugural rituals, including an inaugural address, were established during the country’s first presidential inauguration of George Washington on April 30, 1789. While the significance of the day’s key events remain largely unchanged, the particulars of and the festivities surrounding the occasion have evolved.
In 1809, James Madison held the first inaugural ball. By 1841, the largely military parade had become a civic celebration including floats and bands. Warren G. Harding, in 1921, was the first president to ride in an automobile to his inauguration. Franklin D. Roosevelt began the tradition of attending a morning church service prior to inaugural events; also in 1933, the 20th Amendment was ratified, declaring that the President’s term of office shall begin on January 20 in the year following the election.
Our January Spotlight of the Month commemorates more than two centuries of presidential inaugurations, surveying past Inauguration Days and highlighting the inauguration of Barack Obama, themed “A New Birth of Freedom.” Articles and Web sites include:
1. Presidential Inaugurations
2. Election 2008 Timeline
3. The Obama Story: The Improbable Journey
4. Armed Forces Inaugural Committee Prepares to Welcome New President
5. Confident Reagan Takes Over
I Do Solemnly Swear | Presidential Inaugurations