Old black and white photo with crowd in front of White House. Warren G. Harding is standing in front.
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Top Photo: Inauguration of President Warren G. Harding in 1921 Photo credit: wikimedia.org

Every four years, the new President of the United States RECITES a 35-word oath and is sworn in to serve the country.

But why is it done this way? How is the date picked? Where does the oath come from?

The Constitution of the United States established both the words that are used in the oath and the date for Inauguration Day, March 4.

George Washington was first sworn in on April 30, 1789, in New York, but his second inauguration was held on March 4, 1793. Inaugurations were held on that date for many years, unless they fell on a Sunday or were administered in times of emergency. This date was originally selected so there was enough time after Election Day for votes to be counted and to allow the newly-elected candidate time to travel to the capital.

However, as technology and transportation improved over the years, the inauguration date was moved to Jan. 20 with the passage of the 20th Amendment in 1933.

Inauguration Facts:

· When is Inauguration Day? January 20

· How many words are in the oath? 35

· Who delivered the shortest speech? George Washington

· Who had the first parade? James Madison

After reciting the oath, the newly sworn-in president traditionally makes a speech known as an inaugural address. George Washington made the shortest speech in history, only 135 words, in 1793. William Henry Harrison’s speech was 8,445 words, and he spoke for one hour and 45 minutes at his inauguration in 1841!

After the ceremony, there’s a parade to kick off the festivities. The first organized parade was held in 1809 for James Madison. The parade is usually held rain or shine. William Taft’s inaugural parade was held during a blizzard in 1902, but the temperature was so frigid in 1985 that Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural parade was canceled.

After the parade, the celebrations continue indoors with inaugural balls, a tradition that also started with James Madison. Bill Clinton holds the record for having the most inaugural balls—there were 14 balls held to celebrate his second inauguration in 1997!

Edition: 
Phoenix
Tucson
Issue: 
December 2020