January 20, 2009 will be a historical date in this nation’s history as the 44th President, and the first African-American President, is inaugurated.
There is little doubt, this will be the most expensive inauguration in our nation’s history. And it will be the most policed with security coming from 96 agencies throughout the country as well as 4,000 troops from the Pentagon and those from Washington, D.C.
Although the Constitution was silent on the exact date for the
first inauguration, it was the founding fathers’ intent to have it
coincide with the effective date of the Constitution, which was Mar. 4,
An extremely harsh winter made travel conditions
very difficult that winter. Votes proclaiming George Washington the
first president and John Adams, vice president, weren’t finally tallied
until Apr. 6, 1789. After that, Washington needed time to make the
journey from his home in Virginia. Thus, it wasn’t until Apr. 30, 1789
that the first inauguration was held.
Ratification of the 12th
Amendment in 1804 changed the way the Electoral College was elected.
That amendment also set aside Mar. 4 as the date for a new
administration to take office. While the president took office in
March, newly elected Congressman who were voted into office in
November, would not be required to take office until the following
December (one+ year hence.) That regulation was changed to Jan. 20 with
the 20th Amendment. That amendment requires the inauguration to be held
two weeks after the Electoral College meets and also made the date for
newly elected Congress to coincide with the Jan. 20 date.
Inauguration day is a marathon event. It begins with a worship
service. That is followed by a drive to the White House where at 11
a.m. the president-elect and out-going President share a few words,
perhaps over a cup of coffee, before going to the Capitol for the
Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in
Orange County, California will deliver the opening prayer followed by a
song performed by Aretha Franklin. Following tradition, Obama has
commissioned a new piece of music. The piece is by John Williams, who
also write the music for Obama’s election night. It will be played by
world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Johyn Roberts will lead
President-elect Barack Obama to office of President Barack Obama with
the Oath of Office at 12 noon. Obama will take the Oath on the same
bible used by Abraham Lincoln at his first inauguration in 1861.
The oath, found in Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution reads:
"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the
President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability,
preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,"
(Note, some presidents have added So help me God.)
Following the oath military bands will play "Hail to the Chief," followed by a 21-gun salute.
President Obama will then deliver his inaugural address. The nation
will probably be more interested in his address than they have speeches
of recent presidents. This is expected to be when President Obama sets
the course for the next four years.
speech, a poem from poet Yale professor Elizabeth Alexander will be
deliver and Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, minister and civil rights
leader, will deliver a closing prayer.
The vice president elect, Senator Joe Biden, will have taken his oath of office prior to the president.
Former President Bush and his wife will officially leave prior to the
luncheon. They may leave by helicopter for Andrews Air Force Base or
by car to the base.
Following swearing in of the
president and vice-president, the Joint Congressional Committee on
Inaugural Ceremonies hosts a luncheon. This event had over 2,000 guests
in 1945 when President and mrs. Roosevelt were hosts. After that, it
was no longer hosted by the White House and has been considerably
President Obama and Vice-President Biden,
their wives and families will make their way to the White House to
observe the traditional parade. Some 2 ½ million are expected to line
the parade route.
The tradition of an Inaugural Parade
began with the first president, although its journey was a bit
different . That event began in Mount Vernon and ended at the
inauguration in New York City. Along the way various groups joined in.
The first parade in the new capitol, Washington, D.C., was in 1801 when
Thomas Jefferson was sworn in for the first time.
Events on this day are steeped in tradition. Among them is the
military music performed by the U.S. Marine Band. They have played at
every inauguration since 1805.
The first actually organized parade was in 1809 when James Madison was inaugurated.
Only once has the parade been cancelled and that was in 1985, at
President Regan’s second inauguration. The weather conditions were too
dangerous. The largest parade was in 1953 when Dwight D. Eisenhower
took the Oath of Office. It last 4½ hours and included 73 bands. The
limit today is 15,000 participants.
The day is far from
over. President Obama and Michelle are expected to make an appearance
at evening events, which will include 10 balls. There were nine balls
in 2005 for former President Bush.
The tradition of the
inaugural ball began with First Lady Dolly Madison in 1809 . On that
occasion 400 tickets were sold for $4 each. The tradition of several
balls began until James Buchanan was inaugurated in 1857 when a
temporary ballroom was constructed for one grand event.
In 1921, president Warren Harding requested that the Inaugural
committee do away with ball and the parade, hoping to set an example of
simplicity, and being mindful of costs. Actually, the chair of the
committee hosted a huge private party at his home. Charity balls became
fashionable through the inaugurations of Presidents Coolidge, Hoover
and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In 1949, President Harry S.
Truman revived the ball. President Carter tried to change the ball to a
party and only charged $25 per person. President Clinton changed that
and actually there were 14 balls in 1997.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent