Jan-20: Inauguration Day
The 20th Amendment to the Constitution moved the start and ending day for the Presidency from March 4th to January 20th. So starting with Franklin Roosevelt’s second term (left), Presidents have begun their term not in the hopeful spring of March but in the often bitter cold of January. Where the 20th falls on a Sunday, tradition has been to have a private swearing in ceremony on the 20th and then a public inauguration on the 21st.
Notable inaugurals include:
First televised inauguration.
First color televised inauguration, as well first Catholic and youngest President to take office. His speech remains one of the most quoted speeches of the 20th century.
President Carter broke with tradition by getting out of the limousine and walking the last part of the parade route. It has now become a semi-tradition for Presidents to get out and walk some portion of the parade route.
It was first inaugural on the West front of the Capitol and warmest on record. More importantly, the 52 U.S. embassy workers being held hostage in Iran were released just after President Reagan took the oath of office.
Reagan’s second inaugural was also the coldest inaugural – a mere 7 °F at noon. Wind chill temperatures fell into the -10°F to -20°F range in the afternoon. The bitter cold forced the proceedings indoors where Reagan took the oath in the Capitol Rotunda.
1989 (George H.W. Bush)
Bush’s inauguration fell on the bicentennial of the inauguration of George Washington. Like Presidents Harding, Eisenhower and Carter before him, Bush was sworn-in using the Washington Bible along with a family Bible. He is the last President to do so, although it was intended to be used for President George W. Bush’s inaugural in 2001 but inclement weather prevented it from being used.
Clinton became the first Democrat since FDR to win a second-term and his second inaugural was the first inaugural to be available over the Internet.
2009 (Barack Obama)
It was a day of first – the first black president and the first woman to emcee the ceremony (Senator Dianne Feinstein). There was great concern that temperatures might reach record lows and force the ceremony indoors, which would be a huge problem since it had the largest attendance of any event in the history of the nation’s capitol. In the end it was 28° (but -6.50° with windchill).
The day was memorable also because Chief Justice Roberts flubbed the oath of office requiring a redo at the White House later that week.