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01202013-1This week, Washington D.C. hosts a series of events that celebrate the fifty-seventh inauguration of the President of the United States. Barack Obama will officially be sworn in for his second term on Monday, January 21, 2013. It is the final step on a journey that began over a year ago on the campaign trail, and barring unforeseen events, it is a celebration that the nation marks only every four years.

How does the United States celebrate the inauguration of the President? This week you will travel to Washington, D.C. and back in time as you toggle between several resource-rich websites to discover more about this historic event.

Behind the Scenes—

01202013-4The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) is responsible for planning and implementing the swearing-in ceremony and Inaugural luncheon. Do you wonder who serves on the JCCIC and how they are selected? Visit the JCCIC Inaugural website for a complete look at the day’s agenda and history. Learn more about how the Inaugural events have changed over time. For a peek at some historic Inaugural moments, read the Facts, First, and Precedents.

Inauguration Day is most often marked by nine events. Discover the role of worship in the day’s events and some of the protocols for the procession to the Capitol. Who administers the oath of office to the Vice-President? Every facet of Inauguration Day is marked by decorum, even the departures of the out-going President and Vice-President.

01202013-9What is a celebration without food? Inauguration Day features a luncheon. Consider how the menu is selected and predict what might be eaten at lunch this year. Check to see if you are right; view this year’s menu. Perhaps you are tempted by the butternut squash puree or the cinnamon crumble; click menu items listed in blue to reveal the recipe. Peek into the room where lunch will be served and watch a video clip of President Obama’s first luncheon in 2009. Do you recognize anyone who attended the luncheon?

01202013-10Inauguration Day is a momentous occasion. It is the kind of event you commemorate with a parade. The first Inauguration Day parades served a practical purpose: escorting the President to the Capitol. Today, the Inaugural Parade celebrates the new President with pomp and circumstance. View the parade route on page six of the Associated Press interactive, Presidential Inauguration. A traditional part of the Inaugural Parade is a marching band. Hop over to the Smithsonian website to hear about the Marine Band, the band that has played during many of the Inauguration Day Parade. The evening commences with an Inaugural Ball, or two, or ten, depending on the year.

A President is not sworn-in every day and, because it has national and international significance, it may be worthy of hoopla. However, the hoopla must be paid for. What segments are paid for with public funds and what segments are paid for with private funds? Revisit the Associated Press interactive. This time, turn to page two, Paying for the Inauguration. Use the menu on the left margin to explore which monies pay for this event.

 I Do Solemnly Swear—

01202013-2The swearing-in ceremony has a long history and includes several pieces. For a primer on the swearing-in ceremony, watch the Associated Press video (page four). Read about the Presidential swearing-in ceremony. According to the Presidential oath of office, what is the primary responsibility of the President? Historically, who may administer the oath of office?

Monday’s event is the 57th Inaugural Ceremony. However, 69 Presidents have been sworn into office. How do you explain the discrepancy? Do you wonder about the Bibles used during the swearing-in ceremony? They are not all the same. Return to the Smithsonian for a video tour of other inauguration artifacts.

Take a moment to think about the Inaugural stage. The platform that literally holds the Inauguration Ceremony is constructed anew every four years. See photographs and read Fun Facts about it.

01202013-5In 1961, a new Inaugural tradition was born when poet Robert Frost read a poem during the ceremony. Joining the President on the stage this year will be poet Robert Blanco. Listen to his conversation with Jeffrey Brown of PBS’ Newshour.

01202013-11Perhaps the most notable piece of the Inauguration Ceremony is the Inaugural address, a speech in which the new President shares his vision for his tenure in office. Read the Inaugural Address given by President Obama in 2009. How do you expect it may compare to the Address he gives on Monday? Read one other Inaugural Address. How does that speech reflect the times? What themes are in that speech and in President Obama’s? What
are some key words used in Inauguration speeches since 1900 (page one)? Which of these do you predict will be a part of President Obama’s speech?


This year’s inauguration theme, Faith in America’s Future, remembers the 150th anniversary of both the Emancipation Proclamation and the placement of the Statue of Freedom on the Capitol Dome. Why do you believe (or not) this is fitting theme for this year’s inauguration? How might President Obama’s speech align with this theme?

What does it look like when all these Inaugural events are put together? Watch one video of an Inaugural Ceremony. Compare notes with a classmate. Test your newfound knowledge of Inauguration history; turn to page five of the Associated Press suite of features.

The Inaugural Ceremony is full of tradition; however, the day is also unique to each President—from the menu, to the Inaugural Address, from symbolic changes in venue or Bibles, to new pieces such as poetry. It is at once an historic event that unfolds a new route for a nation, and one man's final destination-- The Presidency.