Presidential Inaugurations

What is a Presidential Inauguration?

It is a ceremony to mark the beginning of a new four-year term of the President of the United States.

When does a Presidential Inauguration Take Place?

The ceremony takes place for each new presidential term, even if the president is going to continue in office for a second term. Since 1937, the inauguration has taken place on January 20, which is 72 to 78 days after the November presidential election-which is on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

The term of a president begins at 12 noon on the day of the inauguration, when the Chief Justice of the United States has the new president recite the oath of office. However, if January 20th falls on a Sunday, the Chief Justice of the United States has the new president recite the oath in a private ceremony behind closed doors. Then, on the next day, Monday January 21, the new president recites the oath publicly at the inauguration ceremony.

Why is there an Inauguration?

The repeating of the presidential oath of office in public is the only component of an inauguration ceremony mandated by the United States Constitution in Article II, Section One, Clause 8 (read it for yourself here).

However, over the years, various traditions have been added to the inauguration ceremony. The inauguration went from a simple public oath-taking to a day-long event, including parades and many social gatherings.

Have you ever seen a presidential inauguration?    

Where is the Inauguration Held?

Since the 1981 inauguration of Ronald Reagan, the inauguration ceremony has been held at the west front of the United States Capitol facing the National Mall.

Other Places the Inauguration of the President has been Held

  • U.S. Capitol Building-54 times
    • East Portico-34 times
    • Hall of the House of Representatives-6 times
    • Senate Chamber-3 times
    • West Front-8 times
    • East Front of Original Senate Wing-1 time
    • President’s Room-1 time
    • Underneath the Rotunda-1 time
    • Vice President’s Room-1 time
  • White House-6 times
  • Old Brick Capitol (1st and A Streets in Washington, D.C., now the site of the Supreme Court Building)-1 time
  • Washington, D.C. (not in Capitol or White House)-2 times
  • Outside of Washington, D.C.-7times

Different Places at the U.S. Capitol where Inaugurations have Happened

The West Portico
The East Portico

The 10 Most Memorable Presidential Inaugurations

10 William Henry Harrison's First Inauguration (1841)

William Henry Harrison's first inauguration address was 8,000 words long! The speech took Harrison 2 hours to complete. While delivering this speech he did so without a hat and coat (with it raining). He contracted pneumonia and was dead 30 days later.

8 Woodrow Wilson's Second Inauguration (1917)

After winning reelection to a second term with the slogan ``He kept us out of the war,`` Wilson, in his second term, forgot the slogan and got the U.S. involved in World War I.

6 Ronald Reagan's First Inaugural (1981)

During his first presidential speech, he declared, ``government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.``

4 Barack Obama's First Inaugural (2009)

This speech is remembered for the historical moment it marked-the nation's first black president.

2 Franklin D. Roosevelt First Inaugural (1933)

Roosevelt's declaration that ``The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,`` was one of the most memorable quotes of the 20th Century, and inaugural addresses.

9 George W. Bush's First Inaugural (2001)

After a lengthy Florida vote recount process that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Bush was declared the winner more than a month after Election Day.

7 Harry Turman's First Inaugural (1949)

Officially marking the start of his first full four-year term, Truman drew a clear constrast between democracy and communism at the dawn of the Cold War during his speech.

5 Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural (1801)

The divide between the two political parties was getting bigger and President Jefferson used his inaugural to say, ``We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.``

3 John Kennedy's First Inaugural (1961)

This inaugural speech ushered in a new era in American politics by Kennedy announcing, ``As not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.``

1 Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural (1865)

The msot famous inaugural speech is among the shortest ever delivered at just 700 words. The historical significance of this inaugural was massive: the Civil War was about to end and Lincoln would be assassinated less than a month after this speech.

Listen to Some of the Actual Presidential Inauguration Speeches

President John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration Address, January 20, 1961

President Ronald Reagan’s First Inauguration Address, January 20, 1981

President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Inauguration Address, January 20, 1965

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Inauguration Address, March 4, 1933. (This was the last March inauguration. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution moved the date to January 20th.)

This is the oldest known recording of a presidential inauguration. President Benjamin Harrison 1889-1893

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Inauguration Address, January 20, 1953

Create Your Own Presidential Inaugural Address!

Use the worksheet below (you can click the download button and print out the form–or look for the “Printer Friendly” green button at the bottom of this webpage to print a copy) to construct your very own inaugural address.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://documents.historymuseumsb.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Give-an-Inaugural-Address.pdf”]