Presidential Inauguration Cheat Sheet
Make the inauguration of our first African-American president, Barack Obama, an interesting and memorable day for your children. Brush up on some inauguration facts and pick up some cool did-you-knows.
Laid Out in the Constitution
Did you know that the Constitution specifies not only the specific words — or oath — the president must make, but also the exact time of the ceremony? It's noon eastern standard time. The text of the presidential oath has remained the same: "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. So help me God." But some other details have varied over time.
- George Washington was first sworn in as president in New York City on March 4.
- Thomas Jefferson was the first president inaugurated in Washington, D.C., in 1801. By then the capitol had moved from New York.
- In 1937 the ceremony date finally landed on January 20 (FDR's second inauguration) after jumping around quite a bit.
- The inauguration now takes place on the steps of the United States Capitol.
- The oath is administered by the Chief Justice of the United States. The current Chief Justice is John Roberts.
The inaugural address has been an important American tradition because the president often uses it to set the tone of his presidency and to share his goals and vision with the American people. Some of the most famous political speeches have come in the form of inaugural address.
- First address: George Washington’s inauguration in 1789
- The longest address: William Henry Harrison in 1841, 8,445 words
- Shortest address: George Washington in 1793, 135 words
- Most memorable address (tie): "Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." —Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933; "And so my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” —John F. Kennedy, 1961
Additional extension activities:
- If You Were President Online Activity (ages 8–12)
- The White House (PDF): Fun coloring activity! (ages 4–7)
- The Story of the White House: Take a tour of the White House, and imagine with your child what it's like to live there. (ages 8–10)
- White House Facts Cheat Sheet (all ages)
Barack Obama will deliver the nation's 57th inaugural address when he is sworn in as the 44th president at noon eastern standard time on Tuesday, January 20, 2009. The event will be televised live on most major TV networks.