Hail to the Chief
Every four years, the U.S. celebrates the swearing-in of a president
President Obama became the first African-American President in 2008 and will be inaugurated this year on Martin Luther King Day. (Elise Amendola / AP Photo)
On Monday, January 21, Barack Obama will once again stand before the American people and recite the oath above, as delivered to him by the Chief Justice of the United States. This 57th inauguration of a U.S. president will mark the beginning of Obama’s second term.
His term actually begins a day earlier, on the date set by the Constitution. The 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, changed Inauguration Day from March 4 to January 20. If that date falls on a Sunday, as is the case this year, a private swearing-in is held that day, with the public ceremonies taking place the day after.
This year’s festivities fall on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday. So America’s first black president will take his oath on the same day the nation honors its greatest champion of civil rights.
After Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama are sworn in and make their speeches, the celebration will get under way, including a parade and inaugural balls. Whether a president is new or has been re-elected, the nation sees that, once again, it has carried out the Constitution’s ideals of free elections and a peaceful transition or continuation of power.
“The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries,” President Ronald Reagan said in his first inaugural address, in 1981. “Few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-four-years ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.”
The inauguration’s official theme is “Faith in America’s Future.” That future begins the moment the festivities end and Obama dives back into what’s been called “the world’s toughest job.” For example, he will have to work with a divided Congress.
As Obama told the nation after winning re-election in November, “In the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit; reforming our tax code; fixing our immigration system; freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do.”