U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video

Presidential Inaugurations Past and Present: A Look at the History Behind the Pomp and Circumstance

Donald R. Kennon, Chief Historian, United States Capitol Historical Society
Foreign Press Center Briefing
Washington, DC
January 13, 2005

Donald Kennon at the FPC 2:00 P.M. EST

Real Audio of Briefing

MR. DENIG: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Welcome, also, to journalists assembled in our New York Foreign Press Center.

As the nation begins to focus on preparing for the presidential inauguration, the 55th in our history, we thought it would be useful to present to our journalists a historical briefing on the inaugurations. And so today we present a briefing on presidential inaugurations, past and present.

And we have an expert to talk about that. It's Dr. Donald Kennon, the Chief Historian with the United States Capitol Historical Society. Dr. Kennon will have opening remarks on the history of the inaugurations, and after that, will be very glad to take your questions.

Dr. Kennon.

DR. KENNON: Well, thank you very much. I thought what I would do would be to just briefly outline the day's events for the inauguration, what takes place; talk a little bit about why we do it the way we do it; and then give you some of my thoughts on what's significant about presidential inaugurations, how they have evolved in the history of our nation, and then take some questions from you, because I know you probably have many questions about the presidential inauguration and how it's handled in our nation.

Well, the first thing that will happen on January 20th, related to the inauguration, is a church service at St. John's Church, a church that's often referred to as the "Church of the Presidents." It's so near the White House that many presidents throughout history have attended that church and its services. The first time a president attended a church service before an inauguration was in 1933, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt went to a church service the morning of the inauguration. Now, for those of you who are reporters on American politics, you probably recognize Franklin Roosevelt as the great liberal Democrat president who started the New Deal, something that has dominated 20th century politics in our country. So in some ways, it might seem rather ironic that a liberal Democrat started this tradition of the president going to a morning church service before the inauguration.

After that, there is what we refer to now as the morning procession. And this is when the president-elect goes from the White House to the U.S. Capitol building for the inaugural ceremony. The inaugural morning procession actually goes way back in American history. The first president inaugurated was George Washington, in 1789. And his procession was to the Capitol at that time, which was in New York City, in Federal Hall where Congress met. And Washington traveled from his home at Mount Vernon in Virginia to New York City, and that, in effect, was almost a triumphal procession, as the new president, the hero of our American Revolution, made his way to New York City, greeted along the way by an adoring populace.

Actually, for a good deal of American history, the morning procession took the place of what today is the post-inaugural parade. The parade actually went to the Capitol building as people marched along with the president or accompanied the president's carriage to the Capitol building. There are famous illustrations of Abraham Lincoln's morning procession in 1861. This was the inauguration that took place just at the beginning of our American Civil War. And, if you know something about American history, you'll know that Washington, D.C. was in the middle of slave states. The states of Maryland and Virginia were both slave states. And so the president's safety was of concern at the beginning of the Civil War. And there are a lot of stories about this, but I'll just tell you that during the morning procession, Lincoln's carriage, as it went to the Capitol building from the White House, was flanked on both sides by mounted troops, cavalrymen -- soldiers on horseback. And in fact, people along the parade route said that it was almost impossible to catch a glimpse of President Lincoln through this protective guard that he had.

Once the procession reaches the Capitol, the inaugural ceremony, which is scheduled to begin at noon, begins with the first official act, which is the swearing in of the vice president. This is important because there needs to be someone to take the place of the president if something has happened to the president. So the vice president-elect is always sworn in first.

Then the president is sworn in, and I'll be speaking much more about that because that's what I consider and what the Constitution considers, the most significant aspect of the inauguration: the taking of the oath of office by the president-elect.

Following the oath of office, the president delivers his inauguration address. This little historical sidelight: Prior to the 20th century, it was quite common for the president-elect to give his inauguration address prior to the swearing-in ceremony, prior to taking the oath of office, but now, it's always after the oath of office. The president makes his inaugural address, which is really, in the case of a newly elected president, his first opportunity to publicly put forth his thoughts, his agenda, for his presidency.

Following the inaugural ceremony at the Capitol, which is held outdoors at the Capitol, the president and the members of Congress move inside the Capitol for a luncheon. This is a tradition that began in 1953 with Dwight David Eisenhower's inauguration. It's an opportunity for members of Congress and the president -- the new president or president for a second term -- to have lunch in a social setting and get to know one another better.
Then, following that, at 2 o'clock is the parade in the afternoon that goes back to the White House. And then in the evening, there are the inaugural balls -- so the official ceremonies with the symbolism of a new president taking office are followed by a celebration festival of a parade and the inaugural ball.

Well, what is significant about the way we inaugurate a president? I think there are three or four things I'd like to leave you with. First of all, it's a regular and routine change of government. It happens every four years. This is the 55th inaugural ceremony. Every four years, on January 20th -- since 1933, the date has been January 20th -- the president takes office at noon. This regular, routine nature of a presidential inauguration lends a stability and continuity to our form of government. It reassures the public. It reasserts the faith our nation has in democratic government, in elected representatives forming the government of our nation. Historically, democracy is an experiment. Our American Revolution was an experiment to see if the people could govern themselves. And the regular and routine nature of a presidential inauguration reassures the people that the experiment is continuing and succeeding.

It's also a peaceful change in government. The political party can change who controls the presidency. The agenda may change from one president to another, but it changes peacefully. Historically, there have been two very interesting cases. The first was the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson in 1801. This was the first time that the presidency changed political parties. Washington and John Adams had been Federalists; Thomas Jefferson was a Democratic Republican. That was the party title at the time. His party was in opposition to the Federalist Party. He won the presidency. So there was concern that this would be a peaceful inauguration. John Adams, his predecessor, actually left town, rather than take part in the inaugural ceremony, one of only two times in American history that an outgoing president has not attended the inauguration of his successor. And Adams did it because he said he was fearful that his presence might incite his followers, his party, to violence to oppose the inauguration of Jefferson. But it was a very peaceful inauguration.

Our inaugurations are also public events. The inauguration takes place, when weather permits, outdoors, in the presence of the public, the electorate who chose the president. And it involves all three branches of our federal government: The Executive, of course, the incoming president and the outgoing president in cases in which there is an outgoing president. It involves the Judicial Branch of the federal government. The oath of office is usually given by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. And it involves the Legislative Branch of government because the inauguration takes place at the home of Congress, at the U.S. Capitol.

So symbolically, this is one of only two public events -- and I might ask you if you know what the other one is -- that involve all three branches of the government. Does anybody have a clue about what the other event might be?


An impeachment. Impeachment trials are tried in the Senate. The prosecution is from the House of Representatives. The judge in the trial is the Chief Justice. And if it's an Executive officer or the president who's being impeached, then it involves the Executive Branch as well.

Although the pageantry and the parades, the balls and the parties have become increasingly more elaborate in American history, the only thing that really matters in an American inauguration is taking the oath of office. The Constitution specifies in Article 2, Section 1 that, "before he enter the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation." And the oath, I'll just read it briefly -- "I do solemnly swear or affirm that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

So before he can actually begin to execute his office, he has to take this oath. And the oath is very interesting. What's he swearing allegiance to? He's swearing allegiance to this: To the Constitution. To a written document that provides the blueprint for our form of government. So people can change, policy agendas can change, parties can change, but the structure remains the same. The individuals are interchangeable, but the structure remains the same. And that's what's important.

The oath -- I'll just make a few closing remarks. The oath is usually taken on a bible. George Washington, again, set the tradition of taking an oath of office on the bible in 1789. They had to borrow a bible from a nearby Masonic lodge in order to take that oath and in fact, the so-called Washington Masonic bible has been used on four occasions since that time. And it's here in town at the National Archives on display. I don't know if it's planned to be used at this inaugural or not, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is. Many presidents use a family bible and often borrow the Washington bible to take the oath of office, put their left hand on the bible, raise their right hand, and take the oath.

Now, Washington also set a precedent by adding, after he said the oath of office, the words: "So help me, God." Now, if you go on the website of the Presidential Inaugural Committee today, they will give you the text of the oath of office and they say it's as specified in the Constitution. And then they have the text. And then they put the, "So help me, God." [But] "So help me, God" is not in the Constitution. It's not specified. It's something that was added by Washington and has been said by almost every president since then. There have been a couple of occasions when that didn't happen. One was, Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. He simply forgot because he was in such a hurry to get to his inaugural address in 1933, it's his first inauguration, he is facing the Great Depression, and he is anxious to get to his speech where he -- you may recall the famous words -- "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," -- a plea for unity in the face of the Great Depression.

Maybe I'll make just a couple of remarks about inaugural addresses. That's usually been the theme of inaugural addresses -- a plea for national unity. Remember, we're a diverse nation. Many different ethnic groups, many different nationalities, many different religious organizations and groups have coalesced to create this nation, so the challenge of our governing system is to bring unity out of this diversity. And so many of the presidential inaugurations have been pleas for unity. Thomas Jefferson, in that 1801 Inaugural Address -- remember I spoke about how there was the fear that there might be another revolution -- in fact, let me just cite a little bit of that Inaugural Address. He said, "Let us then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans. We are all Federalists." So he was saying that, as Americans, as citizens of the United States, we have more in common than we have in difference.

The Oath of Office, as I mentioned, is followed by the inaugural speeches. Let me just give you a couple of brief facts about that before I open up for questions. The longest inaugural speech came in 1841 when William Henry Harrison spoke for two hours, nearly a 9,000-word speech. At that time, inaugurals were held on March 4th. By April 4th, William Henry Harrison was dead. It was a bitterly cold day. He caught pneumonia and died as a result of this overexertion with the two-hour speech.

The first time amplification used in a speech was in 1921. Prior to that, only the people very close to the President could actually hear what was being said in the inaugural speech. Most people had to wait until the speech was printed in the newspapers in order to read it.

In addition to Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural, there have been some other very significant inaugural addresses. I mention Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1933 address at the height of the Great Depression. Abraham Lincoln's two inaugural addresses, one coming at the beginning of the Civil War and the second at the conclusion of the American Civil War, are, in many ways, the most important and the best political speeches, I believe, in American history.

Prior to the 20th century, of course, most presidents wrote their own speeches. You know, today, of course, presidents have professional speechwriters to help them write their speeches.

Lincoln wrote his first inaugural and showed it to some of his advisors, one of whom said, well, you need to make it more of an attempt to pacify the Southerners, and so he suggested some language. Lincoln took that language or that paragraph, and then turned it into poetry. And here's what he said at the closing of his speech. He said, "I am loathe to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

What a way to close a speech. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears in the South and the nation was plunged into four years of bitter and bloody civil war. Lincoln then was inaugurated [a second time] in 1865 as the war was drawing to a close and he again called for unity and for charity. And you may have heard some of his immortal lines. The closing of that speech was, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

I think I've gone on long enough. Let me take your questions.

MR. DENIG: Okay, we'll take our first question from New York.

QUESTION: Guillemette Faure, with the French newspaper Le Figaro.

Some groups are planning a protest for Inauguration Day. Is that something that has happened in the past? And if yes, which (inaudible) and which inauguration?

DR. KENNON: Yes, there have been sort of counter-inaugurations, protests at American inaugurations. It's mainly a post-Vietnam War phenomenon and I think it points to the fact that one of the cherished values of American democracy, as in our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, is freedom of speech, and that freedom of speech includes the freedom to offer differing points of view.

MR. DENIG: All right, let's go to questions here. Just remind you, please use the microphone and identify yourself and news organization. We'll start with Ben.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. I am Ben Bangoura, Guinea News.

I understand that Adams -- John Quincy Adams -- was the first son of a president to be elected here, and -- John Quincy Adams, a former president to be --

DR. KENNON: Yes, the first son of a president. Yes, that's correct.

QUESTION: Okay. When was that, and did he get reelected, like George Bush?

DR. KENNON: No. John Adams, the father, served as President from 1801 to 1805 [Editor: 1797-1801], served a single term. His son, John Quincy Adams, served from 1829 to 1834 -- '33, sorry. I gave him five years. '33. [Editor: 1825-29] A single term, as well. They were both single-term presidents and that's kind of unusual because most of the early presidents served two terms. John Adams and John Quincy Adams are also the only two presidents in American history who did not attend the inauguration of their successor.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

DR. KENNON: Yeah. Well, as I explained earlier, John Adams did not attend Jefferson's inauguration because he was afraid that his presence might incite violence.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

DR. KENNON: John Quincy Adams? It's a little different. His successor was a very bitter political foe, Andrew Jackson, and my take is that John Quincy Adams simply didn't want to attend the inauguration.

There's an interesting thing about John Adams and John Quincy Adams -- they were both very religious men, and John Quincy Adams were so religious that he is one of probably only one or two American presidents who did not take the Oath of Allegiance on a Bible. Now, it's kind of ironic that John Quincy Adams, being such a religious man, would not have used the Bible, but he said that he thought the Bible should be reserved for strictly religious purposes. So he took the Oath of Office on a book of laws, the Constitution and American laws. That's really what he was swearing allegiance to was the Constitution, so he didn't use the Bible.

QUESTION: On the oath issue, when they solemnly swear and stuff, does that mean United States is Christian country? Because I understand that you have some other religions here. Why exclusively Bible?

DR. KENNON: It's a tradition that came from the English background, I think, of the founding fathers of our nation. It was traditional to take an oath on a Bible. And does it mean that it's a Christian nation? I'm not too sure that that's what it really means. But what I believe, the reason that Washington started this precedent of using a Bible, we have what we call the separation of church and state. Now, that means that the state does not support any particular religion or denomination, but it doesn't mean that religion should not support the state, and by state I mean government, the governing structure.
What Washington wanted to do is he wanted the churches, he wanted religion, he wanted the clerics to support the new government. And I think that's why he took the step symbolically of including the Bible. And he also attended a church service after the inauguration.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. DENIG: Yes, use the microphone, please.

QUESTION: My name is Arshad Mahmud from Bangladesh.

About this religious thing, what does your Constitution says? Is it a Christian country constitutionally? I believe not. And if so, if there has been any demand from other faiths, you know, that the president also should mention about other faiths. Thank you.

DR. KENNON: Well, the Constitution doesn't mention any specific religion. It doesn't mention Christianity. Of course, at the time that the Constitution was written, most Americans were Christian. Christianity was the dominant religion. So it was sort of just a taken for granted kind of thing. Yeah, it has changed. But it's an interesting question, and it's one that different people will take different responses to. I think all I can, as a historian, say is that looking at the origins of it and why it has become a tradition for the president to take the Oath of Office on a Bible.

MR. DENIG: If I might ask a question. One of the things I've noticed at inaugurations is the fact that one or several clergymen are usually asked to give a prayer or word of benediction or something like that. And the thing about that that strikes me is that over the years, these clergymen have become more and more diverse. It is no longer simply a Christian minister. There's usually a rabbi and I don't know what else.

DR. KENNON: There's a rabbi -- mm-hmm.

MR. DENIG: Perhaps you could comment on that.

DR. KENNON: Yeah, that's exactly right. In fact, the role of clergy in our inaugural ceremonies is a recent development that began in 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt had a minister to give a benediction, and then his following inauguration had an invocation and a benediction. And it has involved Catholic priests. It has involved Protestant ministers. It's involved Jewish rabbis. So there has been a little bit more diversity in the -- again, religion supports the government. The government doesn't necessarily support or favor any specific religion or Christian denomination.

QUESTION: Nicholas Skibiak with the Saudi Press Agency.

I was hoping that you could refresh my memory about the inauguration of Andrew Jackson, whose inauguration, I believe, was celebrated for it's -- I won't use the word debauchery, but something along those lines.

DR. KENNON: Yeah. Well, Andrew Jackson was referred to -- his election -- or inauguration as the people's inauguration. He was the first people's president. Because, in many ways, what you have happening in the 1830s is the growth of the franchise that more people were able to vote. There is a long history of what the requirements were for voting, but basically, by Jackson's election, every white adult male, in most cases, could vote. There weren't the heavy property requirements that had existed in previous years.
So Jackson's inauguration took on the form of the people's inauguration. He spoke at the east front of the U.S. Capitol, on the central steps, and there was a ship's cable stretched across the steps to keep the crowd back. But as he finished his inaugural address, the crowd surged forward, the cable broke and Jackson had to retreat through the Capitol, get on his horse and ride back to the White House. I think in many ways the crowd surged forward because they couldn't hear what he was saying in the Inaugural Address. But there was then a reception held at the White House following Jackson's inauguration and the White House was, in effect, trashed. Because so many people had tried to get into the reception, the servants finally took the tubs of punch, which probably had a little bit of alcoholic content in them, outside and put them on the lawn to get the people out of the White House so that they would stop tearing the drapes down and trampling the carpet up, and so forth. So it's one of the most colorful of American inaugurations, but again, very emblematic of the fact that the nation was changing and the people were speaking through the inaugural.

QUESTION: Alan Freeman from the Globe & Mal, Canada.

There's been some criticism voiced this time about the heavy spending surrounding the inauguration, not just, obviously, the swearing-in ceremony, but all the balls and the $40 million that's being raised, largely from corporations.

Now, I understand that FDR's 1945 inauguration was quite spartan. It was wartime and I think he was sick. Do you have any other examples of the -- you know, and also, is there a tradition of having a more modest inauguration the second time around?

DR. KENNON: That's a very interesting question. I think I need to do some more research on that one. Really, the balls and the parties aren't my area of expertise. It's more the ceremony at the Capitol. But that's a very interesting question about second terms.

In terms of other more spartan celebrations, there have been in American history the occasion when things have been less elaborate, less fancy, and it really has had to do with the character, the personality, of the president. Let me give you the one example that really stands out in my mind, which is becoming more and more one of my favorite inaugurals to study. And that was Franklin Pierce in 1853. Now, Franklin Pierce is one of only two presidents who affirmed the Oath of Office, rather than swore the Oath of Office. He also canceled the inaugural balls and held a very simple inaugural ceremony.
And the reason he did so was because just a few months prior to becoming president, prior to his inauguration, he and his wife and his only surviving child, a son, had been in a train accident, and the father and mother had seen their eldest son perish in this train accident. His wife was still in mourning. She did not attend the inaugural ceremony, and because of that he canceled the ball.

Now, why did he say affirm rather than swear? Well, he also was a very deeply religious person, coming from a Calvinistic background, and he believed that things don't just happen by accident. He saw the hand of God in human events and he believed that the death of his son was, in some way, God's judgment on him, so he felt unworthy of swearing the Oath of Office on a Bible. This was a very, very interesting ceremony.

Actually, go back to Jackson. I don't know if you've ever seen the Charlton Heston movie, The President's Lady, in which he portrayed Jackson, but Jackson's wife, his beloved Rachel, had died just prior to him becoming president, so he had to do everything alone. And, in fact, his thoughts were of his wife as he was taking the inaugural Oath of Office.

QUESTION: My name is Yukio Kashiyama, Japanese newspaper Sankei.

You said earlier that the inauguration ceremony took place in March. You know, what I remember, the first time of Franklin Roosevelt had the inauguration ceremony in March (inaudible). I'm wondering now we have January. Why -- what is the reason why that that changed? And also, what is the reason? What is the reason to be changed? I'm wondering, those days, did you have presidential election also in November?

DR. KENNON: I'll take the last question first. Yes, the presidential elections were in November.

Your first question about the change in the date of inauguration, you're exactly right. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first inaugural in 1933 was on March 4th. In 1937, the second time he was inaugurated, it was January 20th. And the reason is that the Constitution was changed. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1933, changing and specifying that the date of the inauguration would be January 20th.
Why did they change it from March 4th to January 20th? Well, it's because Congress normally convened their session either -- in the 19th century -- in December, and in the 20th century in January. So if you have a president, an incoming president who's been elected in November but who doesn't take office until March, but you have Congress meeting in December or just meeting from January 3rd, you have a lame duck period where Congress is passing laws that the outgoing president can sign. So it was an attempt constitutionally to shorten that lame duck period. Congress still does often come in in January 3rd or so but they really don't do any legislative work until after the January 20th inauguration.

QUESTION: Thank you. Alex Alexander from the Russian News Agency.

Can you talk about the security measures that have been taken to protect the resident during the inauguration?

DR. KENNON: Well, I can't speak about the current inauguration security. But historically, the security has always been tightened up in times in which there is heightened threat. And I mentioned in my presentation one outstanding case of that was 1861. Let me tell you a little bit more about that.

Lincoln came to Washington, D.C., for his inauguration by train. He had gone to Philadelphia and spoken there and then was going to take the train from Philadelphia down to Washington, D.C., and to get there he would pass through Baltimore, Maryland. Remember I mentioned how Maryland was a slave state? Baltimore was a hotbed of secessionist thought and action, so there was a great fear that something might happen to Washington as his train traveled through Baltimore.

They took very heightened security measures. There were Pinkerton detectives -- these are private detectives in the mid 19th century -- who were guarding the President. The President had his own unofficial security agent with him, a fascinating individual in American history, a man named Elmer Ellsworth. Lincoln had gotten to know Ellsworth in Illinois. Ellsworth had formed a paramilitary organization called the Zouaves in Chicago, a group of men who dressed up and Zouave uniforms, French Zouaves based on the Algerians, with bright blue tunics and blousy red pantaloons, and they would march and celebrate and parade. And Lincoln liked Ellsworth very much and brought him along him to Washington as security on the train ride. Well, they decided that they would travel incognito through Baltimore, didn't announce that the President's train was coming through, and he just sort of slipped into Washington unannounced. A lot of Southern papers said he sneaked into Washington like a coward. But it was a security measure that he took to get here.

And then I mentioned how he was guarded at the first inaugural. At his second inaugural, by the way, there's the famous photographs by Matthew Brady, or one of his assistants, of the President taking the Oath of Office on the East front of the Capitol, and several photo historians have identified John Wilkes Booth and some of the other conspirators in the crowd. My take on this is, well, you can say, why didn't Booth or someone take the opportunity to assassinate the President then? Well, we really didn't have any tradition of suicide assassins in our country. When Booth assassinated the President, he fully expected to escape, and he almost did. If he hadn't broken his leg when he jumped from the balcony at Ford's Theater, he might well have made good his escape into Virginia and might have fled. But so that there really wasn't any tradition or any fear of someone getting close enough to assassinate the president throughout much of the 19th century because they would have had to use a limited-range firearm or something like that in order to make good their assassination. In fact, all of the assassinations that took place prior to John Kennedy's assassination all were from close range attempts.

There was an attempt on the life of Andrew Jackson in the Capitol building. A deranged assassin came up to him with two pistols, single-shot pistols that they had at the 19th century, and fired both of them. Well, they didn't fire. He pulled the trigger but they did not catch fire. And, of course, Jackson then took his cane and was going to beat the guy with his cane, but then his aides had to hold him back.

I hope that answered the question.

QUESTION: Hoda Tawfik, Al Ahram newspaper, Egypt.

My question is, historically, how many presidents or sons of presidents became president? And also, the other question is about this country is a country of immigrants. What are the chances for an immigrant to be a president in the United States?

DR. KENNON: Remember I said the Constitution specifies that the president has to be born in the United States.

QUESTION: What if he is an immigrant. His parents are immigrants, no?

DR. KENNON: Oh, well, if his parents are immigrants, but if he is born here, if he is a natural-born citizen, then he's eligible.

QUESTION: How many presidents have been sons of presidents?

DR. KENNON: How many times? Okay, this is the 55th inauguration. The inaugural oath has been administered 69 times. That's because there have been cases in which, after an assassination, the vice president becomes president, and there have also been cases in which there have been two ceremonies to take the Oath of Office. Whenever the date of inauguration, the official date, be it March 4th or January 20th, falls on a Sunday, then the president takes the Oath of Office privately and then publicly on the following day.

I think we had a question about the date change and that gets me to thinking about the role of weather in a presidential inauguration. The second inauguration of Ronald Reagan, 1985, it fell on a Sunday so the public ceremony was to be on Monday, and that day was just bitterly cold. I don't know if any of you were here and remember that. Bitterly cold. I think we had an ice storm or something that day. It was so cold they just couldn't have the ceremony outdoors and so the public ceremony moved indoors in the Capitol, the parade was canceled, and I believe the following evening there was a ceremony at the Capital Center in Landover, where all the participants who would have been in the parade got an opportunity to see the President and be entertained.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

DR. KENNON: Oh, son. I'm sorry. How many sons?


DR. KENNON: Only the Adamses. That's the only -- and the Bushes now, of course. And the Bushes. Yeah.

QUESTION: Naichian Mo with Phoenix Television of Hong Kong.

I'm just curious how the Supreme Court judge fit into the ceremony ritual. Thank you.

DR. KENNON: Right. Well, the Supreme Court justice traditionally is the one who administers the Oath of Office to the president. When Washington was inaugurated President, of course, the Supreme Court had not yet been established. Congress hadn't met and established the Supreme Court. So the Chancellor of New York, Robert Livingston, administered the Oath of Office. He was the equivalent of a chief justice for the state of New York. But it is the way in which the Supreme Court participates in the inaugural ceremony. Justice Rehnquist is scheduled to preside, to administer the Oath of Office to President Bush this time, if his health permits. And in doing so, I think this will be -- don't quote me on this -- but probably about the eighth time [Editor: fifth time] that Rehnquist had administered the Oath of Office. The record for chief justices is John Marshall, who was Chief Justice in the early part of American history in the 19th century. He administered the oath nine times. So I think Rehnquist, if he participates this time, will be in second place.

MR. DENIG: But the use of the Supreme Court chief justice is tradition, not in the Constitution?

DR. KENNON: It's tradition rather than Constitution. Again, it's the way in which all three branches of the federal government participate in this. It's sort of the symbolism of it, you know. And why do they take an Oath of Allegiance on a Bible? Because it was traditional. That's the way it had been done in English court system. Judges, court system, laws. That's all part of the symbolism of our inauguration.

QUESTION: Yes, I would like to go back a little bit on the Adams and his son. You said it (inaudible) had only two years as president, no?

DR. KENNON: No, one four-year term.

QUESTION: One four-year term. Is there any president that did not have four years?

DR. KENNON: Have any presidents had less than a full four-year term? Oh, well, only those who have --

QUESTION: Who are being --

DR. KENNON: Have died in office or --

QUESTION: Died or impeached.

DR. KENNON: -- or a vice president who comes in in the middle of a term and survives, you know, fulfills the remainder of the term.

QUESTION: Okay. And then also you said with regard to chief justice, it's rather traditional than Constitutional. So what's the Constitution say with regard to administering the oath of the president?

DR. KENNON: Well, I (inaudible) exactly everything the Constitution has to say about it. It just says that the president -- "Before he enter the execution of the office, he shall take the following oath." And it tells you what the oath is. And that's all it says. And I'm glad you asked that question because nowhere does it say he has to go to Congress or to the Capitol to take the Oath of Office. Again, it's a tradition and it was set by George Washington.

And that's an important point I want to make. This was our first inauguration of a president following our Revolution. Washington, of course, is the hero of the American Revolution, the general of the Continental Army who won the war. He was enormously popular at the end of the American Revolution. There were some of his men who wanted him to become king of the United States. They wanted him to usurp the authority of the Continental Congress and the Congress under the Confederation. Washington, at the end of the American Revolution, voluntarily resigned his commission as general and, in fact, in the U.S. Capitol, in the Rotunda, there's a painting that shows George Washington's resignation in Annapolis, Maryland, where Congress was meeting at that time. During the Revolution, Congress had to move around many times. They didn't have any permanent capital location. And so Washington went to Annapolis, where Congress was meeting, tendered his resignation and just went back to private life as a citizen and planter in Virginia. And he did so because he said he had fought the revolution for the principle of representative government, of government by people elected by the people to represent them. It had been, in fact, what we might refer to as a legislative revolution, a revolution to have a government, a representative government.

So by going to Federal Hall where Congress was meeting in 1789 in New York City to take the Oath of Office, Washington was once again reaffirming his allegiance to representative government.

QUESTION: Jefferson was inaugurated in 1801, right?

DR. KENNON: Thomas Jefferson, yes.

QUESTION: Thomas Jefferson. And he was a Republican, Federalist?

DR. KENNON: Okay, it's not consistent with the current party system, but in 1801, you have what is called the First American Party System, and the two parties were the Federalist Party -- this is the party of George Washington and John Adams -- and then Jefferson's party, Jefferson and Madison and Monroe, his successor, took the name of Democratic-Republican Party. Historians often just shorten it and refer to them as Jeffersonian Republicans. And then later, in the mid 19th century, you have the Second Party System evolving with the current terminology we have of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

MR. DENIG: One last question.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up question to this fundraising thing. You must have noticed the two big newspapers, the New York Times and The Washington Post, both reported extensively on these things. And American democracy, of course, is a great thing because of continued regularity and people have great faith in this system, but don't you think when you are openly solicited by the administration to pay $250,000 to have dinner, candlelight dinner with the president, isn't it an open invitation to corruption? I mean, do you think it's going to undermine the people's faith in your system?

Thank you.

DR. KENNON: Okay. I want to come at this from a historical perspective. The role of money in American politics is something that has grown and grown and grown, and there's sort of an almost kind of inevitability about it. And whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, I think is a question that requires the people to speak and it's a question that it has been and will continue to be in the political agenda and continually be talked about, and as it should be. And as the inaugural ceremony is an expression of the people speaking to elect the president, I think this is a case where the people will have to speak.

MR. DENIG: Thanks very much.

DR. KENNON: Thank you.

MR. DENIG: And thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

# # #

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |  Frequent Questions  |  Contact Us  |  Email this Page  |  Subject Index  |  Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
FOIA  |  Privacy Notice  |  Copyright Information  |  Other U.S. Government Information