Fun Activities and Facts about the Presidential Inauguration
What is the Inauguration?
An Inauguration is a ceremony to mark the start of a new four-year term of as president of the United States of America.
What was the first Inauguration like?
George Washington’s day found out from Congress that he had won the presidency. He borrowed money to pay off his debts in Virginia and traveled to New York. On April 30, he came across the Hudson River in a specially built and decorated barge. This custom gave rise to Inaguruation floats that are now scene in the official parade. Washington’s inaugural ceremony was performed on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York. The president then went indoors to read Congress his inaugural address. The evening celebration was opened and closed by 13 skyrockets and 13 cannons being fired. Today that tradition continues with a 21 gun salute fired from artillery pieces.
Inauguration Day takes place on January 20 and the president’s term starts at noon after the Chief Justice administers the oath to the president. Inauguration Day was originally on March 4, four months after election day, but this was changed to noon on January 20 by the Twentieth Amendment in 1933
Why is it important?
The United States of America is a Democratic Republic. That means that the voters elect someone to represent them. The elections determine who is the representatives, or, in the case of the Inauguration, who will lead the country’s Executive Branch. The Inauguration is important because it represents the peaceful transfer of power. It also is a way to celebrate the voter’s decision.
Who gives the Oath of Office?
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
What is the Oath of Office?
I, , do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
What is the inaugural address?
Newly sworn-in presidents usually give a speech called the inaugural address. They can vary in length with George Washington’s being only 135 words and William Henry Harrison’s 8,495 words. (Later in this article and you can test the president’s address for grade level and compare them.)
What is the Inaugural Parade
The Inaugural Parade on Pennsylvania Avenue passes the presidential reviewing stand in front of the White House. The typical duration of the parade is about two hours and proceeds along the 1.5 miles of Pennsylvania Avenue in view of the presidential party. The president, vice-president, their respective families and members of the government and military review the parade from an enclosed stand at the edge of the North Lawn.
Where is it held?
The event is held at the Capitol’s western front in Washington DC.
What does the word mean?
It is a French word meaning an installation or consecration. Essentially, it is a word that is meant to convey good omens.
What do other nations call their inaugurations?
If a country has a monarchy, which means the leader is not chosen by the people, but born into that position such as a king or queen, the ceremony is called a coronation. It is highlighted by a crown being placed on the head of the one being honored.
Who is in the parade?
Both military and civilian participants from all 50 states and the District of Columbia are involved as well as bands and floats.
What is the Executive Branch?
The power of the Executive Branch is vested in the President of the United States, who also acts as head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The President is responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws and appoints the heads of the federal agencies and Cabinet. The Vice President is also part of the Executive Branch, ready to assume the Presidency should the need arise.
Why is the position important?
The President has the power either to sign legislation into law or to veto* bills enacted by Congress. The Executive Branch conducts diplomacy with other nations, and the President has the power to negotiate and sign treaties, which also must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. The President can issue executive orders, which direct executive officers or clarify and further existing laws. The President also has unlimited power to extend pardons (A person is forgiven of a crime) and clemencies (mercy to a convicted individual) for federal crimes, except in cases of impeachment.
*A veto means that president does not approve of the bill and it cannot become law unless the Senate and House can override the decision by a 2/3rds vote.
Qualifications of a President
The President must be 35 years of age, be a natural born citizen, and must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years.
Elected by Electoral College
The President is not, in fact, directly elected by the people. Instead, on the first Tuesday in November of every fourth year, the people elect the members of the Electoral College. Apportioned by population to the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Electors then cast the votes for President. There are currently 538 electors in the Electoral College.
What is the Cabinet?
The Cabinet is an advisory body made up of the heads of the 15 executive departments. They are the Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services,
Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development,
Department of the Interior, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, The Department of State, Department of Transportation, Department of the Treasury, Department of Veterans Affairs
Strange Inauguration happenings.
In 1865, Andrew Johnson was ill with typhoid fever and took the medicine that impacted his speech as he bragged about his humble origins and his triumph over Confederate States. Despite the best efforts of those around him he refused to stop. It is called that “hungover speech.”
Ulysses S. Grant thought that canaries would add a festive touch to his inaugural ball in 1873, but the cold March temperatures caused a recorded 100 birds to freeze to death during Grant’s inauguration.
During Richard Nixon’s Inauguration Day parade hundred years later he wanted to make sure pigeons didn’t ruin his day. The Nixon had a chemical bird repellant sprayed all along the inaugural parade route. The result was dozens of dead pigeons along the route of the parade.
After Andrew Jackson’s inauguration he threw an epic party at the White House and is was crashed by drunken backers who broke windows, china, and damaged the drapes. To get them out of the White House the staff placed a tub of booze on the front yard.
When President Herbert Hoover was sworn in, the chief justice who administered the oath, William Howard Taft, apparently substituting the word “maintain” for “protect.” An eighth-grade girl named Helen Terwilliger caught the errors and sent Taft a note. He denied it, but the newsreels showed the young girl to be right.
George Washington’s wife, Martha, did not make the trip to New York
Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be inaugurated at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
James Monroe was the first president to take the oath out-of-doors in Washington.
Martin Van Buren inaugural parade saw first use of floats.
Franklin Pierce stood up in his carriage during the parade and memorized his speech.
Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural was the first to have African-Americans participated in the inaugural parade.
Rutherford B. Hayes was the first president to take the oath of office in the White House.
William McKinley had his inaugural recorded on a movie camera.
Woodrow Wilson’s inaugural was the first time that women participated in the inaugural parade.
Harry S. Truman’s was the first inauguration to be televised.
Lyndon B. Johnson was first to use a bullet-proofed, closed limousine.
Richard M. Nixon only allowed people with special invitations to the ceremony to be admitted to the Capitol Grounds.
Jimmy Carter was first to make provisions for the handicapped to watch the parade.
Ronald Reagan had first closed-captioning of television broadcast for the hearing impaired.
William J. Clinton’s was the first ceremony broadcast live on the Internet.
Here are some Awesome Stories links to inaugurations.
Fast facts about First Ladies at Inaugurations.
Martha Washington and Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, Elizabeth Monroe, and Anna Harrison were did not attend the inauguration.
Sarah Polk was present at the inauguration and attended the Inaugural Ball, but the ball was stopped in deference to her religious beliefs.
IJane Pierce did not attend because was upset that her husband lied to her about running for president.
Mary Lincoln was in attendance and is said to have danced with her husband’s opponent, Stephen Douglas at the Inaugural Ball.
Julia Grant attended.
Lucy Hayes was at the Inauguration.
Crete Garfield was there and made a statement that was startling as she proclaimed how super human her husband looked only to have him die a few months later.
Grover Cleveland was a bachelor at the time. A year later the 49-year-old president married a woman 28 years younger. When Cleveland lost the election she vowed to return, and she did four years later.
Carrie Harrison was there.
Ida McKinley was witnessed the swearing in of her husband but fell ill at the Inaugural Ball.
Edith Roosevelt watching Theodore’s swearing-in ceremonies.
Nellie Taft was there for William’s inauguration.
Ellen Wilson was in attendance, but when she died Woodrow remarried and his wife, Edith, attended his second inauguration.
Florence Harding was very active in the Inaugural.
Grace Coolidge not only witnessed the ceremony, but talked with Nellie Ross, the nation’s first woman Governor.
Lou Hoover was late to the ceremony.
Eleanor watched her husband take the oath of office four times.
Bess Truman was there and hosted the first integrated inaugural ball.
Mamie Eisenhower was there and was kissed by her husband.
What is called the “First Lady” Inauguration was done so because first ladies and future first lades were in attendance such as: Edith Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, and Betty Ford.
Lady Bird Johnson was there and held a Bible while her husband took the oath of office.
Pat Nixon was there but was forced to sit down as protesters threw rocks. This happened at both inaugurations. Richard Nixon later became the first president to resign after the Watergate affair became public. He was replaced by Vice President Gerald Ford and there wasn’t an inauguration.
Rosalynn was there. With her husband, Jimmy Carter they got of of the chauffeured cars and walked during the parade.
Nancy Reagan was there dress in very expensive clothes and watched her husband, Ronald, take the oath on the west side of the Capitol. During his second inauguration she was wearing an outfit estimated to cost over $40,000. The event was held in the Capitol Rotunda due to freezing weather.
Barbara Bush was there both times and walked back to the White House.
Hillary Clinton was there and walked back to the White House with her husband, William Jefferson Clinton.
Laura Bush was there both times her husband took the oath.
Michelle Obama was there both times her husband, Barrack Obama took the oath of office.
For more information read First Ladies by Carl Sferrazza Anthony
Here is a lesson plan for your school
Making School l Elections Meaningful: A Relevant Civics Lesson
by National Hall of Fame Educator Alan Haskvitz
Almost every school has school or class elections with the idea of sharing the true nature of a democracy where everyone can vote. Usually those students who want to run create posters, give a speech, and come election day the results are tabulated and the winner announced. What I would suggest is to consider making it more representative teachable moment.
First, every one who wishes to run for office must meet certain requirements such as a 2.0 GPA. When the person signs-up to vote they are given an agreed upon number of poster paper and they are numbered and signed. They are accompanied by a list of where they can be placed and proper etiquette. In that way all the participants have an equal chance. There can also be interviews in the school newspaper, using the public address system for a fixed number of ads, and a speech that can video tapped to play on the school system, if it is enabled. The whole idea is to make the election fair and to promote creativity within set bounds.
The next step takes place before the voting. Students line-up at registration tables where the school attendance folders are duplicated. Students sign by their name and are give a ballot. They have a day to consider the person they wish to vote for and the ballots are cast the following day. This means that some students who don’t care simply can’t vote because they didn’t take the time to register.
After the election there is a registration process in which every student who wants to vote registers to vote and receives a ballot.
Integrating the Lesson
I also recommend having an art competition for the best campaign poster and one for the best slogan. The competition could even include the best campaign song. A panel could do the judging, teachers, or it could be on the ballot. In this way the election becomes more interesting to the students and gets them more involved. This site provides information on what is called the “youth vote.” It makes interesting reading, but it also provides more evidence to support educators who use voting as a teaching tool. Have students reach conclusions from this data:
Of course, integrating civics is a given. Here are some recommended websites that have good lessons to accomplish that goal:
National Student/Parent Mock Election
The best site to get involved.
You can register, but it isn’t required. Some lessons are interactive.
Lessons by grade level
For federal elections
Types of propaganda. It is important for students to understand how propaganda is used to influence them in elections and elsewhere.
An exceptional source of Constitutional related materials
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