You are here

What You Need to Know About the Presidential Inauguration


This is the 57th presidential inauguration.

The first was the swearing-in of George Washington, on April 30, 1789 in New York City. Washington wore silk stockings and silver buckles on his shoes. (Obama probably will not.)

Technically, President Obama is being sworn in twice.

His inauguration date falls on a Sunday, so a private swearing-in will take place on Sunday, January 20, and public ceremonies have been scheduled for Monday, January 21. President James Monroe set this precedent in 1821; he was the first president-elect to have this scheduling dilemma, and consulted with the Supreme Court in order to determine how to proceed. The last time that Inauguration Day fell on a Sunday was when Ronald Reagan was re-elected, in 1985. Why not just reschedule? The 20th Amendment to the Constitution specifies that a president’s term must begin on January 20.

This isn’t the first time that Inauguration Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day have fallen on the same date.

The swearing-in of President Bill Clinton in 1997 also occurred on MLK Day. Take note: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday, so most of us have off work and school. 

Plus: 5 Facts About Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

There’s more to this event than just a great speech.

The schedule for Inauguration Day includes:

  • A morning worship service – this tradition was begun by FDR in 1933
  • The procession to the Capitol
  • The Vice President’s swearing-in ceremony
  • The President’s swearing-in ceremony
  • The inaugural address
  • The inaugural luncheon (this year’s menu includes lobster, bison, and apple pie)
  • An inaugural parade
  • And, last but not least, the inaugural balls (Whew!)

Follow along on the Internet!

President Bill Clinton’s inaugural ceremony was the first to be streamed on the Internet. Today, there’s a Facebook page for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies , and a website where you can get tickets for the various events throughout the inauguration if your family is able to trek to Washington, DC. There’s also a YouTube account where you can watch previous inaugural ceremonies – perfect if your kid is a presidential hopeful. And be sure to join Parenting on Twitter, as we live-tweet the swearing-in ceremony and inaugural address!