Inauguration Day only comes once every four years—here are a few fun facts you might not know about the big day.
What does “inauguration” mean?
The word “inauguration” comes to us from the Latin augur, which, according to Dictionary.com, refers to the religious officials in ancient Rome “” presumably including whether political candidates were deemed worthy to assume office.
Speeches—short and sweet, or long and . . . deadly?
President-Elect Donald Trump is reportedly considering a short speech for his inauguration, but it’s doubtful he’ll top the record-holder: George Washington delivered the shortest-ever inaugural address—just 135 words—for his second inauguration. The longest inaugural address was given by William Henry Harrison, at 8,445 words (a nearly two-hour ordeal).
If that speech didn’t kill Harrison’s audience, it definitely had ill effects on his own health; one month after being sworn in, Harrison died of pneumonia that was likely brought on by being exposed to the cold weather on his rainy Inauguration Day.
An inauguration begins with “I do solemnly swear to . . .” and ends with “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States;” every president has added the words “so help me God,” with the exception of Teddy Roosevelt, who merely uttered, “And thus I swear.”
I-Day hasn’t always been in January
George Washington’s first inauguration took place on April 30, 1789. Then, until 1937, Inauguration Day took place on March 4th. In 1937, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution designated January 20th as the big day, although the public version of the inauguration is moved out a day if it happens to fall on a Sunday; President Obama’s inauguration in 2013, for instance, fell on the 21st, a Monday (on Martin Luther King Day, notably).
In cases where the big day has fallen on a Sunday, presidents are usually sworn in privately at the White House on the Saturday or Sunday preceding the public event on Monday.
It’s a holiday!
Inauguration Day is a Federal holiday observed by many Federal employees (that is, ones who aren’t busy helping with the festivities). The day off is mostly meant to alleviate traffic congestion.
All that’s legally required for an inauguration is that the president by sworn in—and Washington also likes a little speech. In addition to the speech, inauguration rituals like parades and balls have also become an important part of the public event, however.
A favorite of Congress is undoubtedly the luncheon that follows. Since 1953, the president and vice president have enjoyed a luncheon hosted by Congress leadership immediately following the ceremony, after the tradition of parading down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House.