Seven questions and answers about the inauguration
Why is the inauguration always January 20? What happens when it falls on a Sunday? How many inaugural balls are there? The US presidential inauguration is full of history and tradition. Here's a look at President Obama's big day in question and answer form.
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Franklin Pierce, in March 1853, became the only president to "affirm" instead of "swear" that he would protect and defend the Constitution. There are Internet mentions suggesting that Herbert Hoover also opted to affirm, but the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Association in Iowa says Hoover did not repeat the oath in 1929, and simply said "I do" after it was read to him.Skip to next paragraph
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Q: Does the chief justice of the United States always administer the oath?
A: Traditionally, it is the chief justice who presides over the swearing-in ceremony. But there have been about a half-dozen exceptions including in 1923 and 1963.
In 1923, Vice President Calvin Coolidge took the oath of office at his father's residence in Plymouth, Vt., following the death of President Warren Harding. Coolidge's father, Col. John Coolidge, was a notary public and he administered the oath to his son.
In 1963, Sarah Hughes, a U.S. district judge in Texas, administered the oath to Vice President Lyndon Johnson aboard Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Hughes became the first woman to swear in a president.
Q: When was the parade first started?
Local militias joined Washington's procession as it passed through towns on his journey from Mount Vernon to New York City, where he was met by the Continental Army, government officials and other prominent citizens who escorted him to his swearing-in ceremony at Federal Hall.
During Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration in 1865, African-Americans marched in the parade for the first time. Woodrow Wilson's second inauguration in 1917 saw women, for the first time, take part in the inaugural parade. Obama's parade four years ago included the Lesbian and Gay Band Association for the march along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. The association was the first lesbian and gay group in history to participate in a president's inaugural parade.
Q: How many inaugural balls are there?
A: Historically it's varied.
The first inaugural ball was held in 1789 to honor Washington, and came one week after he was sworn in during a ceremony in New York City.
The tradition of the inaugural ball really began in 1809 when Dolley Madison hosted a gala for her husband, James Madison. Four hundred tickets were sold for $4 each. The tradition took hold as supporters reveled in the idea of a night to fete their new president with dancing and music.