What is a Presidential Inauguration?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2019
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A Presidential Inauguration is a ceremony in Washington, DC at which a President-Elect is sworn in. The Inauguration occurs every four years in the United States, on the 20th of January following a Presidential election, and Inaugurations also occur in crisis situations in which the President dies in office, forcing the Vice-President to take up the position. The formal Presidential Inauguration is a major event in the United States, surrounded by no less than 10 days of festivities to fete the outgoing President and celebrate the new Presidential Administration. In the case of a President who has been elected to a second term, the festivities are usually just as boisterous.

The key event at the Presidential Inauguration is the swearing-in of the President-Elect and Vice President-Elect. By custom, the Vice President-Elect is sworn in first, followed by the President-Elect, who is sworn in at noon with the following oath: “I do solemnly swear 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.” Some Presidents have chosen to affirm, rather than swear, and many add “and thus I swear” or “so help me God” at the end of the oath.


Technically, anyone who is qualified to administer an oath may swear in a President, and at least one notary public has performed the duty in a crisis. However, at the formal Inauguration ceremonies, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States usually performs this duty.

By tradition, the President and Vice-President are invited for a formal lunch after the Inauguration by Congress, and the President usually gives an Inaugural Address in which he or she discusses plans for America's future. There is also a ceremonial parade in which the new President is conveyed to the White House with an escort of members of the military, numerous bands, and a variety of other participants.

All Inaugural events are organized by the Joint Congressional committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. People who want to attend specific events, including the Presidential Inauguration itself, must secure tickets. Tickets to the Inauguration are distributed to Senators and Representatives, with citizens applying directly to their local Senator or Representative for tickets.

In addition to the Presidential Inauguration, parade, and formal speech, Inauguration Day is also usually celebrated with a number of formal dinners and balls, some of which are very exclusive. The garments worn by the First Lady or Gentleman of the United States are typically watched closely at these events, with many First Ladies choosing to use works by famous designers for their Inauguration gowns.


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