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Inauguration of the president of the United States

Inauguration Day occurs every four years on January 20 (or January 21 if January 20 falls on a Sunday).  The inauguration ceremony takes place at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, DC. The next presidential inauguration is scheduled to be on January 20, 2025.

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What is the presidential oath of office?

The vice-president-elect is sworn in first and repeats the same oath of office, in use since 1884, as senators, representatives, and other federal employees:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) 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."

Around noon, the president-elect recites the following oath in accordance with Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) 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."

What events take place on Inauguration Day?

The inauguration is planned by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC). Inaugural events include the swearing-in ceremony, the inaugural address, and the pass in review.

By tradition, members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies travel to the White House to escort the President-elect, Vice President-elect, and their spouses to the Capitol for the Inaugural Ceremonies.  After a brief meeting, the President-elect and the outgoing President proceed to the Capitol for the Swearing-In Ceremonies.  This tradition has endured, with few exceptions, since 1837, when Martin Van Buren and Andrew Jackson rode together in a carriage made from wood taken from the U.S.S. Constitution.  The Vice President and Vice President-elect follow, as will family members, cabinet members, and members of the JCCIC.

Since the first Inauguration of George Washington in 1789, the procession to the Inaugural ceremonies has provided an occasion for much celebration.  The Inaugural parade that now follows the Swearing-In Ceremony began as a procession when military companies, bands, the President’s cabinet, elected officials, and friends escorted the President-elect to the Inauguration.  Procedures changed in 1873 when President Ulysses S. Grant reviewed the troops from a stand in front of the White House after the Swearing-In Ceremony.  In 1881, a single military division escorted President-elect Garfield to the Capitol, and the whole parade occurred after the Inauguration.

Although most presidents rode to their Inaugurations in a carriage (or later, an automobile), Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson both walked to their Swearing-In Ceremonies.  In 1825, outgoing President James Monroe took part in the procession to the Capitol in his own carriage, following President-elect John Quincy Adams’ carriage.  In 1841, William Henry Harrison rode to the Capitol for his Swearing-In Ceremony on the back of a “white charger,” surrounded by his close political allies.  In 1845, outgoing President John Tyler joined President-elect Polk for the carriage ride to the Capitol, firmly establishing the tradition first carried out by Van Buren and Jackson in 1837.

By the time of Zachary Taylor’s Inauguration in 1849, a routine for the procession had been established, although it would change in small ways over time.  A military and civilian escort would parade to the President-elect’s lodgings, where the outgoing President joined them.  The outgoing President would take his seat in the carriage to the right of the President-elect, and the whole entourage would then proceed to the Capitol for the Swearing-In Ceremony.

At the 1857 Inauguration of James Buchanan, members of the Senate Committee on Arrangements for the Inauguration formed an escort and joined the President and President-elect in the carriage, starting a long-running tradition.

Lincoln did not join the procession to the Capitol for his second Inauguration in 1865.  He had already gone to the Capitol early that morning to sign last-minute bills into law.  The parade proceeded without him and made history as African Americans marched for the first time.

In 1869, Andrew Johnson became only the third President who did not join the President-elect in the procession to the Capitol or attend the Swearing-In Ceremony. He remained at the White House, signing last-minute legislation until his term expired at noon.

The 1877 Inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes started the tradition of the President-elect going first to the White House to meet the outgoing President before proceeding to the Capitol.  The Vice President and Vice President-elect followed in a separate carriage, and after them, members of the Senate Committee on Arrangements. Future Inaugurations would follow this precedent.

Edith Galt Wilson became the first First Lady to accompany her husband in the carriage to the Capitol in 1917.  In 1921, Warren G. Harding became the first president to ride in an automobile to his Inauguration.  Stringent security measures, including a bullet-proof limousine marked Lyndon B. Johnson’s procession to the Capitol in 1965.

Today, the Presidential procession to the Capitol for the Swearing-In Ceremonies follows a firmly established protocol based on the evolving traditions of past Inaugurations.

Since 1901, and in accordance with the 20th Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) has been responsible for the planning and execution of the Inaugural Ceremonies of the President-elect and Vice President-elect of the United States at the Capitol. 

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