Inauguration Fever!

November 30, 2008 at 5:26 pm | Posted in Historical, Obama! | Leave a comment
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Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln - March 4, 1861

Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln - March 4, 1861

Although George Washington laid the cornerstone of the Capital Building in what would be Washington, DC on September 18, 1793, it was not until 1801 that the city became officially the capital of the United States.

Thomas Jefferson was the first to be sworn in as president there, although he did so in the Senate chamber rather than outside the building as we are used to with most presidents since Andrew Jackson.

By 1850 the Capitol Building, completed in 1824, was not large enough to contain the needs of the growing American democracy. Thomas Ustick Walter, a Philadelphia architect, was hired to design extensions for the Capitol Building, including a new, larger dome. The Capitol’s first dome was designed by Charles Bulfinch, considered to be America’s first native-born architect (Boston).

When Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated in 1861, the new Capitol Building dome was still under construction.

The exterior of the new dome was complete when the bronze Statue of Freedom (below, right) by New York sculptor Thomas Crawford was set into its place of honor atop the Capital dome, in 1863.

The dome’s interior was not complete until 1866 when Italian/Greek-American historical painter Constantino Brumidi‘s massive fresco, the Apotheosis of Washington — 180 feet above the Rotunda floor and covering 4,664 square feet — was unveiled.

The oath that each president takes, mandated in Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, is as follows:

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.

Many would do well to note that God is not mentioned in the mandated oath, although every president, beginning with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, have tacked the deity on at the end. The first 31 presidents abstained from mixing government and religion.

Inauguration Day was originally on March 4th. In the early years, without the benefit of planes, trains and automobiles, that much time was needed to complete the casting of votes by members of the Electoral College. It wasn’t until 1937, when FDR was sworn in for his second term, that Inauguration Day was moved to January 20th (except if that date is a Sunday and then, traditionally, it is moved to the following day).

Since 1953 the United States Congress has held a luncheon immediately following the inaugural ceremony at which the president and vice president are guests of honor. Other than at State of the Union addresses, Red Masses, and state funerals, it is the only time the president, vice president and both houses of Congress congregate in the same location.

In addition to the swearing-in ceremony, the Inaugural Address and the Inauguration Parade, ten days of festivities surround Inauguration Day. The theme for the 2009 presidential inauguration will be “A New Birth of Freedom,” in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Inaugural events are expected to draw record-breaking crowds.

Be on notice! You cannot buy tickets to the swearing-in ceremony. Each Senator and Representative receives a limited quantity of free tickets to the swearing-in to distribute at their discretion. The only place you can get a ticket is from your Senator or Representative. No website or other ticket outlet has inaugural swearing-in tickets to sell, regardless of what they may claim. Tickets are not needed to attend the parade.

If you go, have a great time, and remember that there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who wish they could be there too. Be patient with your fellow Americans. Remember, you’re representing!

(Photograph of Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln courtesy of The Library of Congress)

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