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What is Really Going on at a Presidential Inauguration?

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Jan 16, 2009
by: Rachel
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 We are all sitting on the edge of our seats in anticipation for the upcoming inauguration of none other than Mr. Obama himself. Sadly, other than one man leaving office and another becoming the leader of our nation, I know nothing about what goes on during an actual inauguration. My uncle tells me that he once had the privilege of eating a cup of clam chowder served at the past seven inaugurations. If a clam chowder tradition exists what other memorable customs will take place on January 20? I delved deeper into the actual formation of an American inauguration and found some interesting tidbits of information on how it has developed since our nation began.

The word inauguration literally translates as admitting someone formally to office. When George Washington became America's first president he established the inaugural address saying, "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will try to the best of my ability, to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Afterwards he added, "so help me God," which many of his successors have chosen to do as well. Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the U.S., was the first president to participate in a now customary Inaugural Parade after the official ceremony. Today the parade is unlike any other, with cheerleaders, floats, and marching bands. According to the article, Celebrating 220 years of Presidential Inaugural traditions, however, processions in the past have tended to reflect the tastes of a president. Teddy Roosevelt's Inaugural Parade included cowboys, miners, and the Rough Riders in 1905.

Much has changed since the first swearing of the oath in 1789. President Obama will be the 44th President to be sworn into office on January 20, 2009. Since George Washington 56 inaugurations have taken place. Ever since Jefferson took his oath, Washington D.C. became the traditional city to hold the inauguration. The custom I was most shocked by is that the president-elect must place his, or possibly sometime in the near future, her, hand on the Bible when swearing the oath. I couldn't believe that even with all the fuss our government makes over separating itself from religion we use the most well known religious symbol in our inauguration process. WRAL.com talks about traditions that have been upheld since 1789, such as a 21-gun salute from howitzers, yes that is a real word, and an inaugural ball. Obama will actually be attending ten inaugural balls this Tuesday and maybe only have time for a single dance at each.

After reading a bit into what makes a good inauguration I feel slightly more qualified to watch it on Tuesday and won't wonder what in the world is going on. Our nation has lived by roughly the same Constitution for over two-hundred years and I assume we will continue to carry out the same inaugural process for many years to come. It represents a nation' s pride for its democracy and is often a brief moment when the new President can restore hope in his or her people on the safety and prosperity of America.