Weekly Column: A Peaceful Transition of Power
Every four years after a presidential election, Americans from all corners of the country flock to Washington, D.C., to attend the incoming president’s inauguration ceremony. At noon on January 20, 2017, President-elect Donald Trump becomes President Donald Trump, after he is administered the oath of office by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
The oath of office of the President of the United States is only 35 words long, and is stated in the United States Constitution: “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.” The first president to take the presidential oath was George Washington at his inauguration on April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City, the temporary seat of government at that time.
President Washington also set the precedent of delivering an inaugural address following his swearing-in ceremony, a tradition that has led to some of the most renowned quotes from our presidents. Washington swore to preserve “the sacred fire of liberty” and uphold the “Republican model of Government.” Other famous lines from inaugural addresses include John F. Kennedy’s “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” and Ronald Reagan’s “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” These remarks continue to inspire Americans today.
The entire ceremony takes place on the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, as it has since 1981. Attendees fill the National Mall from the Capitol steps to the Washington Monument, all to catch a glimpse of living history. Following the swearing-in and inaugural address, an inaugural parade and numerous balls take place throughout Washington, D.C.
While January 20th is the official day the president takes office, months of preparation have gone into the planning of the inauguration ceremony and official events, such as the parade and the formal balls. Since 1901, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies has been in charge of setting up the swearing-in ceremonies. Thousands of men and women have been working behind the scenes to plan the ceremony and make sure the Capitol remains secure. I’d like to thank them for their hard work, as well as all the members of the law enforcement community who have been putting in long hours leading up to inauguration weekend. Their job protecting the attendees at the inauguration is incredibly difficult, and their dedication to the security of the attendees is deserving of praise. Without their commitment, this very special day for our nation could not run as effortlessly and with the dignity it deserves.
In his inaugural speech, Thomas Jefferson said, “But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle…We are all republicans. We are all federalists.” His wise words ring true today. Though we may disagree with one another on certain policies, we are all Americans, and our presidential inaugurations reflect a decidedly American ideal: the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.
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