Questions and answers about upcoming inauguration

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 14, 2013 at 3:10 am •  Published: January 14, 2013
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WASHINGTON (AP) — With his wife and two daughters at his side, President Barack Obama will raise his right hand and place his left on two stacked Bibles as he takes the oath of office for another four-year term. His second inauguration promises the pageantry of the first, but on a smaller scale than 2009, when a record 1.8 million people filled the nation's capital to witness Obama making history as America's first black president.

Obama has chosen to use two Bibles during his swearing-in — one owned by Martin Luther King Jr. and the other by Abraham Lincoln. He used the Lincoln Bible while taking the oath four years ago. He is adding King's Bible for an inaugural ceremony that will take place on Jan. 21, the federal holiday honoring the civil rights leader.

At the 57th presidential inauguration a week from Monday, Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath of office to Obama and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will administer the oath to Vice President Joe Biden. It's a day rich in history and tradition.

A look at the inauguration, in question-and-answer form:

Q: Why is the inauguration on Jan. 21 instead of Jan. 20?

A: The Constitution's 20th Amendment, passed by Congress in March 1932 and ratified by the necessary states the following January, sets the inauguration date as Jan. 20 at noon.

Because that's a Sunday this year, Obama will take the official oath of office that day in a private ceremony. A public ceremony will be held Jan. 21 on the west front of the U.S. Capitol. Local officials are planning for an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people to crowd onto the National Mall to witness the oath-taking ceremony.

This is the seventh time the inauguration date has fallen on a Sunday. Inaugural ceremonies, however, are not traditionally held on Sundays because courts and other public institutions are closed.

Before 1933, the president had been sworn in on March 4, typically the final day of the congressional season. But the stretch between the November elections and the March 4 inauguration led to a lengthy lame-duck sessions of Congress and became a concern during times of national crisis.

Sen. George Norris, R-Neb., suggested the 20th Amendment, which called for a new Congress to begin on Jan. 3 and for the president to be inaugurated on Jan. 20. President Franklin Roosevelt's first inauguration, in 1933, was the last swearing-in ceremony held on March 4.

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Q: What is the oath the president recites?

A: "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."

Those words transform citizen to president and mark the beginning of a new administration.

Franklin Pierce, in March 1853, became the only president to "affirm" instead of "swear" that he would protect and defend the Constitution. There are Internet mentions suggesting that Herbert Hoover also opted to affirm, but the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Association in Iowa says Hoover did not repeat the oath in 1929, and simply said "I do" after it was read to him.

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Q: Does the chief justice of the United States always administer the oath?

A: Traditionally, it is the chief justice who presides over the swearing-in ceremony. But there have been about a half-dozen exceptions including in 1923 and 1963.

In 1923, Vice President Calvin Coolidge took the oath of office at his father's residence in Plymouth, Vt., following the death of President Warren Harding. Coolidge's father, Col. John Coolidge, was a notary public and he administered the oath to his son.

In 1963, Sarah Hughes, a U.S. district judge in Texas, administered the oath to Vice President Lyndon Johnson aboard Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Hughes became the first woman to swear in a president.

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Q: When was the parade first started?

A: The first organized parade occurred at the inauguration of James Madison in 1809. But the tradition dates back the country's first inauguration of a president, George Washington, in 1789.

Local militias joined Washington's procession as it passed through towns on his journey from Mount Vernon to New York City, where he was met by the Continental Army, government officials and other prominent citizens who escorted him to his swearing-in ceremony at Federal Hall.

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