Students Research History of Presidential Inaugurations

Students in Cathy Leitch’s AP Government class prepared a timely and interesting presentation, Presidential Inauguration Ceremonies: The Precedent, The Past and The Present, to share with Upper School students and faculty in advance of President Obama’s inauguration on January 20. The students made special note that because of Monday’s Martin Luther King Day holiday, the next time the School community will come together to watch a presidential inauguration will be in 2017 in Brauer Hall.

Section 1 of the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution mandates, “The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January.” Therefore, swearing-in ceremonies always take place on January 20. This year, since January 20 falls on a Sunday, President Obama will have a private swearing-in ceremony on January 20, followed by a public celebration on January 21.

Students also shared some interesting facts about presidential inaugurations throughout history:

  • Presidents are not required to give inaugural addresses, but George Washington set the precedent when he gave the first address in 1789.
  • Ideological, general speeches are most common and tend to be more memorable.
  • Calvin Coolidge is the only president to be sworn in by a former president, William Howard Taft, who was the current Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the time of Coolidge’s inauguration.
  • John Quincy Adams was the first president to wear long pants instead of knee breeches to his inauguration.
  • William Henry Harrison gave the longest inaugural address in history, during a cold and rainy day. He came down with pneumonia after the inauguration and died one month later.
  • Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration in 1981 occurred on the coldest day in presidential history – the temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit. His second inauguration in 1985 occurred on the warmest day in presidential history – the temperature was 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

AP Government students include: Vikram Biswas ’13, Diana DiGasbarro ’13, Olivia Gacka ’13, Matt Gillis ’13, Ben Gunning ’13, Darby Hobbs ’13, Henry Pflager ’13, Lunsford Schock ’13, Arielle Waks ’13 and Erin Wright ’13.