Presidential inauguration on King's Day
Next weekend teachers and students will be enjoying a three-day weekend in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day while the President of the United States is inaugurated in Washington, DC. My students will be taking a break from the historical fiction novels they are currently reading that are set during the Revolutionary War.
Once colonists declared and won their independence from the King of England, the United States was finally at peace. Congress then ratified a new constitution establishing a president rather than a king to lead their democracy.
After years of bloodshed, Americans were ready to celebrate. The inauguration of the country’s first president, the beloved Gen. George Washington, was witnessed by more than 10,000 cheering citizens from streets and rooftops.
Washington placed his hand on a Bible and took the oath written in Article II, Section 1, of the newly drafted 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 constitution does not require the use of a Bible while taking the oath, but George Washington started the tradition and the rest of the presidents have followed suit using Bibles with historical or personal significance such as family heirlooms.
President Obama will be taking the oath of office for his second term by placing his hand on two Bibles: one owned by Martin Luther King Jr. and the other by Abraham Lincoln. This symbolic act acknowledges the shoulders of the historical figures upon which he stands as the first president of African-American descent.
Lincoln’s Bible hadn’t been used since the 16th president’s inauguration in 1861, until Obama used it for his oath four years ago. President Lincoln emancipated the slaves 150 years ago.
The inclusion of King’s Bible this time is significant since the inauguration comes on the federal holiday honoring his civil rights leadership. Obama will be sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol facing the Lincoln Memorial where King gave his “I Had a Dream” speech 50 years ago.
King’s children said their father read his “traveling Bible” to inspire him to continue fighting injustice and prepare sermons while on the road preaching. He would be moved that President Obama is using it for the ceremony.
The president will place his left hand on the stacked Bibles held by first lady Michelle Obama as he raises his right hand to repeat the oath administered by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts at noon on Monday. Following the oath of office, the president will give his inaugural address sharing his plans for our nation this coming year.
Students watching the inauguration on TV can use the I Spy Presidential Inauguration Scorecard with pictures and descriptions of the presidential family, political leaders and historic landmarks that will be seen during the broadcast.
These downloadable pages can be found at www.ourwhitehouse.org and will helps kids identify who is taking part in this year’s inaugural ceremonies.
While our first president had thousands of onlookers, when President Obama is sworn in millions are expected to attend the ceremony, watching it on large screens along the National Mall and on smaller TVs in homes, schools and businesses across the country.
This inauguration celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation with the theme of “Faith in America’s Future.” Other festivities will include an inaugural parade after the speech and many balls.
During his inaugural weekend, Obama plans to honor King’s legacy of service. Saturday, Jan. 19, has been declared National Day of Service. President Obama is asking citizens across the country to participate in service projects in their communities to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s tirelessly contributions as a civil rights leader. The president, first lady, Malia, 14, and Sasha, 12, will help in the Washington, DC area.
Kristi McCracken, author of two children’s books and a long time teacher in the South Valley, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.