JANUARY 20 = Presidential Inaugurations


It used to be that the President of the United States (POTUS) was directed by the U.S. Constitution to take office on March 4.  But this was during the days when the fastest travel around was by horseback.  It would take awhile for all of the election returns to be brought in from the far corners of our country to be counted.  But by the 1930’s with the advent not only of the telegraph as a means of communication, but also radio, there was no longer a need to wait an entire four full months for the new POTUS to be inaugurated.  With the 20’th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (passed in 1933), the Inaugural date was changed to January 20, at noon.  So the last POTUS to be sworn in on March 4, was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.  FDR thus also became the first POTUS sworn in on January 20, 1937.  Let us now take a look at some memorable Inaugurations in our history:


Franklin Roosevelt, 1945 =


This inaugu- ration was unique for several reasons.  It was the first inaugu- ration given during wartime since Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural in 1865.  It was the first time that the inauguration was held at the White House, instead of the traditional location at the U.S. Capitol Building.  And of course, due to the advent of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1947, which limits the President to two elective terms, it was the first, last and only time that a U.S. President was ever given a fourth inauguration.  FDR was gravely ill by this point in time, and it shows pretty clearly in my opinion his fairly depleted appearance in the above photo.  Nevertheless, in his very brief address, his belief in the essential decency of America, her people and her noble place in the world comes through:


“We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger.  We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.  We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” We can gain no lasting peace if we approach it with suspicion and mistrust or with fear. We can gain it only if we proceed with the understanding, the confidence, and the courage which flow from conviction.  The Almighty God has blessed our land in many ways. He has given our people stout hearts and strong arms with which to strike mighty blows for freedom and truth. He has given to our country a faith which has become the hope of all peoples in an anguished world.” 


John F. Kennedy, 1961 =

John F. Kennedy’s was also unique in a couple of aspects.  He was the youngest man ever to be inaugurated as President, at age 44.  He was also the first Roman Catholic mad ever to be inaugurated as President.  The Star Spangled Banner was sung by the well known African American Marion Anderson, and poet Robert Frost recited his poem “The Gift Outright”, although on this day of bright sunshine, and high winds, the poet  required the assistance of Lyndon Johnson, who shaded the poem with his hat.  But at last Frost’s voice rang out clearly.  In his inaugural address, JFK pointed out that it was a younger generation of men who were taking power to direct the worlds affairs: “The torch has passed to a new generation of Americans…”, and then warming to that theme, he issued his famous clarion call for America’s citizens to do their part in bringing about our nation’s call to greatness:


In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.  My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

With each passing year, I shall  add to these memories of Inaugurations past.  But I though that these two would make a good start.  Do any of you… my “Today in History” readers have any memories of Inauguration Day that you would like to share? C’mooon! Let’s hear it!!






Sources = 


“Killing Patton” by Bill O’Reilly, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2014

 http://www.nisk.k12.ny.us/fdr/fdr_ia/FDR4.html


“JFK – The Man and the Myth” by Victor Lasky, Arlington House, New York, 1963


http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/john-f-kennedy-inaugurated


http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/0120/JFK-s-1961-inaugural-address-The-text






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