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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.

With these words, American presidents are sworn into office every four years. Every president must take the oath at the beginning of his or her term of office. If a president is re-elected, he or she must take the oath at the beginning of each term. The beginning of a term is called its inauguration.

Inaugurations happen on January 20. If January 20 falls on a Sunday, celebrations are held January 21. President Barack Obama will celebrate his second inauguration on January 21.

The inauguration takes place at the Capitol, in Washington, D.C., in front of thousands of people. Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court will swear in President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden.

The president always gives a speech, called the inaugural address. The theme of President Obama’s 2013 inaugural address is “Faith in America’s Future.”

After the president gives his speech, thousands of people will watch the inaugural parade. Bands from all over the country march in the parade. The parade will also have floats, dance groups, and members of the military.

At night, the president and his family will go to many parties, called inaugural balls. In 2009, President Obama went to ten inaugural balls in one night!

  1. One of the most anticipated parts of recent inaugurations has been the choice of musical guests. "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin memorably performed at President Obama’s inauguration in 2009. If you were part of President Obama’s Presidential Inaugural Committee, what musicians would you choose to perform at the 2013 ceremony? Why?

    • Answer

      Answers will vary! Performers should probably be American, and as relevant, impressive, and inoffensive to as many voters as possible.

  2. In 2009, there were more than 120 inaugural balls. Each state has its own ball, and many citizen groups hold their own. The Entrepreneur Inaugural Ball, for example, is held by leaders of the business community. The Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball is hosted by hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons and focuses on entertainment interests. The Green Inaugural Ball is sponsored by leaders in the conservation and clean-energy movements. If you were part of President Obama’s Presidential Inaugural Committee, what sort of inaugural balls would you want the president to attend in 2013? Why?

    • Answer

      Answers will vary! Official balls (those attended by the president) may reflect his loyalty to a geographic region (such as the state he is from) or his interest in a specific issue or constituency. Sometimes, they are also simply places where he feels relaxed and comfortable—these are parties for him, after all!

  • President Barack Obama’s first inauguration (January 20, 2009) drew the largest crowd of any presidential inauguration. In fact, it was the largest crowd ever to attend an event in Washington, D.C.! Between 1.1 and 1.8 million people showed up for the festivities!
  • The first inauguration of President Ronald Reagan (January 20, 1981) drew the largest television audience. Almost 42 million people watched on TV.
  • President Obama’s 2009 inauguration earned a record number of people watching the event online. About 7 million people watched the swearing-in ceremony through streaming video.

a formal or official speech.


to murder someone of political importance.


holy book of the Christian religion.

adjective, noun

including members of both major political parties (in the U.S., Republicans and Democrats).


official building used by the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C.


kindness or generosity.


people and culture focused on the teachings of Jesus and his followers.


legislative branch of the government, responsible for making laws. The U.S. Congress has two bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate.


selection of people to public office by vote.


ceremony that officially marks the beginning of a leader's term in office.


evil, hostile, or wanting to cause harm.


armed forces.


formal act or statement giving up a title or position.

adjective, noun

(reserve officer training corps) students who are given training to become military officers.


very sad event.


person who has served their country in a military capacity.

White House
adjective, noun

official residence of the president of the United States, in Washington, D.C.