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A Guide to the Presidential Inauguration for Kids (And Adults) Who Don’t Know What the Heck Is Going On

Here's the fastest, funnest history lesson you and your kids will ever need on the topic of Presidential Inaugrations.

Matt Harvey

There’s been a lot of talk about the presidential inauguration in the news lately, and your family might be a little bit curious about what the ceremony is, what it means, and why it matters!

The Presidential Inauguration is a ceremony involving the transfer of office from the previous president to the new president-elect. During this ceremony, the new president takes the oath of office, officially affirming that they accept the Office of the President of the United States’ duties.

What the heck is the inauguration?

  • It’s when the president-elect takes the oath of office and officially begins their term in office as the United States president.

What the heck is the oath of office?

  • “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

That's it! It's way simpler than you probably imagined, but it isn't much more than a ceremony and a speech. Though in modern times, it's become a cause for celebration as well, and inaugurations are often big parties with music, and dancing, and speeches from Hollywood celebrities.

If you're curious to learn more about the history of inaugurations in the USA, here are ten interesting facts that you can tell other people who don't know anything about the inauguration and look super smart...

1. George Washington Was the First President to Be Inaugurated


Traveler1116 / Getty Images

George Washington wasn’t just the nation’s first president, but he was also the first president to be inaugurated. His ceremony took place on April 30, 1789.

2. The Inauguration Ceremony Used to Take Place on March 4


Carterdayne / Getty Images

But then the 20th Amendment to the Constitution specified that the inauguration ceremony would take place on January 20th at noon, so now that’s when we do it!

3. Some Presidents Have Taken the Oath of Office More Than Once

1024px-Second oath of office of Barack Obama

Pete Souza, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes the oath of office has been taken twice or been postponed because of an error or because inauguration day falls on a Sunday. When that happens, the first oath is taken privately on Sunday to comply with the 20th Amendment and then again during the public ceremony the following day.

Here’s a List of Presidential Double-Dippers:

  1. 1.

    Rutherford B. Hayes

  2. 2.

    Chester A. Arthur

  3. 3.

    Woodrow Wilson

  4. 4.

    Calvin Coolidge

  5. 5.

    William Howard Taft

  6. 6.

    Dwight Eisenhower

  7. 7.

    Ronald Reagan

  8. 8.

    Barack Obama

4. The Oath of Office Has Been Recited 73 Times!


Ilbusca / Getty Images

That’s 46 different presidents who have said those hallowed words.

5. President Franklin D. Roosevelt Took the Oath of Office Four Times

1024px-Flickr - USCapitol - Franklin D. Roosevelt's First Inauguration

USCapitol, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It was before the 22nd Amendment limited holding the Office of the President to just two terms.

6. President Harry Truman Was the First President to Have His Inauguration Televised

He also reinstated the tradition of inauguration galas (which is a fancy word for a really big party), held an air parade for his inauguration, and increased the presidential salary. Not a bad first day on the job!

7. President Bill Clinton Was the First President to Have His Inauguration Broadcast Live on the Internet

8. FDR Was the First President to Include A-list Celebrities in His Inauguration Celebration

President Roosevelt had Charlie Chaplin and Irving Berlin perform at his inauguration gala in 1941. Chaplin recited the above speech, which was from a popular movie of his at the time called The Great Dictator.

9. President George Washington Is the Only President to Take the Oath of Office in Two Separate Cities


John Parrot/Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

On April 30, 1789, President Washington took the oath of office at New York City’s Federal Hall. On March 4, 1793, he retook the oath of office in Philadelphia at Congress Hall.

10. Top Hats Were Once a Tradition of the Inaugural Ceremony

Coolidge motorcade 1927

Infrogmation, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Every president wore a top hat during their inauguration, from James Garfield to John F. Kennedy. It was Lyndon B. Johnson who finally bucked the trend. Above you'll see Calvin Coolidge doffing a handsome top hat en route to his inauguration ceremony.