The President Takes Office

Posted from the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas by Linda Lou Burton – Every four years, that’s the limit, and it’s been that way since George Washington’s day. It’s right there in the Constitution, Article. II, Section. 1. The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector. The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States. Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—”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.”

March 4, 1789 was set as the date “for commencing proceedings” of the new government; unfortunately bad weather delayed George Washington’s first inauguration until April 30. After that inaugurations took place on March 4 until the 20th Constitutional Amendment, ratified in 1933, moved Inauguration Day to January 20. Why so long between the November election of a new president and vice-president until they actually assume their duties?

Because back then things simply took longer to get organized – counting votes, assembling a new cabinet, and traveling to the capital. That in-between period, referred to as the lame-duck time of a presidency, has caused problems for our country, especially in times of crisis. After the 1860 election seven states left the Union; outgoing President Buchanan took no action; incoming President Lincoln had no power to act. After the election of 1932, when the country was in the throes of the Great Depression and shanty-towns dotted the landscape, outgoing President Hoover and incoming President Roosevelt met to discuss policy, but did not agree on a move forward; no action taken. And even with the switch to a shorter lame-duck period, the election of 2020 occurred during a worldwide pandemic. As our country floundered, plagued by a rapidly rising death count, a desperately sinking economy, and unparalleled business and school shutdowns, outgoing President Trump took no action; incoming President Biden had no power to act.

Until today. Inauguration 2021 may go down in history as one of the most unusual ever – masked faces and sparse crowds because of our deadly health crisis and the new norm: social distancing. Intense crowd control due to violent political activists who stormed the capitol January 6 with the alleged purpose of overturning the Congressional certification of votes.

The tried and true were there – members the of Biden and Harris families, members of Congress, former presidents – Bill Clinton with Hillary, George Bush with Laura, Barack Obama with Michelle. Outgoing Vice President Pence was there, but our outgoing president chose not to attend. How many times has that happened? Not many; here’s the list:

  • John Adams did not attend the 1801 inauguration of Thomas Jefferson.
  • John Quincy Adams did not attend the 1829 inauguration of Andrew Jackson.
  • Martin Van Buren did not attend the 1841 inauguration of William Henry Harrison.
  • Andrew Johnson did not attend the 1869 inauguration of Ulysses S Grant.
  • Donald Trump did not attend the 2021 inauguration of Joseph R Biden Jr.

But guess what. Though the crowd had to be limited, over 40 million people were able to participate in the inauguration of Joseph R Biden Jr as President and Kamala D Harris as Vice-President, thanks to extensive media coverage.

And I was one of them.

Tomorrow: Inauguration Details