Inauguration 2009 – Commentary

January 21, 2009
1789_washington_use
1789, Washington Inauguration

As a Canadian watching the inaugural celebrations held in Washington and throughout the United States yesterday, one thing struck me.

Peaceful transistion of power. How many other countries in the world see the incumbant head-of-state quietly and voluntarily leave the highest post in the country, to be succeeded immediately by the next head-of-state.

I believe the Founding Fathers of the United States wanted the inauguration to be a public demonstration of the effectiveness of the Constitution. A clear message to the American people and the rest of the world that democracy is alive and well.

1981, Reagan

1981, 1st Reagan Inauguration

To the American people, you have succeeded. To the outgoing president, your service to your country is appreciated. To the incoming president, may you succeed in addressing the problems facing you.

This Canadian appreciates the demonstration of democracy by my neighbor and best friend, America.


“So help me God”

January 20, 2009

This clause that is almost always added at the end of the presidential oath taking seems to get some upset.

This is an optional phrase. It is not part of the constitutionally mandated oath of office. It is in effect a sort of prayer by the president taking the oath, a personal thing.

Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States reads as follows:

“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.”

Since the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, all presidents have added the phrase “so help me God” after taking the oath.

The first president to use”affirm” rather than swear in the oath was Franklin Pierce in 1853. Herbert Hoover is the only other to use “affirm” in 1929. Neither gave a particular reason that I could find in my research. It is almost certain Barack Obama will use “so help me God” after his oath.


High Hopes

January 19, 2009

The inauguration of Barack Obama tomorrow brings back my memories of another young man with high hopes. These high hopes were held by the president-elect and also people in general.

Inaugural Invitation, 1961

Inaugural Invitation, 1961

It was January 20, 1961. John F. Kennedy was being sworn in as the 35th President of the United States. He was the youngest person to be elected and the first Roman Catholic to hold the office.

Change was felt by all. Ideals were held high. Realistically those hopes were likely too high, but we didn’t care. The prospect of new ideas and new talent blew like a fresh breeze through our minds. Being only 11 at the time I suppose I was truly naive and overly optimistic. Now tempered by the last 48 years, I am realistic and struggling to be hopeful.

I wish nothing but the best to President Barack Obama in his presidency, but we need to temper our hopes with some realism. The world is a much more complex place in 2009, then it was in 1961.


Good News for a Change

January 19, 2009

This picture speaks volumes. Last week 155 persons including the crew miraculously escaped with their lives due to the skill and luck of Sully the pilot of US Airways.

Wet Feet, but Alive

Wet Feet, but Alive

I love seeing good news in the media. Too much reported lately is doom and gloom. We should all celebrate the good.


Presidential Inaugural Firsts

January 4, 2009
Reagan Inauguration 1981

Reagan Inauguration 1981

With the inguration of a new president coming up on January 20th, I did some research and found some interesting “firsts” for this event.

January 20th is the constitutional date specified for the end of a president’s four year term. The swearing in of a president is a symbol of the smooth transistion of power in the case of a new president. In the instance of a re-elected president, it is the end of one elected term and the beginning of a new one. The Constitution also specifies the “oath-of-office” is to be taken  by the president-elect.

 Here are some of the tidbits I found,

1837 – Martin Van Buren was the first president to call on his predecessor, Andrew Jackson, at the White House, and ride with him to the Capitol for the swearing in. He was also the first president who was born an American citizen.

1841 – William Henry Harrison was the first president to arrive in Washington by train for the inauguration.

1841 – John Tyler was the first president who was sworn in after the death of a president. He was never elected to his own term so didn’t have an inauguration of his own.

1845 – James Polk’s inaugural address was the first one relayed by telegraph (to Baltimore).

1853 – Franklin Pierce was the first, and so far only, president to “affirm” rather than swear his loyalty to the Constitution.

1865 – Black soldiers marched in the inaugural parade for the first time.

1897 – William McKinley’s first inauguration was filmed by motion-picture cameramen.

1921 – Presidential party rode in automobiles to the inauguration for Warren Harding’s inauguration.

1925 – Calvin Coolidge’s inaugural address was broadcast on radio.

1929 – Herbert Hoover’s address was recorded for “talking pictures”.

1949 – Harry Truman’s inauguration was first to appear on television.

1961 – John F. Kennedy’s inauguration appeared on color TV.

1977 – Jimmy Carter walked back to the White House with his family after taking his oath at the Capitol.

2009 – Will this be the first broadcast live on the internet? Most likely.


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