Inauguration Day is the time set to swear in and welcome the new president and vice president of the United States. It is the day a new president officially takes control of the White House.
Although the presidential election takes place in November, there needs to be some time before the elected leader can take control. This in-between session is known as the Lame Duck period, where the outgoing commander in chief has the opportunity to pass bills and offer pardons while the new president puts together his cabinet and administration.
January 20 wasn’t always Inauguration Day. The first inauguration was set for March 4, 1789, by the Congress of the Confederation “for commencing proceedings” of a new government. However, the first president of the United States, George Washington, couldn’t make it to the ceremony in time, and it was eight weeks delayed by a bad winter.
Historically, a four-month lapse was necessary because it took time to pack up a house and move to Washington D.C. This was before automobiles and planes, so traveling by horse and wagons took much longer. In the meantime, the current president had little power and this gap in time has caused problems in the past. For example, during the 1860 election, outgoing President James Buchanan didn’t pay heed to the nation’s civil unrest and incoming President Abraham Lincoln was forced to sit idly aside while seven states left the Union in what was called the long “Secession Winter.”
On January 23, 1933, the 20th Amendment was ratified, moving the Inauguration Day to January 20. However, it didn’t take effect until October of that year and once again caused problems for incoming President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had to wait to implement his plans during the Great Depression.
Into the Present
The 2021 Inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is fraught with uncertainty and confusion. After the Capitol Building protest earlier this month, authorities are concerned about more demonstrations that could turn violent. Washington, D.C. has been shut down to stop people from attending the event, choosing safety and precaution instead.
This day represents a peaceful and smooth transition of power from one leader to the next. The new president will take his oath of office. After a celebration and speeches, the president and his family officially move into the White House.