America has held an inauguration for the incoming presidents since 1789. There are five reasons to pay attention to the 2021 inauguration. Honoring the history of this tradition, steeped in pomp and circumstance, is essential to who we are.
Each inauguration is a glimpse into a critical part of national history. This one will be in the history books your grandchildren and great-grandchildren read when they are in school.
The next reason is, you get to witness the new president declare his vision and intentions for the future. Awareness is an important part of being a citizen. The feeling of camaraderie and motivational words spoken during this inaugural address will be the nation’s first chance at healing the divisions caused by inequity, mistrust, and years of vitriol from our politicians.
Finally, you will get to see a man who has experienced profound personal losses fulfill his lifelong dream, despite the setbacks he faced over the years. That kind of inspiration will serve us all well.
We should honor the traditions of our nation
George Washington was sworn in as president in 1789, and the 2021 inauguration will be the 59th in American history.
There are some traditions that will be different on January 20th, 2021, like the outgoing and incoming presidents walking from the White House to the Capitol Building together. The American people won’t gather in a crowd on the national lawn, and the parade will happen virtually.
The glitz and glam of the inaugural ball will also be missing from this year’s ceremony. The President and First Lady will not share a dance. There won’t be attendees to cheer the First Couple on or wish them goodwill. It requires none of those things to transfer the power from one president to another, but they remind us of the traditions we have made as a country.
COVID-19 has affected many of our traditions over the past year, like Christmas and Thanksgiving with our family. It was sad and made the holidays feel different, however for many of us there was gratitude. Gratitude that our loved ones were still with us, and the hope that our sacrifices would mean that more people would be around for the holidays next year.
We can feel that same sense of gratitude in the traditions that we will see tomorrow. The President and Vice President will still take the oath of office. This is the inauguration’s only constitutional requirement, and it is clearly written in the constitution:
“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.”
Biden will take his oath on his family bible, one that has been with the Biden’s since 1893 and is a nod to his Irish Catholic heritage; something else that values tradition.
Each inauguration is a crucial moment in history
Traditions and history are often interchangeable, but historical moments can fill us with emotion when we witness them, and with nostalgia years later when we revisit our memories.
That will happen decades from now when you speak with the younger generation about the inauguration that took place a mere 14 days after an attack on our capital building. What story we tell them depends on the actions and behaviors we choose going forward. It will become part of our nation’s history for all the world to recall.
There are many interesting facts that past Americans have witnessed that are noteworthy. For instance, the people at both of George Washington’s inauguration got to witness the only President sworn in at two different locations.
In 1801, President John Adams did not attend Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration. The 1801 election was also the first time in US history that the presidency transferred to the opposing party.
That ball we talked about earlier has not always been a classy affair. In 1829, when Andrew Jackson was inaugurated, 20,000 people came to the White House to celebrate.
History.com claims that the celebration got out of control and guests splintered pieces of furniture and broke valuables. Jackson jumped out of a window to escape the chaos. Imagining recounting these stories to your great-grandchildren!
It creates an awareness of our leader’s intentions
Part of being an informed citizen and ensuring that we do the best to maintain our democracy for future generations means understanding the truth about what is happening within our country. The inaugural speech is the perfect platform for the incoming president to present his vision, hopes and dreams, and plans for the next four years.
You can learn a lot from these speeches. It will be the incoming president’s first words to the nation, not just to his supporters, but all of us. It is a chance to build momentum and set the tone of what the incoming administration hopes to accomplish. Biden’s speech will be about healing the country and trying to unite and find common ground.
It is a moment for the nation to come together
This moment is the visual representation of the founding principle of our democracy; a peaceful transfer of power. Every incoming president comes to this moment with the realization that some Americans did not vote for them. This speech must contain the appropriate among of celebration and thanks for the supporters, and hope for the people who feel they have lost.
These quotes from past inauguration speeches remind us that this is not the first time our nation has encountered a divided nation.
This quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s second inaugural address back in 1905 illustrates how America is bigger than one president and is a shared responsibility.
“Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither.”
This excerpt from Barack Obama’s speech in 2009 is still a perfect example of what we must do now, more than ever before.
“Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”
As we leave a presidency filled with lies and alternative facts, FRD’s speech rings true with new intensity.
“Old truths have been relearned; untruths have been unlearned. We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.”
One of the most unifying snippets of an inaugural speech comes from Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address in 1801.
“But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.”
We are all Americans, and we are all patriots. Inauguration day is a new beginning and our chance to act like one nation again.
The inauguration provides us with an opportunity to be inspired
There is so much beauty and promise in America’s imperfect union. We are a nation that spans “sea to shining sea” and leads nations around the world. We are a place where your poor, your tired, and your hungry have sought solace.
A melting pot where so many cultures can come and blend together to be one thing above all else…Americans. I believe that we can live up to the promise of this nation and be so much better than we have ever been if we remember that.
When you hear the words of The Star-Spangled Banner on inauguration day, let it inspire you. The twilight and darkness we have lived through between COVID-19 deaths and riots is within our grasp to give break to a new daw. The perilous fight is ending.
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight.
Another, lesser known lyric, also seems appropriate for the times we face.
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Whether you voted for the incoming president; whether you wept tears of joy or tears of loss; whether you live in a red state or blue state, the solemness of the moment is important to observe.
It is a historical moment, enshrined in tradition, that is important to all of us. This moment is a chance to shape our future. A chance to prove to the younger generations that are watching us, that the truth about America is what we have spent years teaching them.
Where will you be on inauguration day? You won’t be on the lawn, but I hope you will be watching.