- Created on 22 January 2013
- Created on 21 January 2013
- Created on 18 January 2013
(CNN) -- At its essence, the presidential inaugural symbolizes American democracy's peaceful transition or extension of power.
Every four years, the winner of the preceding November election swears to defend the Constitution. Cannons boom and bands play. It all unfolds outside in public, usually before a massive throng that thunders its approval.
The simple practice and symbolism of inaugurating a president has remained consistent throughout American history -- 56 times before Sunday -- although the date, the pomp and the ceremony have changed since George Washington took the first oath 224 years ago.
Thirteen years after the Declaration of Independence and more than a year and a half after the Constitution was ratified, Washington was sworn in on April 20, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York. The capital city later named for Washington was just a swamp at the time.
He set the precedent of kissing the Bible after the oath.
Franklin Pierce broke the tradition of kissing the Bible. He placed his left hand on it instead in 1853.
Washington is also credited with creating other traditions. For instance, he started the inaugural parade when government officials, members of Congress, Army units, and prominent citizens escorted him to the ceremony.
The oath of office is specified in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. The oath for other federal officials, including the vice president, is not in the Constitution.
The oath of office reads, "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.
The "(or affirm)" allows the president-elect to choose to affirm or to swear the oath of office. Only Pierce and Herbert Hoover chose to affirm rather than swear their oath.
The words "so help me God" do not appear in the Constitutional oath. That phrase was supposedly ad-libbed by Washington, setting a precedent for future presidents.
President Barack Obama has requested his oath include the phrase.
A personal aspect of the inauguration is the Bible.
John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic president -- his religious identity was a contentious issue in his run for office.
Only three presidents did not use a Bible: John Qunicy Adams opted for a volume of law; Theodore Roosevelt used no Bible or book at his first inauguration in 1901. Lyndon Johnson used John F. Kennedy's Roman Catholic Missal during his hastily arranged swearing-in aboard Air Force One en route to Washington following Kennedy's assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
Like fingerprints, no inaugural address is the same -- they come in all lengths, tones and with all kinds of different motives. Some aim to set the agenda for the president's term, others aim to define how the president will govern.
Washington delivered the shortest address at his second inauguration in Philadelphia. It totaled 135 words.
The longest was about 8,500 words and delivered by William Henry Harrison, who refused to wear coat on the cold March day in 1841. He caught a cold and died from pneumonia a month later.
Some memorable lines from inaugural addresses:
"With malice toward none, with charity for all." - Abraham Lincoln, March 1865.
"Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - Franklin
D. Roosevelt, March 1933.
"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you --- ask what you can do for your country." - John F. Kennedy, January 1961.
January 20 falls on a Sunday this year as it did in 1917, 1957 and 1985. As a result, Obama will take the official oath in a private ceremony that day at the White House. He will follow up with the public ceremony on Monday at the Capitol.
Obama will be the first president to have two oaths administered publicly and privately. In 2009, Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the oath as he read it Obama during the public ceremony. They did it again the next day at the White House to leave no question
Thomas Jefferson was the first president inaugurated in Washington, March 1801.
The first inauguration on January 20 by decree of the 20th Amendment was in 1937.
Andrew Jackson was the first to take the oath on the East Front of the Capitol.
Ronald Reagan of California was the first to be inaugurated on the West Front of the Capitol in 1980.
Jimmy Carter, in 1976, was the first to walk from the Capitol to the White House.
The first inaugural streamed live on the Internet was Bill Clinton's second ceremony in 1997.
CNN's Connor Finnegan and Robert Yoon contributed to this report
- Created on 20 January 2013
(CNN) -- Joe Biden was sworn in on Sunday to a second term as vice president, hours before President Barack Obama was to take his oath to serve another four years.
The quiet ceremonies were scheduled one day before Obama and Biden take their public oaths at the Capitol before a crowd on the National Mall.
The Constitution calls for the president to be sworn in on January 20.
Standing in the foyer of his home at the Naval Observatory in Washington, Biden was sworn in under a painting by American artist N.C. Wyeth of Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural - an event remembered for the 16th president's solemn address.
That was hardly the mood Sunday at Biden's home, where the vice president's extended family and a few Cabinet officials gathered to watch the ceremony.
His son Beau - Delaware's attorney general - was there, as were his other children, Hunter and Ashley, and a smattering of Biden grandchildren.
He placed his hand on a massive Biden family Bible, held by his wife Jill, and repeated the oath offered by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whom Biden selected to do the honor.
Obama's oath is scheduled to take place at the White House shortly before noon.
Both men traveled to Arlington National Cemetery after Biden's swearing-in for a traditional wreath-laying ceremony.
And the president and his family attended services celebrating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the most historic churches in Washington.
The tone of Obama's inaugural address Monday will be "hopeful," White House senior adviser David Plouffe said Sunday.
"What he's going to do is remind the country that our founding principles and values still can guide us in a changing and modern world," Plouffe said on CNN's "State of the Union."
"He's going to talk about the fact that our political system doesn't require us to resolve all of our disputes or settle all of our differences but it doesn't compel us to act where there shouldn't and is common ground," Plouffe added. "He's going to make that point very clearly."
Plouffe underscored that Obama's State of the Union address, to take place February 12, will present a more specific "blueprint" of the next four years.
The nation's first African-American president will become only the 17th U.S. leader to deliver a second inaugural address, before he joins the traditional parade up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.
Organizers expect 800,000 people to attend Monday's public ceremony -- less than half of the estimated 1.8 million onlookers who crammed the National Mall in 2009.
The smaller crowd this time around reflects the reality of second-term presidencies, when the novelty and expectations of a new leader have been replaced with the familiarity and experiences of the first four years.
Inauguration activities kicked off on Saturday with Obama and first lady Michelle Obama and Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, leading volunteers across the country in National Day of Service Activities.
The Obamas joined in a project at Burrville Elementary School in Washington, aiding volunteers who were sprucing up furniture. Cameras at the school caught the president and first lady staining a bookcase.
The president told volunteers that his family would do volunteer projects on holidays. "So I was taught from a young age," he said, that volunteering "is really what America is all about."
The Bidens volunteered at the National Guard Armory in Washington, helping to put together care packages for service members deployed overseas. Biden's office said volunteers at the armory would produce 100,000 packages.
"We still have 68,000 troops in harm's way in some of the most godforsaken territory in the world," Biden said, adding that the military members can find comfort "knowing that we back home just remember, we know what's going on."
Chelsea Clinton, honorary chairwoman of the Day of Service, said at a kickoff event on the National Mall that Saturday was the 19th anniversary of the day her father, former President Bill Clinton, signed the bill that designated a National Day of Service to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal holiday honoring the late civil rights leader.
"When he signed the bill, he reminded us of what Dr. King called life's most persistent and urgent question: What are you doing for others?" she said. "And in my family, the only wrong answer to that question is 'nothing.' "
Later Saturday, singer Katy Perry headlined a concert for children of military families and Washington schoolchildren, hosted by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden. Singer Usher and the cast of the TV show "Glee" were among others who performed.
The Saturday event was to recognize the sacrifices and "level of maturity that is required from military kids," the first lady said.
"It means always thinking about things that are so much bigger than yourself. It means growing up just a little faster and working just a little harder than other kids," she said. "And it means doing the greatest thing you can ever do with your life at such a young age, and that is to serve our country."
Sunday evening, the Obamas will watch Latino acts at "In Performance at the Kennedy Center," which is followed by the Let Freedom Ring concert. The Red, White and Blue Inaugural Ball and Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball are also scheduled in the capital.
The president will speak to donors at a candlelight celebration at the National Building Museum on Sunday night.
Monday's events will be downsized from Obama's first inauguration. After events in front of the Capitol, the Obamas and Bidens will lead the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. There are only two presidential balls this year, down from the 10 staged in 2009.
While the anticipated crowd for Monday's events is expected to be about half the size of the one that gathered four years ago, the temperature will be a bit higher than in 2009, when the high hovered around the freezing mark. While the early morning temperature this time will be in the 20s, the forecast calls for a high temperature in the upper 30s or low 40s. Still, organizers cautioned attendees to bundle up because they're likely to experience prolonged exposure to the cold as they watch the events and make their way to and from them.
CNN's Tom Cohen, Dana Davidsen, Brianna Keilar, Kevin Liptak, Dan Lothian and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report
- Created on 18 January 2013
(CNN) -- As President Barack Obama gets ready to start his second term in office, an average of the latest surveys indicates that 53 percent of Americans approve of the job he's doing in office, with 42 percent giving him a thumbs down.
That's according to a new CNN Poll of Polls, compiled and released Friday, which averages seven non-partisan, live operator national surveys conducted since January 9.
The survey's included in the CNN Poll of Polls are: Gallup daily tracking poll (Jan. 14-16); CNN/Time Magazine/ORC (Jan. 14-15); NBC/Wall Street Journal (Jan. 12-15); CBS/New York Times (Jan. 11-15); AP/GfK (Jan. 10-14); ABC/Washington Post (Jan. 10-13); Pew Research Center (Jan. 9-13).
Since the CNN Poll of Polls is an average of multiple surveys, it does not have a sampling error.
CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story.