Published January 1969 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
From the Office of United States Senator Robert C. Byrd 105 Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 Volume IX - Number 2 January 10, 1969 Byrd's Eye View A Public Service Column By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd INAUGURAL FACTS The inauguration of a President is a national event that is changeless, yet, ever-changing. What has remained unchanged from the inauguration of George Washington to that of Richard Nixon is the oath of office which each new President takes. The solemn words must be spoken before the President-elect can assume the duties of his new office. The pledge, set forth in the Constitution, is that “I do solemnly swear 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 closing words, "so help me God,” were first uttered spontaneously by George Washington, so moved was he by the responsibilities which he had undertaken. But, except for the oath, there is little which Washington might recognize in today's inaugural, so numerous are the changes the inauguration day has undergone. Thomas Jefferson was the first President to be sworn in in Washington, President Washington and John Adams having been inaugurated in New York and Philadelphia, respectively. James Monroe was the first President to be inaugurated on the steps of the capitol, Jefferson's and Madison's inaugurations having been held indoors. While holding inaugural ceremonies out of doors has enabled more persons to participate, it has also left the Nation's most important ceremony totally at the whims of Washington's notoriously fickle weather. In fact, almost half of the inaugurations to date have been marked by deplorable weather conditions. William Henry Harrison, the ninth President of the United States, caught pneumonia and died within a month, as a result of speaking, without an overcoat, for more than an hour in icy winds and steady rains at his inaugural. And when President Grant was sworn in for his second term, not only did West Point cadets fall senseless from the cold, but also at the Inaugural Ball it was So icy the refreshments froze and all the guests had to leave their topcoats on. Other Presidents who scored inaugural firsts include John Quincy Adams, who was the first to wear long trousers and not knee breeches, and Warren G. Harding, who was the first to travel in an auto. One of the most raucous inaugurations was that of Andrew Jackson in 1829. So numerous were his admirers that they did almost as much damage to the White House as the British had done during the War of 1812. And, while the 1969 inaugural of Richard Nixon may not go down in history on such a note, the incoming President is almost sure to leave some new personal mark on our Nation's inaugural history.