In politics, you can never anticipate just who will pop into the pictures of history.
Earlier today, January 20, 2013, President Barack Obama repeated the first of two oath-of-office clauses and was sworn into his second term as President. Tomorrow, January 21, 2013, he will take the second of these at the public ceremony on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol Building.
And in a photograph that was instantly transmitted around the globe, a woman in a black turban posed in a dress with white ermine sleeves stared out remotely right behind the President.
It was the portrait of First Lady Elizabeth Monroe. Perhaps it was some sort of coincidental kismet that the image of a woman whose husband was first President 196 years ago (his two terms ran from 1817 to 1825) would be so visible in the year 2013.
As it turns out, Monroe was the first of only five Presidents whose second terms began on a Sunday like Obama, but Elizabeth Monroe was unable to witness her husband’s oath in 1821.
One of those First Ladies about whom little primary documentation has survived, she suffered from several vague ailments. Beside chronic and severe rheumatism, based on a record of symptoms, Mrs. Monroe also was one of two First Ladies who lived with seizure disorder, more popularly known as epilepsy. The other was Ida McKinley.
Well, at least Mrs. Monroe got to witness the Sunday ceremony for Barack Obama’s second term, if in spirit only.
The other First Lady who appeared in pictures of today’s ceremony was the expected one. With an obvious pride as she smiled and looked up into her husband’s face as he repeated the simple oath of office, Michelle Obama then embraced and kissed the President with congratulations.
Three days ago, Michelle Obama celebrated her 49th birthday, having been born on January 17, 1964.
Just three days after her first birthday, on January 20, 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson was inaugurated to his own full term, having won the 1964 election after succeeding to the presidency on November 22, 1963, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
And today, First Lady Obama continued a tradition which began at that previous inaugural, when First Lady Lady Bird Johnson held the Bible on which her husband took his oath of office.
Since then, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush have also done so.
Following today’s private ceremony, the First Lady continued her own Inauguration Day tradition, which she began at the time of her husband’s first inaugural, using the event to mark a national Day of Service, encouraging volunteerism among thousands of citizens in Washington, D.C.
As he did during the 2009 Inauguration Day of Service, Barack Obama joined his wife.
Tomorrow, January 21, 2013, the traditional procession of Inauguration traditions will take place: the ride from the White House to the Capitol, the public, outdoor swearing-in ceremony, the Capitol Luncheon, the walk down Pennsylvania Avenue during the return to the White House, the Inaugural Parade and the Inaugural Balls.
Also “witnessing” today’s ceremony were the more familiar faces of Presidents James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, whose portraits hang on the rounded walls of the oval Blue Room, in front of which Michelle Obama and First Daughters Malia Obama and Sasha Obama witnessed the brief ceremony.
There’s no better evidence of the progress the nation does make, over time, than the fact that the portraits of the third and fourth President represent men who were slave-owners while the President being sworn into office counted both slaves and slave-owners among his ancestors.
Today’s ceremony marked the first such event to take place in the Blue Room, and only the sixth time in history when a President of the United States was sworn into office in his official residence of the White House.
The first time was for Rutherford Hayes, on March 3, 1877 in the Red Room, the space from which Chief Justice Roberts walked into the Blue Room for today’s brief ceremony.
The Hayes ceremony was held secretly, and created yet another trivia conundrum, since it took place a day before his term was to legally begin.
The second such event took place just several feet from where Obama took his oath; on January 20, 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in for his fourth term on the South Portico, right outside the Blue Room windows.
The third time took place just two and a half months later when, upon learning of Roosevelt’s death, Vice President Harry Truman was sworn into office on April TK, 1945 in the West Wing.
The fourth and fifth times were, like the situation today, private ceremonies held because the inauguration fell on a Sunday and the President-Elect was already in residence as the President. Taking their second term oaths like Obama were Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 20, 1957 and Ronald Reagan in 1985.
- Obama to take official oath in Sunday ceremony (nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com)
- Obama sworn in, second term officially begins (cbsnews.com)
- Obama Inauguration 2013: President To Take Oath Of Office In Small Ceremony (huffingtonpost.com)
- 100 Years of Inaugurations in 2 Mins. (fox4kc.com)
- Michelle Obama Wears Bangs, Reed Krakoff Dress To Swearing In (PHOTOS) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Like Reagan, Obama will take oath of office twice – NBCNews.com (blog) (nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com)