Inauguration Day for kids is an important topic. Traditions like these create a sense of structure and security which children and adults both appreciate. The inauguration ceremony and the inaugural celebration welcoming a new administration is a significant event for young Americans to understand. We are going to talk about some of the basic questions about Inauguration Day for kids to better understand why this day is important to our democracy, along with some fun facts. We will also include some activities and books that you can add to your lessons or read-alouds at home to help kids better understand Inauguration Day!
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What is the presidential inauguration?
The presidential inauguration is the ceremony for swearing in the new president and transitioning power from the outgoing president to the next. This usually happens in democracies where the president has been elected. The inauguration involves the swearing of an oath of office by the newly elected president. The new president and his/her family will move into the White House for the first time after the inaugural ceremonies. This important event showing the peaceful transition of power is a great time to talk to children about this historic moment.
When is Inauguration Day?
Inauguration Day is on January 20th (or January 21, if January 20 falls on a Sunday) after a presidential election. Originally, the Constitution of the U.S. set March 4 as Inauguration Day to give officials time to travel to the capital after the election. However, in 1937, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to be sworn into office in January. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution officially changed Inauguration Day to January 20th. The president is to be sworn in at noon on that date looking over the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
What happens on Inauguration Day?
The newly elected president will arrive at the Capitol Building before noon and will take an oath of office, administered by the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and then deliver the inaugural address. Former presidents may also be in attendance to support the new president, most likely remembering their past inaugurations and offering good wishes to the new president. Inaugural ceremonies for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Harris include famous performers and writers like Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, John Legend, Amanda Gorman, Justin Timberlanke, and Jon Bon Jovi.
The ceremony is often followed by a full day’s events including a inaugural parade, a tour of the Oval Office, a worship service, visiting the houses of Congress, and fancy balls. All of the major networks follow the day’s festivities.
What is the oath of office?
The president takes an oath or makes a promise to the country. He or she states, “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.”
In addition, the vice president also takes an oath of office which happens prior to the president’s. The vice president’s oath is “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
What is an inauguaral address?
After the president is sworn in, he/she will make a speech called the inaugural address. This speech gives the vision the president has for the country and highlights the goals of his/her administration. George Washington started the tradition of an inaugural address in 1789. His second inaugural address in 1793 was the shortest inaugural speech ever given at just 135 words.
William Henry Harrison gave the longest inaugural address at 8,445 words on an extremely cold and wet day in March of 1841. He died one month later from pneumonia, which many believe was brought on from being out in the cold during the inaugural ceremony.
For 10 of the most memorable quotations from presidential inaugural addresses, read more here. It would be fun for older children to examine these statements and help explain what they mean and how they cast a vision for that particular president. The inaugural address is the time for the new president to send a special message of his/her vision for the country during a big ceremony.
What happens after the inaugural address?
After the address and ceremony end, the president will officially move into the White House and several inaugural balls will take place throughout Washington, D.C. The president, his/her family, and even presidential pets will take up residence in their new home of the White House.
Books to Read around Inauguration Day
DK Eyewitness Books: Presidents is a great nonfiction resource for elementary students providing background on all of the U.S. presidents from the founding fathers to the present day.
National Geographic’s Our Country’s Presidents is one of my favorite picture books about the presidents of previous years. It includes great photos and interesting facts about every president and even photos of handwritten drafts of inaugural addresses. A great contribution to any library.
Weird but True Know it All U.S. Presidents is another favorite around our house! Our kids love becoming the “experts” and stumping us with all of the weird but true facts they learn about our country’s leaders. This book could definitely be used to create multiple classroom activities.
National Geographic Readers offer great biographical insight into many different presidents. This one on Washington is perfect for early elementary readers.
Who Was Franklin Roosevelt? is another great choice for your presidential library. Any of the books in this series would be perfect for researching our country’s political history.
Presidential Inauguration Research for Kids
I have created a document you can use with your students to research a presidential inauguration. This document can be turned into a class presentation or a written report. There is also a parts of speech activity that can be used to sort patriotic words. Enjoy!
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Art Projects for Inauguration Day for Kids
Consider creating American symbols on Inauguration Day as an art project or a rainy recess time period. Our favorite resource for this is the Art for Kids YouTube channel. How to draw the American flag or how to draw an eagle would be great options.
I hope this post will help the kids in your life understand more about Inauguration Day and its history in the United States. Enjoy!