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Inauguration Day

January 22, 2013

Inauguration Day is our democracy’s ultimate test. The winners get to promise, gloat and preen. The losers, if wise, try to lay low and wait for a more opportune time to present differing views. Since the passage of the Twentieth Amendment, Inauguration Day is January 20th. This year, as January 20th fell on a Sunday, the public ceremonies were held on Monday. Here’s the history:

The first time an Inauguration fell on a Sunday was in 1821 for President Monroe’s second swearing-in. Monroe decided, after consulting the Supreme Court, to hold the public ceremony on Monday since “courts and other public institutions were not open on Sunday.”

January 20th in Washington, DC is the depth of winter… but sometimes the cold, crisp air and boundless blues skies are invigorating. I remember JFK’s Inauguration Day that way, as was President Obama’s first Inauguration four years ago.  My wife was there. She says it was empowering and uplifting, but freezing.

The power of the day began with our first President, George Washington. After leading the rebel troops to victory in the revolution, Washington served the first two Presidential terms of our new nation. As a revered figure, the “Father of our Country” could have stayed on, perhaps even turned himself into our first King. What he chose to do was go home and peacefully turn over the power of the government to his successor, Thomas Jefferson.

Every four years we have an increasingly expensive Presidential campaign. Each side spends a year or more choosing their nominee followed by an intense six month’s battle between the cantidates. When we’re lucky, Election Day settles the issue and the winner gets busy assembling a new administration.

All over the world, governments violently rise and fall. Administrations often end with a bullet. I think the majesty of our Inauguration Day depends on the losers. They believed in their arguments as much as the victors. They fought hard and wanted, hoped, even expected to win. But when they didn’t, they too went “home to Mt. Vernon” and supported the peaceful transition of power. Let it ever be thus.

One Comment
  1. Marty Davis permalink

    That was news to me about the Inauguration falling on Sunday. I am thankful for our peaceful transition of power, but it sure is difficult being on the losing side this time……

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