Research paper topics: Presidential inauguration

The U.S. presidential election took place in November, so why do we wait until January 20th to inaugurate the new president?

Learn more about the process of the presidential inauguration. (Credit: CenterStage)

Learn more about the process of the presidential inauguration. (Credit: CenterStage)

If you are looking for interesting research paper topics in American history, consider researching the history of the presidential inauguration, the role the Electoral College plays in the delay between election and inauguration, and the oath of office the president takes when he assumes his office.

Why the delay?

According to Marshall Brain of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in a November 8, 2008, article, “Here’s How the Presidential Inauguration Works,” the delay between election and inauguration used to be even longer. In fact, the 12th Amendment puts the date for inauguration at March 4! So what were the reasons for the delay?

  • The electoral college needed to meet and deliberate.
  • News had to travel at its fastest early 19th century speed.
  • The new president and his family had to travel with all their belongings to the capital, again at 19th century speed.

Brain continued, “By the early 20th century, it became clear that four months no longer was necessary. But time still was needed for the electoral college, which occurs Dec. 15.” The delay also gives the president-elect time to select a cabinet and get his appointees up to speed. In 1933, congress ratified the 20th Amendment, which moved the inauguration date to January 20 and outlined what happens if the president elect is disqualified or dies before the inauguration.

Historical fast facts

The Time and Date article “Inauguration Day in the United States” offered a number of facts about the event:

  • The first inauguration was of George Washington on April 30, 1789.
  • The term of office starts at exactly noon.
  • Typically, the vice president is sworn in first so the president can be sworn in at noon.
  • The swearing-in is followed by ruffles (drum calls), flourishes (on the bugle) and a 21-gun salute.
  • Following the event is a luncheon given by the U.S. Congress and a parade part way from the Capitol to the White House.

The events of the day also include a morning worship service, the procession from the chapel to the Capitol, the inaugural address (George Washington delivered the shortest one at 135 words), the departure of the outgoing president, and the inaugural ball.

There are a number of other events surrounding the inauguration, many of them fundraisers in order to finance public events and reduce the burden on taxpayers. According to New York Times reporter Nicholas Flandos in “What (Lots of) Money Can Buy at Trump’s Inauguration,” the 2017 inauguration fundraisers include opportunities ranging from $25,000 to over $1 million. These opportunities include exclusive luncheons granting access to members of the cabinet or the women of the first family, dinner with the vice president-elect and second lady-elect or with appearances by President-Elect Trump and his wife Melania, VIP tickets to the inaugural parade and ball, and tickets to the swearing in ceremony.

What gets said at presidential inauguration?

The oath of office for the U. S. President 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.” Although the presidential oath of office, and similar oaths for state representatives, have a long history in the government of the United States, there was originally a great deal of debate over them. Notable politicians and political writers of the late 1700s considered the taking of oaths to be akin to taking away the freedom of the person who spoke them. If a government were just, they posited, it would not need oaths to uphold it.

What research paper topics would you select based on the presidential inauguration? Tell us in the comments.

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