The Inauguration and
Students will investigate how the Constitution outlines the basis for
the presidential inauguration.
By using the activities of this lesson, the students will:
- list the sections of the Constitution that determine the elements
of the inauguration;
- determine how the inauguration symbolizes the peaceful transition
of power in a democratic republic;
- relate the elements of the inauguration to the powers of the president
as listed in the Constitution.
The United States Constitution is the foundation for all aspects of
American government. The writers of the Constitution often left certain
issues unanswered or open to interpretation so that American society could
interpret the meaning of the document as society evolved. When the social
and political forces of the day could no longer accept the final interpretation
of the Constitution, then it was up to the Congress, the states, and ultimately,
the people, to change or amend the Constitution to reflect accurately
the political and social culture of the times. The executive branch has
undergone an evolution along with its foundation in the Constitution.
- Use the online
hypertext version of the U.S. Constitution (or a text version if
the Internet is unavailbale) to locate and list references to the process
of inaugurating the president of the United States.
Answers include the following passages:
ARTICLE II, Section 1, paragraph 7:
Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take
the following oath or affirmation:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute
the office of the President of the United States, and will to the
best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution
of the United States."
The terms of the President and Vice-President shall end at noon
on the twentieth day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives
at noon on the third day of January, of the years in which such
terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and
the terms of their successors shall then begin.
- Talk about the historical context for this language. Why would an
elected president (and an inauguration, symbolizing peaceful transfer
of power) have seemed remarkable to people in 18th century America?
What other elements of national government as established in the Constitution
would have marked a radical departure from the people's previous experiences
as colonists, or in their observations of foreign governments?
- One of the things clearly established in the Constitution is a tripartite
national government with a clear balance of power. There are elements
of the inauguration ceremony which clearly symbolize this system of
checks and balances.
Have students watch videotape or a live broadcast of the inauguration.
They should take notes, listing evidence of the three branches of
government in the inaugural ceremony. Students may want to have their
papers divided into three columns, with each one headed by the name
of one branch.
committee is a joint committee in Congress.
and vice-president take power.
swears officers in.
takes place before the Capitol.
sets agenda for his administration with inaugural address.
of speech and press exercised.
of Congress are present.
must be ready to assume the office.
can be "affirmed" if he objects to oath.
- Comparative government experts claim that the inauguration stems from
the coronation ceremony extolling kings before the age of democratic
rule. How is the inauguration similar to a coronation? How is it different?
What is the significance of both these ceremonies?
The lesson may be evaluated through the following measures:
- the student's notes taken while viewing the inaugural ceremony;
- the student's careful reading of the United States Constitution and
identification of inauguration-related passages;
- the student's contributions to class discussion.
- The inaugural ceremony often includes a poem, which expresses the
hopes of the people at the time of the inauguration and sets a tone
for the new president's time in office. If you were elected president,
what kind of message would be important to deliver during your inaugural
ceremony? Write a poem suitable for the occasion, or make a list of
published poems you might incorporate into such a ceremony.
- Research the transfer of leadership in other countries. What special
ceremonies occur? Possibilities might include the coronation of Queen
Elizabeth II in the 1950s, the recent election of Vicente Fox in Mexico,
or the coronation of Emperor Akihito in 1990.