The Traditions and Future of Presidential Inaugurations 

On Wednesday, January 20, 2021,  President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will take their oaths of office and be sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States. 

History of Inaugurations 

 A presidential inauguration has taken place every four years since George Washington took the oath of office in New York City in 1789.  The White House Historical Association provides details about inaugurations and other traditions, like parades and celebrations after the ceremony.  

The Library of Congress has a visual history of U.S. Presidential Inaugurations, including images of speeches, programs, and photos. 

The office of the Architect of the Capitol coordinates arrangements for inaugurations with the Joint Congressional Committee on the Inaugural Ceremonies.  The time and date for the President and Vice President to be sworn in is stated in the 20th amendment to the Constitution, which states the term of each elected President of the United States begins at noon on January 20 of the year following the election.  Source: 

How to Watch the Inauguration on January 20 

Due to necessary precautions in preventing the spread of COVID-19, travel to Washington DC is discouraged.  However, the ceremony and virtual celebrations will be broadcast on multiple media platforms on the morning of Wednesday, January 20, 2021.  The inaugural ceremony is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. PST. See full details can be found here 

The usual in-person celebrations will instead be a virtual special event hosted by Tom Hanks, set to air live on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. PST on January 20. It will feature performances from Jon Bon Jovi, who campaigned with Biden in Pennsylvania, Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake and Ant Clemons.  The 90-minute program, titled, "Celebrating America," will also feature remarks from the President-elect, and the Vice President-elect and will celebrate "American heroes" like frontline workers, teachers and health care workers, among others. 

Rebecca Kohn, Senior Librarian, Rinconada Library 

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Palo Alto City Library