The US had no ‘legal President’ for a day in 1821
President Barack Obama is set to have a one up — or rather two up — on his predecessors when he takes the oath of office for his second term twice — first on Sunday and then again Monday.
A private ceremony in the Blue Room of the White House — before live television cameras but without a public audience — just before noon on Sunday is to be on the right side of the law as January 20 is the designated inauguration day in the Constitution.
He will do it again Monday on the steps of the Capitol with all the pomp and ceremony watched by tens of thousands of Americans now converging on the capital.
Ronald Reagan was the last President to do the same, for his second inauguration in 1985. Before him Dwight D. Eisenhower did so in 1957.
By a strange coincidence, Mr. Obama took the oath of office twice in 2008 too. That year January 20 was on a Tuesday, but Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed a word during the ceremony at the capitol. So he did it again at the White House a few days later by way of “an abundance of caution”.
Mr. Obama would be the second President to take the oath of office four times, after Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was the only person to be elected President four times before the Congress set a two-term limit for the top job.
He also joins on Monday not only the fraternity of 21 second-term Presidents, but the even more exclusive group of seven Presidents whose inaugurations have fallen on a Sunday.
The King connection
In another overlap, Monday is both Inauguration Day and the U.S. holiday honouring the slain civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. It is only the second time the two have fallen on the same day. Some say it’s only fitting the celebrations are intertwined.
“It’s almost like fate and history coming together,” said U.S. Representative John Lewis, who worked alongside King in the fight for civil rights during the 1950s and ‘60s and plans to attend the inauguration. “If it hadn’t been for Martin Luther King Jr., there would be no Barack Obama as President.”
Before Roosevelt’s 1937 inauguration — the first one held in January — most Presidents were inaugurated on March 4, the date set by an act of Continental Congress in 1788 and an act of Congress on March 1, 1792, according to The United States Capitol Historical Society.
Realising that four months was quite a long time to hand over power between administrations, the Twentieth Amendment set January 20 as the inauguration day.