STUDIO CITY (CBSLA.com) — In a country without royalty, the United States has made a quite a ceremony out of the inauguration of the President.
Prof. Michael Genovese, who teaches political science at Loyola Marymount University, spoke to KCAL9 about the history of the inauguration ceremony and the event’s symbolism.
“We’re a nation without a national religion or royalty, and in the absence of religion and royalty, things that bind a country together…symbols and rituals become very important to us as unifying forces, as a time for us to come together. We don’t have that many of them, so those few that we have we elevate to a very high status,” Genovese said.
“We should never underestimate the power of ceremony or ritual, they become important for self-identification. And that’s what the inaugural address will be, it’ll be about symbols of unity, bringing us together, one people on a road together,” he said.
Obama will be sworn in on two Bibles, the Martin Luther King Jr.’s “traveling Bible’ and the Lincoln Bible. The only president not to use a bible in the inaugural ceremony was John Quincy Adams, who used a book on constitutional law.
The only president not to “swear” in the oath of office was Franklin Pierce, who, in 1853, used the word “affirm” for religious reasons. His vice president, William Rufus DeVane King, was the only vice president ever to be sworn in outside of the United States. He was visiting Cuba, when he became very ill and bed-ridden. A special act of Congress was passed so King could be sworn in overseas.
Even in times of war and depression, the U.S. has never called off or canceled a presidential inauguration.
“I think it’s a tribute both to the strength of our constitutional system, but, more importantly to the character of the American people,” Genovese said.
Fewer people are expected at the President’s second inauguration Monday than the first time he was sworn in.
“The last time was so significant historically. I was in the mall, freezing cold, and all around me were people just crying — men and women, children, white, black — it was the most incredible unifying event I’ve experienced in the United States, apart from an event like 9/11 or a war. It mattered a great deal,” Genovese said. “This one is going to be conducted in more normal circumstances but don’t underestimate that…it’s a powerful symbol of who we are.”