At midday on the 20th of January, a time and date which has been set in stone since 1937, Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States of America. Up to this point, despite having been confirmed as the winner of the Electoral College vote, Trump has had the title of ‘President-Elect’ whilst Barack Obama has fulfilled the end of his term.
The actual inauguration has no constitutional necessity; the constitution solely requires an oath to be made. However, as with all parts of American politics, this moment has been hyperbolised and romanticised to create the occasion that we will witness on the 20th of this month.
The Vice-President will be sworn in first, after a number of musical performances and religious invocations, directly before the president. Then Chief Justice John Roberts will rise and Trump will be made to swear, on a bible of his choice, to uphold the office of the presidency.
John Roberts has a tricky relationship with the words of this oath as, during Obama’s first inauguration, he confused some of the lines leading to the ceremony being repeated in the White House, a day later, in order to ensure that Obama had actually become the president. This is suprising considering that the oath itself is relatively simple and is defined by the constitution. Trump will say: “I do solemnly swear 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.” That’s it! 35 words and you are the President of the United States.
A number of gun salutes and some more singing will follow this and then we will end with Trump’s inauguration speech. Hopefully Trump’s speech will be shorter than William Henry Harrison’s, whose 8,445 word address in 1841 is the longest in inauguration history and is alleged to have given him a cold that killed him 31 days later.
The event usually finishes with the new President and the old President departing together. The new President will drive or walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House whilst the old President will take one last flight on the plane that would have formerly been known as Air Force One. The plane is named as such because it carries the President rather than because of its specific model and thus, because Obama will no longer be the President, the plane will no longer be Air Force One until its new occupant enters its historic doors.
After the event, Melania and Donald Trump will attend a gratuitous number of balls and dinners before settling to govern the nation. It is an archaic and positively unnecessary ceremony that will, in a matter of moments, hand the greatest power into the (small) hands of Trump.