Chief Justice of the United States, the Honorable John G. Roberts, will administer the oath of office to the new president. First will come the swearing-in of Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. by Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, followed closely by the presidential swearing-in.
The Constitution of the United States mandates that the oath or affirmation of office must be administered before the president can "enter on the Execution" of duties as Chief Executive. The words that will be repeated after the Chief Justice are these:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) 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 (So help me God).Advance word is that President Obama plans to repeat the optional codicil, as have presidents before him: "So help me God."
The invocation prayer will be led by the Rev. Rick Warren, senior and founding pastor of the Saddlebrook Church, Lake Forest, California. He is author of The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life. The latter book, long on the national best-seller list, answers scripturally the question, "What on earth am I here for?" Criticism has been rife that Mr. Obama chose a conservative pastor, one who stands against abortion and gay marriage, as the person to lead the invocation. The benediction will be pronounced by the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights activist and minister in the United Methodist Church.
Ruffles and flourishes will musically announce the new president, followed by the stately and highly-recognizable "Hail to the Chief."
Since April 30, 1789 when George Washington was inaugurated on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City, before the capitol was built in Washington, D. C., we have held to certain traditions, ceremonies and fanfare, all of which set apart the inauguration of the president of the United States as an auspicious occasion. We observe the peaceful transfer of leadership from one person to another, an earmark of a democratic form of government.
What can we as "ordinary" citizens do—rank-and-file people of the United States, most of whom will not be in the massive Washington throng to participate in Mr. Obama's inauguration? We have the privilege of watching on television, so we can experience vicariously the excitement and launch of "A New Birth of Freedom." We can forget partisan politics for awhile and know that the people, and our electoral college, determined peacefully our leader for the next four years. It is our duty as citizens to support him.
But there is something much more important we can do than watch—than become side-line spectators. We can help to shape history. That admonition was given by Paul the Apostle when he wrote to young Timothy, his "son" in the gospel: "Pray for rulers and for all who have authority so that we can have quiet and peaceful lives full of worship and respect for God." (1 Timothy 2:2).
I think we would agree to the terms of this prayer expressed by Paul. And if we are truly to see "A New Birth of Freedom," with the economy at a low ebb, and many factions warring against each other in the world and in America itself, we can agree to make a difference by praying for rulers and for all in authority. If enough pray, and sincerely mean their petitions, then we will be able to live "quiet and peaceful lives full of worship and respect for God." This is the biblical promise attached to the request to pray for leaders.
These words are engraved in the State Room of the White House, the house that Barack and Michelle Obama and their daughters will occupy for the next four years. The words were written by John Adams, our second president, to his wife Abigail. They are s a prayer for all of Adams' successors: "I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof."
May we enjoy inauguration, 2009. We are living history in all its pomp and circumstance. May we know, truly, that this time is "A New Birth of Freedom."
c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 15, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.