10 Must-Haves for Your Inauguration Day Classroom

January 17, 2017

Free Activities, Primary Sources, and Fun Facts for Your Inauguration Day Classroom!

This Friday, January 20, marks the 2017 inauguration for the 45th President. We’ve put together ten helpful must-haves for your inauguration day classroom or library.

Student Activities

1. Compare two inaugural speeches. Choose two inaugural addresses from past presidents. After reading both inaugural addresses, use the Britannica graphic organizer, Venn Diagram, and identify key similarities and differences between the speeches. Have students reflect on how the time period, political party affiliation, and past president affected the content of each address.

2. Explore the 2017 presidential addresses. After reading this year’s inaugural address, use the text from the address and the Britannica graphic organizer, Body Biography, to analyze the thoughts, feelings, values, and principles of the 45th president of the United States. Ask students to reflect on whether they agree or disagree with the address. What was something that surprised them in the address? Or, better yet, have students also do this activity with President Obama's farewell address using our newest topic in Original Sources, Farewell v. Inaugural: Study the Key Speeches. Students can compare and contrast 26 hand-picked presidential addresses, a unique selection from our comprehensive document database. The short time period between an outgoing president's farewell address and the next president's inaugural address gives us the opportunity to compare and contrast the legacy of one president and the first official document outlining the legacy that the next president aspires to achieve. If you don't have access to Original Sources, take a free trial!

Inaugural “Fun” Facts

3. The shortest inaugural address was given by George Washington. His second inaugural address was less than 140 words.

4. Inauguration day hasn’t always been held on January 20. From 1793 to 1933 the president was inaugurated on March 4. However, the four-month lag between the elections and the inauguration often created a time of political inaction, which sometimes led to problems in the country. In 1933 the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, which made January 20 inauguration day. If January 20 falls on a Sunday, the president is still inaugurated that day, except in a small ceremony; a public inauguration and the subsequent festivities are held on the next day.

5. Five U.S. presidents did not give inauguration speeches. Four of these presidents—John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, and Chester A. Arthur—were originally vice presidents who came to office after the president died and served only the completion of that term. The fifth president to not deliver an inaugural address was Vice President Gerald R. Ford, who became president after the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon who completed only that term.

6. While there aren’t strict rules governing what occurs on inauguration day, many events have become traditional. For instance, since Franklin D. Roosevelt attended church services on the morning of his first swearing in ceremony in 1933, all the succeeding presidents have done the same.

7. The inaugural platform is constructed entirely from scratch for each inauguration ceremony. Construction of the platform begins with the Inaugural First Nail Ceremony, when Congressional leaders gather to hammer the first nails into the platform that will be built for the inauguration.

8. The vice president-elect is sworn in by an official of his choosing. However, the president-elect is sworn in by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

NEW Classroom Resources

9. Get President Obama's farewell address, President-elect Trump's inaugural address, and other relevant primary sources from one of Britannica's newest databases, Original Sources. If you don't already have access, take a free trial to visit all of the past Inaugural Addresses of United States Presidents or explore Farewell v. Inaugural: Study the Key Speeches and find Obama's farewell address. 

10. Pre-order Britannica’s e-book, The American Presidency, updated for 2017. The American Presidency provides a rich journey through U.S. history. Meet the occupants of the nation’s highest office, from George Washington to Donald Trump. Read a detailed biography, see the president’s signature, get to know the first lady, and more. Coverage of the 2016 presidential election and information describing the cabinet, the White House, election results, the presidential flag, and the presidential seal are also included.