President Barack Obama and Chief Justice John Roberts will have a second chance to
not flub their lines with the 57th inauguration later this month. In fact, as with
four years ago, they will go through the ritual of the swearing-in two times—at the
White House on Sunday, January 20, and at the Capitol on Monday, January 21.
It was similar but in reverse order in 2009, when at the public swearing-in at the
Capitol on January 20, Roberts misspoke the precise words of the oath, which is a
legal no-no. The Constitution requires the President to 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.” At the Capitol podium, Roberts said, “. . . that I will execute the office
of President to the United States faithfully.” The flub caused Obama to stumble a
But in fairness to the chief justice, it was a very cold day. Even the strings on
Yo-Yo Ma’s cello nearly froze. “It was wicked cold,” Ma said. Roberts took responsibility
for not acing the oath.
The next evening, January 21, Obama, in a suit, and Roberts, in his judicial robes,
met in the White House Map Room, where the oath was redone without a hitch.
“I will be honored to again stand on the inaugural platform and take part in this
important American tradition,” said President Obama in a statement issued by the Presidential
Inauguration Committee on Friday. “I look forward to having Chief Justice John Roberts
administer my oath of office.” The PIC said Justice Sonia Sotomayor will swear in
Vice President Joseph Biden.
Inaugural ceremonies are not held on Sunday, which is why Obama and Biden will take
the oath on January 20 at the White House—required by law and considered the “official”
oath—and then again the next day at the Capitol. The Sunday conflict has happened
six times before. Details of the White House swearing-in have not been announced,
though it is likely there will be live broadcast coverage.
Due to the redo four years ago, and the fact he has to take the oath twice this year,
it makes Obama only the second President to take the oath of office four times. The
other was Franklin Roosevelt, who was elected to four terms.