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In Honor of Democracy

Joelle Mentis, Writer

Today is Inauguration Day, and no matter how the day unfolds, this is a new chapter for America. We know we are a travel and lifestyle magazine and not a political platform, but we are citizens of the United States, and citizens of the world. So in Galavante-style, we have some interesting facts about Inauguration Day, which will make you look really smart at your next cocktail party.

On a serious note, no matter where you are on the political spectrum or how you feel about our government, if you voted, your voice was heard on Election Day. That’s the beauty of democracy. We write The Weekly months before, so we have no idea what will unfold today, but to our great country and the democracy on which our forefathers founded our republic — this issue is for you.

Here’s what we know about today: The 59th inauguration, which includes the swearing in of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Kamala Harris, will be held on Wednesday, January 20.

Due to the recent events at the Capitol and the raging Covid-19 pandemic, it will (or did) look unlike any previous inauguration. At noon on the 20th, Biden’s term as president begins. He will take the oath of office on the West Front of the US Capitol at a ceremony themed, “Our Determined Democracy: Forging a More Perfect Union.” This year, there will be no parade or inaugural ball, but rather a virtual 90-minute celebratory TV special hosted by Tom Hanks. Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem, and there will be performances by Jennifer Lopez, Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Ant Clemons, Jon Bon Jovi, John Legend, Foo Fighters, Bruce Springsteen and Garth Brooks. However, even with this year’s unique and unprecedented format, this won’t be the first time the inauguration of a president has been, well, historic.

Here’s a list of few other noteworthy proceedings:

  1. Andrew Johnson was drunk when he was inaugurated as vice president to Abraham Lincoln. Prior to the ceremony, he had been sipping a concoction of “medicinal” whiskey to ease his nerves and mellow the symptoms of a recent case of typhoid fever. However, when he was sworn in, he slurred his words and made a fool of himself, so much so that Lincoln shut his eyes at the embarrassment. Afterwards, Lincoln apologized and vouched for Johnson’s efficacy.
  2. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in on Air Force One in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. He was the only president not to take the oath on land.
  3. Blueberry Jelly Beans were invented for Ronald Reagan’s inaugural celebration. The president famously loved the snack because they helped him quit smoking, and for his inauguration, he wanted to give out red, white and blue jelly beans. But there was no blue flavor in production at the time, so Jelly Belly invented blueberry for his day, to accompany the red (cherry) and white (coconut).
  4. Barack Obama had the largest crowd at his inauguration (1.8 million people plus an incalculable number of people who streamed it online). The number was an astounding measure of his historic inauguration and presidency.
  5. Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration was the coldest ever at 7 degrees Fahrenheit at noon. However, Ulysses S. Grant’s inaugural ball took place outside with temperatures in the teens and a wind chill of -30. It was so cold that the champagne froze and the canaries in cages dropped dead before they could sing per tradition.
  6. William Henry Harrison gave the longest inaugural address in 1841, which was 8,500 words and took him an hour and 45 minutes to read. He also stubbornly refused to wear a coat in the bitter cold and, subsequently, died a few months later from pneumonia. Some historians suspect another illness may have killed him, one that he contracted after the election. Regardless, his historic ascetic introduction to his presidency set a remarkable precedent that he was unsurprisingly unable to maintain.
  7. In 1905, Teddy Roosevelt was inaugurated while wearing a ring that contained a lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair, as Lincoln served as an inspiration to Roosevelt.
  8. In 1829, after Andrew Jackson’s difficult win over John Quincy Adams, the White House threw an open house party to celebrate the inauguration. A riotous crowd of over 20,000 showed up, which the White House was unprepared for. Furniture was broken, a mob erupted, and some say Jackson had to escape the wild party through a window.
  9. John Quincy Adams was the only president who did not to take the oath using a Bible. He used a book of law containing the Constitution. He did not want to uphold his duties to God, but rather the laws of the country.
  10. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to include people of color in the inaugural parade, in 1865. Woodrow Wilson was the first to include women in the parade, in 1917.

As you celebrate the inauguration with your loved ones at home, though the chaos of this past year hasn’t quite subsided, we hope that you’ll have a toast to better days. Just think, it’s not so bad. You could be outside freezing your toes off, or watching a drunk man give his speech. And now you can be the resident expert on all things inauguration. So sit back, relax, and maybe have a few blueberry jelly beans in honor of this historic day.

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