By Paul West
WASHINGTON – President Obama officially began his second term Sunday, taking the oath of office in a White House ceremony a day ahead of the traditional public event marked by pomp, pageantry and a parade.
The swearing-in, carried live on national television, was prompted by a quirk of the calendar. For the seventh time in 200 years, inauguration day falls on a Sunday. Since 1917, incoming or reelected presidents have chosen to take the oath in relative privacy, rather than hold public ceremonies on a Sunday.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administered the oath, as he did, twice, four years ago. In 2009, Roberts and Obama mangled the wording of the oath during the inaugural ceremony. White House lawyers, out of an abundance of caution, summoned the chief justice to the White House the next evening to readminister the oath.
He did so, without a Bible or TV cameras present, but using the exact words of the constitutional oath.
The last president sworn in on a Sunday was Ronald Reagan, who began his second term in 1985 in the grand foyer at the White House. Obama chose the Blue Room, an oval-shaped salon on the main floor that was also the site of the only presidential wedding at the White House, Grover Cleveland’s in 1886.
Obama placed his hand on a family Bible. Four years ago, he took the oath on the same Bible that Abraham Lincoln had used in 1861.
Under the Constitution’s 20th amendment, Obama’s first term officially ends at noon Sunday and his second begins at the same time. Earlier Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden was sworn in at a separate ceremony at his official residence in northwest Washington.
Obama and Biden will reenact their oath-taking Monday at the inaugural ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol. At that time, the president will deliver his second inaugural address.
According to the presidential inaugural committee, the Bible that Obama used Sunday was given to Michelle Obama’s grandmother, LaVaughn Robinson, by her son, the first lady’s father, in 1958.
LaVaughn Robinson managed the bookstore at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and was the first African American woman to hold that job, according to the committee, which said she “used the Bible regularly.”
On Monday, the president will use two Bibles, stacked together, when Roberts swears him in — for the fourth time, counting 2009. One will be the Lincoln Bible that he used in 2009. The other will be a Bible that civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. carried before he was assassinated in 1968. The public inaugural ceremony falls on the federal holiday that marks King’s birthday, which is actually Jan. 15.