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A Brief History of Presidential Inaugurations
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Symbolic Gestures


Inaugural ceremonies are huge public events, and both presidents and inaugural planners have recognized their potential for symbolic gestures. James Madison was inaugurated at a time when Americans were developing their own national identity. Demonstrating this emphasis, every item of President Madison’s inaugural outfit was made in the United States, even his silk stockings, manufactured in Massachusetts. With the nation on the brink of civil war, the only float in Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 parade was one symbolizing the Constitution and the Union in red, white, and blue with a small girl representing each of the thirty-four states, including those that had already seceded. In 1961, a float carrying a replica of John F. Kennedy’s PT boat along with its surviving crew dramatically reminded the American people that this president was a war hero. With anti-Vietnam War sentiment running high, parade planners for Richard Nixon’s 1969 inauguration limited the number of military units in the parade so it would not seem too hawkish. Forging a link between himself and the democratic ideals of Thomas Jefferson’s young republic, Bill Clinton arrived in Washington for his inauguration via a chartered bus which had begun its journey at Jefferson’s Virginia home, Monticello.



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The White House Historical Association | Exhibits
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A Brief History of Presidential Inaugurations
A Brief History of Presidential Inaugurations
A Brief History of Presidential Inaugurations
A Brief History of Presidential Inaugurations
A Brief History of Presidential Inaugurations
A Brief History of Presidential Inaugurations

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