Did You Know?: Speeches And Oaths

A powerfully short oath
(National Archives)
The oath for the most powerful office in the world is merely 35 words long. It went through extensive revisions before being printed into National Archives.

Can you hear me now?
Inaugural addresses from the first 28 presidents were heard by a select few who were lucky enough to be within earshot.

Warren G. Harding's speech in 1921 was the first to be amplified with loudspeakers. In 1925, Calvin Coolidge's speech was broadcast over the radio. Harry S. Truman in 1949 became the first president to have his inaugural speech shown live on television. Bill Clinton's second inauguration in 1997 was the first to be streamed online.

Barack Obama's inaugural, the 56th in American history, will be the first to show up on YouTube.

Hand on the Bible
The tradition of taking the oath with one hand on the Bible began with George Washington in 1789. Each president-elect chooses the passage the Bible is open to, and no two presidents have chosen the same passage.

All but Theodore Roosevelt have followed this tradition. In 1901, he was the only to be sworn-in without a hand on the Bible.

George Washington also set the precedent of kissing the bible and reciting the words "So help me God."

And who is holding the Bible?
Lady Bird Johnson began the tradition of first ladies holding the Bible for the president's swearing in. Before that, the clerk of the Supreme Court held it. Mrs. John's Bible was a gift from the president's mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson.

Every first lady since has done the honors.

(National Archives)
An unusual oath
The only president ever to be sworn in by a woman was Lyndon Johnson, right after the assassination of John f. Kennedy in 1963. Judge Sarah T. Hughes a federal district judge in Dallas swore in LBJ aboard Air Force One, a scene captured in this famous photograph from the National Archives.

The first speeches
George Washington had help writing his first inaugural address from a future president, James Madison.

His second, in 1793, was the shortest in history, clocking in at a minute and one half, or 135 words.

Longest speech and shortest term
Weather has played significant roles in presidential inaugurations but never more so than in 1841. William Henry Harrison was sworn in on a cold and windy day. He spoke for an hour and 40 minutes - the longest inaugural address ever.

He then rode a horse from the Capitol back to the White House with no hat or overcoat. He got pneumonia.

Harrison died one month later, ending the shortest presidency in our history.