Obama to be sworn in with King, Lincoln Bibles

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 20: Barack H. Obama is sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts as the 44th president of the United Statesas on the West Front of the Capitol as his wife Michelle looks on January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama becomes the first African-American to be elected to the office of President in the history of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

When President Obama is sworn into office for a second term at his public inauguration ceremony, he will place his hand on not one Bible, but two.

One, Abraham Lincoln's Bible, was used by Mr. Obama at his first inauguration; but the second, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Bible, is a new addition - and a potent symbolic gesture.

The public swearing-in ceremony occurs on Jan. 21, which also happens to be the federal holiday commemorating the civil rights hero.

Some see the choice of Bibles as a pair of symbolic bookends. Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation set into motion a struggle for full civil rights that would reach a zenith a century later with King's nonviolent resistance movement and his "I have a dream" speech.

Less than 50 years after King's speech, America's first black president will take the oath of office for a second time with his left hand on each man's Bible - the proud inheritance of the civil rights movement, centuries in the making.

"President Obama is honored to use these Bibles at the swearing-in ceremonies," said Steve Kerrigan, President and CEO of the Presidential Inaugural Committee. "On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, this historic moment is a reflection of the extraordinary progress we've made as a nation."

King's Bible has never before been part of a presidential inauguration, but his children said he would be "deeply moved to see President Obama take the oath of office using his Bible," according to a statement provided by the inaugural committee.

"His traveling Bible inspired him as he fought for freedom, justice and equality, and we hope it can be a source of strength for the president as he begins his second term."