First inauguration of Bill Clinton

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First Presidential Inauguration of Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton taking the oath of office, 1993.jpg
Clinton takes the presidential oath of office.
Date January 20, 1993; 29 years ago (1993-01-20)
Location United States Capitol,
Washington, D.C.
Participants President of the United StatesWilliam J. Clinton
Assuming office
Chief Justice of the United
, William H. Rehnquist
Administering oath
Vice President of the United States
Albert A. Gore, Jr.
Assuming office
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court,
Byron White
Administering oath
Joint Congressional Committee
on Inaugural Ceremonies
Responsible for inaugural events
(including inaugural parade
and balls)

The first inauguration of Bill Clinton as the 42nd President of the United States took place on January 20, 1993. The inauguration marked the beginning of the first four-year term of Bill Clinton as President and Al Gore as Vice President. The inauguration took place at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.[1] Clinton was the first president elected post–Cold War era, and the first Democrat elected in 12 years. Clinton and Gore took over from outgoing President George H. W. Bush and outgoing Vice President Dan Quayle.[2]

Pre-inaugural events

Reunion on the mall

America's Reunion on the Mall was a two-day multi-stage festival as part of the 1993 Presidential Inaugural Celebration, held from January 17–19. One million people attended the event on the National Mall between Capitol Hill and the Washington Monument. With tents stretching from the Capitol to the Washington Monument, it was reported to be the largest festival ever held on the Mall.[3] The two-hour outdoor concert that started the festival kicked off the Clinton/Gore Inaugural. Hundreds of thousands of people attended the free concert, which featured entertainers as Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Michael Bolton, Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross and rapper LL Cool J.[4]

Inaugural Bell Ringing Ceremony

On January 17, President-elect Clinton addressed the crowd in a short bell-ringing ceremony to mark his inauguration, after leading a procession across the Memorial Bridge from Washington, DC to Arlington, VA. The ceremony included a brief videotape and statement from the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour, and live video links from NASA Mission Control in Houston, TX, south central Los Angeles, Oklahoma, Nashville, San Francisco, Tallahassee, Little Rock, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Keams Canyon, AZ, and Atlanta, where crowds had assembled to take part in a bell-ringing ceremony to show the unity of the nation. At 6 p.m., Clinton and Gore, with the help of their children, grasped the red rope attached to the bell and led the nation in a bell ringing ceremony. A spectacular display of fireworks ended the evening’s public events.[5]

Visit to the Arlington Cemetery

On January 19, Clinton visited the Arlington Cemetery to visit the graves of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. The visit was not on Clinton's schedule, and only a small group of reporters and photographers was allowed to witness the gathering from 150 yards away. After kneeling at the graveside for a few moments, Mr. and Mrs. Clinton each placed a white rose on the grave of Robert Kennedy, who was shot June 5, 1968, while campaigning for the presidency. Mr. Clinton then walked alone to John F. Kennedy's grave and placed another white rose on the marker. He knelt for several seconds before the grave of the man who was shot on Nov. 22, 1963. Clinton had met President Kennedy briefly as a teenager in 1963, and credits that encounter with leading him to enter public service.[6]

Presidential Gala

On January 19, 1993, a cast including Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Elton John, the Alvin Ailey Dance Troupe, comedians Chevy Chase and Bill Cosby, and actors Jack Lemmon and James Earl Jones performed at the 42nd Presidential Inaugural Gala at The Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland in honor of Clinton.[7] A specially re-formed Fleetwood Mac also took the stage to perform the song "Don't Stop"' which had been Bill Clinton's campaign song.[8]

Kids' Inaugural

Also on January 19, the Clintons took part in an event aimed at younger audiences at the Kennedy Center. Billed as two separate one-hour specials, the Inaugural Celebration for Children and the Inaugural Celebration for Youth were both aired live on Disney Channel.[9]

The Inaugural Celebration for Children was hosted by Markie Post and featured appearances from Mr. Rogers, the Muppets, Raffi, Emmylou Harris, Roseanne Cash, and the cast of Adventures in Wonderland. Notably, during the finale of the special, Steve Whitmire perched the Kermit the Frog puppet on Hillary Clinton's shoulder as he sang during the final song, a photo of which appeared in newspapers across the country.

This was followed by the Inaugural Celebration for Youth, which was hosted by Will Smith and featured appearances from Clarence Clemmons, Boyz II Men, Celine Dion, Kenny Loggins, Vanessa Williams, Jay R. Ferguson, Al Gore, the Joffrey Ballet, the L.A. Youth Ensemble Theatre, and the cast of The Mickey Mouse Club. [10]

Inauguration events

Pass to the Capitol Hill standing area for the Inauguration


The inaugural ceremonies and luncheon for Clinton’s inauguration were planned and executed by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, as all inaugurations since 1901 have been. Senator Wendell H. Ford chaired the committee for Clinton’s first inauguration.[11] It is estimated that the committee spent $33 million on the inauguration.[12]

Vice Presidential Oath

The ceremony began with the Vice Presidential Oath of Office. Byron White, the Associate Justice, administered the oath to Albert A. Gore Jr. The Oath of Office for the Vice President is not specified in the Constitution, but Gore used the current form of the oath, which is also used by the Senators, Representatives, and other government officers:

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and I will well and faithfully perform the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God.”[13]

Presidential Oath

At noon, Clinton’s presidential term began, and he took the Oath, which was administered by William Rehnquist, the Chief Justice. The Presidential Oath of Office is mandated in Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution:

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God.”[14]

Clinton’s oath was sworn on a King James Bible, which was given to him by his grandmother. Clinton took the Oath while standing beside his daughter Chelsea and his wife Hillary, who was holding the Bible. The passage that the Bible was open to was Galatians 6:8:[15]

“For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”[16] After Clinton and Gore took their Oaths, the United States Marine Band played Ruffles and Flourishes, followed by Hail Columbia.

Presidential address

President Clinton then delivered his inaugural address. In the 1,598-word speech, Clinton informed the nation of his intentions as a leader.[17] The opening lines: "My fellow citizens, today we celebrate the mystery of American renewal. This ceremony is held in the depth of winter, but by the words we speak and the faces we show the world, we force the spring, a spring reborn in the world's oldest democracy that brings forth the vision and courage to reinvent America" are a symbolic reference to the pagan ritual holiday of Imbolc which celebrates the mid-point of Winter and calls forth the imminent Spring.

Notably, the closing lines contain a proof-text that does not reflect the original intent of the quoted material: "The Scripture says, "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." From this joyful mountaintop of celebration we hear a call to service in the valley. We have heard the trumpets. We have changed the guard. And now, each in our own way and with God's help, we must answer the call."

Clinton's scriptural reference was to the King James Version of Galations 6:7-10, which is an admonishment to Christians do good works when possible, especially for fellow Christians: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."

Clinton portrayed change as a positive factor, not something to be feared. He reminded his audience that America has a history of overcoming challenges through bold action and re-creating itself for the better in the process using examples such as the Great Depression and the Civil War. As the first President elected in the post-Cold War era, Clinton stressed the importance of renewal for America, and hinted that he would work to make positive change in America.[18] “The Star Spangled Banner”, the American national anthem and “God Bless America”, an American patriotic song, were both played following Clinton’s address. The full speech can be read in section 4.


After Clinton’s inaugural address, Maya Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning”. The poem, which Angelou wrote specifically for the inauguration, shared common themes to Clinton’s inaugural address, including change, responsibility, and the President's and the citizenry's role in establishing economic security. Angelou became the second poet in history to read a poem at a presidential inauguration, as Robert Frost was the first, who recited a poem at John F Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.[19]

Religious elements

Since 1937, the inauguration ceremonies have included one or more prayers. During Clinton’s first inauguration, Rev. Billy Graham, who also delivered invocations during the first inauguration on George W Bush, and the Second Inauguration of Bill Clinton, gave an invocation and benediction:

“Our God and our Father, we thank you for this historic occasion when we inaugurate our new President and Vice-President. We thank you for the moral and spiritual foundations which our forefathers gave us and which are rooted deeply in scripture. Those principles nourished and guided us as a nation in the past, but we cannot say that we are a righteous people. We’ve sinned against you. We’ve sown to the wind and are reaping the whirlwind of crime, drug abuse, racism, immorality, and social injustice. We need to repent of our sins and turn by faith to you.
And now, on this twentieth day of January, 1993, we commit to you President-elect Clinton and Vice-President-elect Gore, who you have permitted to take leadership at this critical time in our nation’s history. Help them always to see the office to which they’ve been elected as a sacred trust from you. We pray that you will bless their wives who will share so much of the responsibility and burdens. Make President-elect Clinton know that he is never really alone but that the eternal God can be his refuge and he can turn to you in every circumstance. Give him the wisdom you’ve promised to those who ask and the strength that you alone can give. We thank you for his predecessor President Bush and the dedication he gave to this office. Bless him as he and Mrs. Bush continue their dedicated service to our country in other spheres. We commit this inaugural ceremony to you and ask that the memory of this event may always remind us to pray for our leaders. I pray this in the name of the one that’s called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. Amen.”[20]

Post-ceremony traditions

The President and the First Lady during the parade

Departure of the outgoing president

Following the inaugural ceremony on the west front of the U.S. Capitol, the outgoing President and First Lady, George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush, left the Capitol to begin their post-presidential lives. Clinton and Gore escorted their predecessors out of the Capitol after the swearing-in ceremony. George H. W. Bush and his wife Barbara then departed on a plane to return to Houston, Texas.[21]

Congressional luncheon

Clinton and Gore were guests of honour at a luncheon held by the United States Congress immediately following the inaugural ceremony. The luncheon was held in Statuary Hall and was attended by the leadership of both houses of Congress as well as guests of the president and vice president. By tradition, outgoing President George H. W. Bush and outgoing Vice President Dan Quayle did not attend.[22]

Inaugural Parade

After the luncheon, Clinton and his wife made their way down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, followed by a procession of ceremonial military regiments, citizens’ groups, marching bands, and floats.[23] The Clintons traveled in a limousine down Pennsylvania Avenue to the cheers of a large crowd lining the street. The Clintons got out of the limousine to walk the final few blocks to the White House, followed by the Gores a few minutes later.[24]

Inaugural balls

After the parade, the president, vice president and their families attended the 11 official inaugural balls held in their honour. Sites for these balls included the Air and Space Museum and the S. Dillon Ripley Center.[25]

Clinton's Inaugural Address

"My fellow citizens, today we celebrate the mystery of American renewal. This ceremony is held in the depth of winter, but by the words we speak and the faces we show the world, we force the spring, a spring reborn in the world's oldest democracy that brings forth the vision and courage to reinvent America. When our Founders boldly declared America's independence to the world and our purposes to the Almighty, they knew that America, to endure, would have to change; not change for change's sake but change to preserve America's ideals: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Though we marched to the music of our time, our mission is timeless. Each generation of Americans must define what it means to be an American.

On behalf of our Nation, I salute my predecessor, President Bush, for his half-century of service to America. And I thank the millions of men and women whose steadfastness and sacrifice triumphed over depression, fascism, and communism.

Today, a generation raised in the shadows of the cold war assumes new responsibilities in a world warmed by the sunshine of freedom but threatened still by ancient hatreds and new plagues. Raised in unrivaled prosperity, we inherit an economy that is still the world's strongest but is weakened by business failures, stagnant wages, increasing inequality, and deep divisions among our own people.

When George Washington first took the oath I have just sworn to uphold, news traveled slowly across the land by horseback and across the ocean by boat. Now, the sights and sounds of this ceremony are broadcast instantaneously to billions around the world. Communications and commerce are global. Investment is mobile. Technology is almost magical. And ambition for a better life is now universal.

We earn our livelihood in America today in peaceful competition with people all across the Earth. Profound and powerful forces are shaking and remaking our world. And the urgent question of our time is whether we can make change our friend and not our enemy. This new world has already enriched the lives of millions of Americans who are able to compete and win in it. But when most people are working harder for less; when others cannot work at all; when the cost of health care devastates families and threatens to bankrupt our enterprises, great and small; when the fear of crime robs law-abiding citizens of their freedom; and when millions of poor children cannot even imagine the lives we are calling them to lead, we have not made change our friend.

We know we have to face hard truths and take strong steps, but we have not done so; instead, we have drifted. And that drifting has eroded our resources, fractured our economy, and shaken our confidence. Though our challenges are fearsome, so are our strengths. Americans have ever been a restless, questing, hopeful people. And we must bring to our task today the vision and will of those who came before us. From our Revolution to the Civil War, to the Great Depression, to the civil rights movement, our people have always mustered the determination to construct from these crises the pillars of our history. Thomas Jefferson believed that to preserve the very foundations of our Nation, we would need dramatic change from time to time. Well, my fellow Americans, this is our time. Let us embrace it.

Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. And so today we pledge an end to the era of deadlock and drift, and a new season of American renewal has begun.

To renew America, we must be bold. We must do what no generation has had to do before. We must invest more in our own people, in their jobs, and in their future, and at the same time cut our massive debt. And we must do so in a world in which we must compete for every opportunity. It will not be easy. It will require sacrifice, but it can be done and done fairly, not choosing sacrifice for its own sake but for our own sake. We must provide for our Nation the way a family provides for its children.

Our Founders saw themselves in the light of posterity. We can do no less. Anyone who has ever watched a child's eyes wander into sleep knows what posterity is. Posterity is the world to come: the world for whom we hold our ideals, from whom we have borrowed our planet, and to whom we bear sacred responsibility. We must do what America does best: offer more opportunity to all and demand more responsibility from all. It is time to break the bad habit of expecting something for nothing from our Government or from each other. Let us all take more responsibility not only for ourselves and our families but for our communities and our country.

To renew America, we must revitalize our democracy. This beautiful Capital, like every capital since the dawn of civilization, is often a place of intrigue and calculation. Powerful people maneuver for position and worry endlessly about who is in and who is out, who is up and who is down, forgetting those people whose toil and sweat sends us here and pays our way. Americans deserve better. And in this city today there are people who want to do better. And so I say to all of you here: Let us resolve to reform our politics so that power and privilege no longer shout down the voice of the people. Let us put aside personal advantage so that we can feel the pain and see the promise of America. Let us resolve to make our Government a place for what Franklin Roosevelt called bold, persistent experimentation, a Government for our tomorrows, not our yesterdays. Let us give this Capital back to the people to whom it belongs.

To renew America, we must meet challenges abroad as well as at home. There is no longer a clear division between what is foreign and what is domestic. The world economy, the world environment, the world AIDS crisis, the world arms race: they affect us all. Today, as an older order passes, the new world is more free but less stable. Communism's collapse has called forth old animosities and new dangers. Clearly, America must continue to lead the world we did so much to make.

While America rebuilds at home, we will not shrink from the challenges nor fail to seize the opportunities of this new world. Together with our friends and allies, we will work to shape change, lest it engulf us. When our vital interests are challenged or the will and conscience of the international community is defied, we will act, with peaceful diplomacy whenever possible, with force when necessary. The brave Americans serving our Nation today in the Persian Gulf, in Somalia, and wherever else they stand are testament to our resolve. But our greatest strength is the power of our ideas, which are still new in many lands. Across the world we see them embraced, and we rejoice. Our hopes, our hearts, our hands are with those on every continent who are building democracy and freedom. Their cause is America's cause.

The American people have summoned the change we celebrate today. You have raised your voices in an unmistakable chorus. You have cast your votes in historic numbers. And you have changed the face of Congress, the Presidency, and the political process itself. Yes, you, my fellow Americans, have forced the spring. Now we must do the work the season demands. To that work I now turn with all the authority of my office. I ask the Congress to join with me. But no President, no Congress, no Government can undertake this mission alone.

My fellow Americans, you, too, must play your part in our renewal. I challenge a new generation of young Americans to a season of service: to act on your idealism by helping troubled children, keeping company with those in need, reconnecting our torn communities. There is so much to be done; enough, indeed, for millions of others who are still young in spirit to give of themselves in service, too. In serving, we recognize a simple but powerful truth: We need each other, and we must care for one another.

Today we do more than celebrate America. We rededicate ourselves to the very idea of America, an idea born in revolution and renewed through two centuries of challenge; an idea tempered by the knowledge that, but for fate, we, the fortunate, and the unfortunate might have been each other; an idea ennobled by the faith that our Nation can summon from its myriad diversity the deepest measure of unity; an idea infused with the conviction that America's long, heroic journey must go forever upward.

And so, my fellow Americans, as we stand at the edge of the 21st century, let us begin anew with energy and hope, with faith and discipline. And let us work until our work is done. The Scripture says, "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." From this joyful mountaintop of celebration we hear a call to service in the valley. We have heard the trumpets. We have changed the guard. And now, each in our own way and with God's help, we must answer the call.

Thank you, and God bless you all".[26]

See also


  1. Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, President William Jefferson Clinton 1993. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  2. University of Virginia, American President: A Reference Resource. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  3. The 1993 Presidential Inaugural. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  4. "Inaugural Events Sing a Song of Diversity". Los Angeles Times. January 13, 1993. Retrieved May 22, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. C-Span Video Library. Inaugural Bell Ringing Ceremony. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  6. Jack Nelson, “Clinton Vows to Lead in Bold Style of FDR”, Los Angeles Times, January 20, 1993. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  7. "Inauguration Events Sing a Song of Diversity”, Los Angeles Times, January 13, 1933. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  8. Andrew Dansby. “Fleetwood Mac Play Surprise Farewell Event for Clinton”, Rolling Stones Magazine, January 8, 2001. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  9. "Kermit, Harris on list for kids’ inaugural show." Variety, January 5, 1993. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  10. The Presidential Inaugural Celebration For Youth 1993. YouTube clip, retrieved May 26, 2016.
  11. Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, Committee Membership. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  12. Kathy Gill, Your Guide to the 2009 Inauguration of Barack Obama. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  13. Kathy Gill, “Oaths of Office for Federal Officials.” (accessed May 22, 2012)
  14. Martin Kelly. “Presidential Inauguration.” (accessed May 22, 2012)
  15. The Library of Congress, “Bibles and Scripture Passages Used by Presidents in Taking the Oath of Office.” (accessed May 22, 2012)
  16. Galatians 6:8, (accessed May 22, 2012)
  17. President William Jefferson Clinton 1993, May 22, 2012
  18. Karen Linkletter, Bill Clinton’s First Inaugural Address. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  19. Pisko-Freund, Lois, "Poetry and Motion: Comparing Angelou' Poetry and Clinton's Inaugural Theme of Change". Florida Communication Journal. March 1, 1994. 22. Print.
  20. Steven Waldman, Inaugural Prayers Through History. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  21. Martin Kelly, Departure of the Outgoing President. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  22. Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, Inaugural Luncheon. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  23. Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, Inaugural Parade. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  24. C-Span Video Library, Clinton Inaugural Parade. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  25. Smithsonian Institution, Presidential Inaugural Balls at the Smithsonian. (accessed May 22, 2012)
  26. William J Clinton, Inaugural Address. (accessed May 22, 2012)

External links

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