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Arts & Culture

Biden's Inauguration Will Be Different But The Oath Remains The Same

NOEL KING, HOST:

Tomorrow, President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in at the Capitol. It will be a different kind of inauguration - no crowds, dignitaries seated far apart and more than 25,000 National Guard troops present after the attack on the Capitol January 6. But one thing will stay the same.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., do solemnly swear...

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A little bit after noon Eastern Time, the new president will step to the microphone to say those exact words, the same ones spoken by every president for more than two centuries.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...That I will faithfully execute...

PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH: ...The office of president of the United States...

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: ...And will, to the best of my ability...

PRESIDENT GEORGE H W BUSH: ...Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States...

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: ...So help me, God.

JEANNE PHILLIPS: For me, the oath of office is the heart of everything that happens.

INSKEEP: Ambassador Jeanne Phillips organized both inaugurations for President George W. Bush in 2001 and again in 2005. The first one had some echoes of today because the country was deeply divided after a bitter election and Supreme Court ruling that found President Bush had won. So Phillips and her team set out to build an event designed to bring the country together.

PHILLIPS: The greatest goal that we had was to reunite the country, to cause people to want to celebrate freedom and democracy and the peaceful transfer of power.

KING: As you might expect, unity was the big theme in President Bush's address.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GEORGE W BUSH: And I thank Vice President Gore for a contest conducted with spirit and ended with grace.

(APPLAUSE)

PHILLIPS: It really is a moment of truth for America and for the process. And it reaffirms how strong our Constitution is, how strong our institutions are. And you realize it's just not about one person. It's about the country and all of the people in the country.

KING: Ambassador Phillips says the oath itself is a big part of that.

PHILLIPS: The beauty of that very simple oath of office has lasted hundreds of years in the United States. And it's really - touches Americans in that every president says the same words. They say at and at the same time. They say it on the same day. And it's really our way of sending a message to the world.

KING: A message that in the United States, no official, not even the president, is above the law.

(SOUNDBITE OF YONDERLING'S "AQUAMARINE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.