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What Happens Next?

November 20, 2020

Now that the US election is over and a new president-elect has been announced, you might be wondering what happens next. What usually happens is that the losing candidate concedes and if he is the current president, his administration works with the incoming administration to ensure a successful and smooth transition of power. This peaceful transfer of power is the foundation of American democracy. (Interesting fact: the tradition of a peaceful transfer of power dates back to 1801 when John Adams quietly departed Washington, DC the day before the inauguration ceremony of incoming president Thomas Jefferson. Adams’ quiet departure allowed for Jefferson to take on the role of president of the United States in a smooth and uninhibited way.) During the approximate two months from when a new president is elected and the inauguration ceremony takes place, the president-elect must begin selecting and assembling his cabinet members and administration so he’s ready to start working the day he officially becomes the president of the United States. For example, US president-elect Joe Biden has already assembled a COVID-19 taskforce, a group of scientists, and disease experts that will help fight the novel coronavirus. There’s a lot to do in the next two months, including planning the inauguration ceremony and the many events that take place before and after it. In anticipation of Inauguration Day, we’re sharing some interesting facts about this historical and time-honored tradition.

By Constitutional Convention [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
1.  Believe it or not, there’s a specific date and time that an incoming president officially becomes the president of the United States. The twentieth Amendment of the US Constitution actually specifies that the date that the incoming president officially becomes the president is January 20th at noon the year following the election. Interesting fact: From 1793 to 1933, the incoming president would officially take on the role of president on March 3rd following the year of the election. It was the passing of the Twentieth Amendment in 1933 that the date changed to January 20th.

2.  During the inauguration ceremony, the president is sworn in and then gives a speech. The tradition of addressing the American people on Inauguration Day was started by—you guessed it—George Washington!

By Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo, U.S. Air Force – http://www.defenseimagery.mil/imagery.html#guid=4de8e17b0fbfafb8edfb0fa6cec854eaecfc1d42, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5758259

3.  Unlike wedding vows, where couples sometimes recite vows that they’ve written themselves, the president is required to recite a specific oath when being sworn in. The official presidential oath is spelled out in the constitution and the president must say, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) 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.”

4.  Inauguration Day is also moving day. Yes, not a day sooner does the incoming president move into the White House. Talk about a busy day!

5.  While moving day may be hectic, it’s tradition that the First Lady invites the spouse of the incoming president for a tour of the private residence.

George H.W. Bush
AJ Guel, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

6.  And a more recent tradition? The current president writes a letter to the incoming president sharing some advice and best wishes. This tradition began in 1993 when president George H.W. Bush wrote a letter to incoming president Bill Clinton.