Why was Reagan sworn in twice for his second term?

Why was Reagan sworn in twice for his second term?


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I was looking at Wikipedia's article on Justice Potter Stewart and was surprised to read:

On January 20 and 21, 1985, Stewart administered the oath of office for Vice President George H. W. Bush.

(He was Reagan's vice president.) Likewise the Wikipedia article on that inauguration begins:

The second inauguration of Ronald Reagan as President of the United States was held in a small televised ceremony on Sunday, January 20, 1985, at the Grand Foyer of the White House, and was to be repeated the following day, January 21, 1985 at the West Front of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., before being moved to the Capitol's rotunda.

It does not, however, explain why there were two oaths administered. Wikipedia's article on the oath of office also lists dual swearings-in for Reagan's second term, as well as for a few other presidential terms, but doesn't give a reason.

I'm particularly curious about Reagan's, because the article quoted above indicates that the first ceremony was "televised" so (a) there's seemingly no point in the second ceremony since everyone there had seen it already and (b) the second ceremony seemingly would be absurd since everyone there would know it was a sham. So why was Reagan sworn in twice for his second term as president?

Note that I'm not asking why there were two celebrations - people like to celebrate. I'm asking why the oath itself was administered twice.


You will see from the Oath of office WP page that this pattern of two inaugurations always has the first ceremony labeled as "private". The POTUS has to be sworn in on the first day of office.

But having a public ceremony where people could actually attend (instead of watching on TV), where parades could be held and such, is not always possible on that first day. In recent times, this was usually because that first day of office fell on a Sunday.

WhiteHouseHistory says as much (the first oath being private because it fell on a Sunday).


Other entries -- Chester A. Arthur, Calvin Coolidge -- point towards the new POTUS not being in Washington for the first oath, which is also a good reason to have a second ceremony in the capitol a couple of days later.


The 20th amendment says "The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January… and the terms of their successors shall then begin". The body of the constitution (article II, section I) says: "Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: [the oath]".

As a result, the president always takes the oath right around noon on January 20th. But, throwing a big inauguration shindig at noon on a Sunday isn't considered appropriate -- it pulls people away from church. So, when January 20th falls on a Sunday, the incoming president takes the oath in private at noon. The ceremony is repeated the next day in order to satisfy the need for pomp and circumstance.


Watch the video: Inauguration of President Ronald Reagan 1985, Part 1