Two Ceremonies, Three Bibles, No Scriptures: The 2013 Inauguration

This morning while you were probably still at church, Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States for a second term by Chief Justice John Roberts.  The small private ceremony in the White House was unique in several respects:

TWO CEREMONIES.  This year, there will be not one but two separate inaugurations.  Because the Inauguration must occur on January 20, but the formal celebration is not typically held on a Sunday, the President will repeat the oath of office publicly on the steps of the Capitol tomorrow, January 21.

THREE BIBLES.  This morning, the President took the oath of office with his left hand on Michelle Obama’s family Bible.  Tomorrow, he will rest his hand on two historic Bibles, stacked together:  the Lincoln Bible, the same burgundy velvet Bible on which Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office in 1865; and Martin Luther King’s “traveling bible,” the small, gently used bible which Dr. King carried with him when he visited southern cities to demand civil rights for all Americans, regardless of the color of their skin.


The Lincoln Bible

NO VERSES.  Unlike the seven most recent residents of the White House, President Obama has not selected a Scripture verse which he likes, and upon which he will base his presidency.  He will place his hand on the stack of closed bibles, but will not read the words which they contain.

In contrast, when Abraham Lincoln swore on that velvet Bible, he placed his hand on three favorite verses:  Matthew 7:1 and 18:7, and Revelation 16:7.  Those verses are:

Mt 7:1  Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

Mt 18:7  Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

Rev 16:7  And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”

William C. Davis, writing in his book Lincoln’s Men (1999: The Free Press), perhaps explains Lincoln’s thinking in selecting these passages:

…on March 4, 1865, Lincoln took his oath of office for the second term and spoke of a nation that preferred charity and hope to malice….”

Lincoln had been deeply troubled by the law’s stern handling of deserters and frequently pardoned them, rather than permit their execution.


And here’s just a peek at some of the verses chosen by earlier presidents as they began their terms of office.  All verses, regardless of the original translation used, are taken from the New American Standard Bible.

George W. Bush had his family bible opened to Isaiah 40:31

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

William J. Clinton used a King James Bible which had been given to him by his grandmother.  For his first inauguration in 1993, it was opened to Galatians 6:8

For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Four years later, for his second inauguration, Clinton used the same treasured bible but rested his hand on Isaiah 58:12

“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

George H.W. Bush opened his Family Bible to Matthew 5.  He also had the bible used by George Washington (belonging to St. John’s Masonic Lodge No. 1), opened at random.

Ronald Reagan swore upon a Family Bible which had been given to him by his mother.  For both of his inaugurations, in 1981 and 1985, he rested his hand on II Chronicles 7:14

and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Jimmy Carter had his family bible opened to Micah 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Gerald R. Ford had a Bible held by his wife, opened to Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

And Richard M. Nixon used two brown leather family Bibles.  In 1969 and again in 1973, he placed his hand on Isaiah 2:4.

And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.

  • Sherry Young

    Did you watch/listen today? Because you clearly aren’t prescient.

    I heard thanks to God and I heard scripture.

    I heard no acknowledgement that there are more people in the USA who claim “none” for their faith than there Hindus, Buddhists or Muslims.

  • pagansister

    No references to specific verses in the Bible, but lots of references to God—which god was not specified except once when a prayer at the lunch invoked with the tradition of “In Jesus’ name”. (which we assume was the Christian god).

  • Nrec LLeshaj

    God did three things: God said, God wrote, God did what he said and write. God’s words deliver as long as you are in right standing with the SEAL of the King of kings.
    Congratulation in your inauguration Mr. President

  • jason greene

    You people never cease to amaze me… Obama may not be to your liking, he is to my left politically, but he definitely seeks to follow the biblical mandate for justice for the poor and oppressed…

    • Ginny Bain Allen

      Yeah, right, that’s why he allows we the taxpayers to throw away so much of our money on his lavish lifestyle, as well as copious amounts to Planned Barrenhood where the most defenseless among us are violently slaughtered in what was created by God to be their safest, nurturing haven on earth! Ha, what an absurd and incorrect comment you made, Jason! Engage your brain to think for yourself.

      • fiona64

        How absolutely ridiculous. I suggest you look up the Hyde Amendment. Not one dime of taxpayer money funds abortions.

        If you know of anyone who has “violently slaughtered” anyone else, contact the police.

  • Clare Krishan

    Not quite no scriptures: Rev. Leon quoted the Carter/Micah verses at the close of his benediction, riffing off the Pope who had tweeted them in Latin the day before: “Orare semper, iustitiam factitare, amare probitatem, humiles Secum ambulare”
    … in service to Christian unity perhaps, and a public piety that encompasses action more extensive than ‘orare’ alone (freedom to worship)
    … such as iustitias, probitas, ambulas? (ie freedom to practice)?
    Amen to that!

  • Joshua

    No malice intended, but besides showing what Scriptures various presidents used, what was the point of this article but to jab Obama?

    This reminds me of when Matt Damon, playing a rogue angel in the film Dogma, sarcastically affirmed the lone survivor’s morality after massacring a room of sinners, but then turns his gun on her because she didn’t say “God bless you” when he sneezed.

  • Mark D

    Obama doesn’t do anything for the poor and oppressed; he makes others do that for him. Oh, wait, he does make sure that it will continue to be possible to abort the poor and oppressed.

  • pagansister

    Yes, Mark D—–President Obama will make sure that a woman will continue to have control over her body when it comes to carry pregnancy to term OR choose an alternative. I would hope a woman would choose the alternative, however it is still her decision and not that of a religion or other group. That choice applies to all women, not just those you call the poor and oppressed.

  • Selah

    @ pagansister
    Man / BHO and women continue to spout the same old opinion that : it’ my body and I can do whatever I want to do with it.Look at what God’s word has to say : ” Don’t you know that your body is
    a temple that belongs to the Holy Spirit ? You don’t belong to yourselves. You were bought for a price
    ( His shed blood ). So bring glory to God in the way you use your body. I’m glad to know that you are in favor of adoption and sadly there have been 55 million babies ” murdered ” , Yes murdered , since the ugly ruling in 1973. The ” good news ” is that the killing seems to have been tempered because women are viewing the sonograms and see that it is a baby not a blob of tissue that can be snipped and thrown in the dumpster.I like the choice God offered to the Israelites and to us now : choose Me
    and have ” life ” or choose not to believe Me and have eternal death.
    The message to the world and to BHO and his pro-death minions is we are pro-life people and that we respect life and want to protect life.

  • pagansister

    Selah, I have absolutely no problem with a woman choosing an alternative to an abortion—that is most certainly the ideal solution—put it up for adoption or find a way to raise it. Having said that again (like I did above) I still continue to believe that ultimately it is up to the woman. I do not consider abortion murder—-again, having said that, I would hope that procedure would be done before the end of the 3rd month. Mother Nature has done it many times within that time span. My spirituality is much different than yours. No god rules my life nor owns my body. I do not worship a divine being. I also totally disagree Roe V Wade was a mistake. If offers a legal choice for a woman who feels she needs to terminate. I certainly hope you aren’t innocent enough to think that there were no abortions before that date. There were—–and usually they were done in horrible conditions, or the woman took it upon herself to handle it. That too was not clean or ideal. President Obama is for woman’s choice. He (to my knowledge) has never said he approves of abortion, but backs the law that says it can be done.

    • Ginny Bain Allen

      Obama has no qualms about sending the most defenseless among us to DEATH ROE. He keeps lying to us when he says he cares about the protection of all children, all the while having no compassion for the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness denied the least among us, those with no voice of their own. Their blood cries out to us all!

      Obama said he doesn’t want his daughters to be punished with a baby. When did a baby become a punishment? In truth, every single child is an unmitigated blessing from God!

      • pagansister

        I so disagree with you about President Obama. He has nothing to do with a woman’s decision whether to carry to term or to terminate. He is upholding a law that ALLOWS a woman to choose. That is all. As to your statement that every single child is an unmitigated blessing from God? Tell that to a woman who can’t feed, clothe, or shelter herself, who finds herself pregnant. Tell that to the woman/teen who either kills the baby she just gave birth to in a bathroom and drowns it or smothers it because she kept her pregnancy a secret due to fear and didn’t seek an early abortion —she carried that “gift from God” to term, didn’t she? Was killing it after birth better than the early termination? Answer that, Ginny. Before you feed me the line of all the help she could have gotten—-and condemn her for her actions, try and put yourself in the position she was in—for whatever reason. Fear does not always lead to reasonable actions. No, not everyone feels being pregnancy is a gift from anyone.

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  • Steven Harper

    Here’s what I heard the president say at the Capitol on MLK Day:
    “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.” This message meshes very well with the encyclicals of our popes, and the exhortations of the homilists I hear at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in SLC. I don’t expect my president to be so overtly self-righteous as to open a Bible to a preferred verse, especially when the actions of those presidents who did, ironically undercut their wishful scriptural choices with their immoral (W. Bush, Clinton) and illegal & bigoted (Nixon) hypocrisy.

    • Ginny Bain Allen

      Obama lied again, even in his inaugural speech when he said, “all of us are created equal.” He so obviously does not believe that. He’s our most pro-abortion president ever, Steven!

      • pagansister

        President Obama is only upholding the law. He has NEVER encouraged women to terminate their pregnancy—-as I said above—he is upholding the law. As to your assertion that he is the most Pr0-abortion president ever? Really? That is an extreme accusation—but then I’m not surprised you feel that way.

    • pagansister

      Amen, Steven H.

  • Terry Fenwick

    Great one Kathy!!! I had not seen this! Love it. Pull it out every February