Democracy's Big Day

In words and images, TIME's Inauguration issue marks an American political ritual and signals a new beginning

Callie Shell / Aurora for TIME

Klein aboard Obama's campaign plane in September.

The constitution specifies only that the President take an oath of 35 words. It says nothing about parades or Inaugural balls or rock concerts. The challenge in a democracy is that you don't want a coronation (too much pomp and circumstance), but you do want to mark a change, a passing of the torch from one President to another. After all, it's "democracy's big day," as George Bush 41 called it in his unpretentious way: the orderly and peaceful transfer of power that is the foundation of the republic. Yes, it's mostly symbolic, but symbols matter.

In 1961, when TIME showed...

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