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president roosevelt


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President Franklin Roosevelt's Fourth Inaugural Ceremony

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Fourth Inaugural Ceremony, 1945
National Archives

Historical Background:

On January 20, 1945, the fourth inauguration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took place
on the South Portico of the White House. Traditionally presidential inaugurations were held at
the U.S. Capitol. Due to rationing programs and war shortages, the White House announced to
the public that it would host the inaugural ceremony in order to curtail expenses. Pressures of
the war kept festivities to a minimum. The inauguration was limited to the oath of office and a
short address by President Roosevelt. Little celebration followed the president’s swearing in
ceremony, and because of gas rationing, there was no inaugural parade. It was later learned that
President Roosevelt’s poor health also contributed to the decision to move and shorten the
inaugural ceremony. Only three months after his inauguration, President Roosevelt died and
Vice President Harry S. Truman assumed the office of the president of the United States.

President Roosevelt’s inauguration was unprecedented not only because of its location, but also
because no other president in United States history had been elected to serve four terms. The
Constitution has since been amended and a candidate can only be elected president two times.

The White House Historical Association                                                             1

    1) From which direction is this White House photograph taken?

    2) Looking at the photograph closely you will notice two separate groups of people gathered
       for the inaugural ceremony. Who do you think makes up each group?

    3) As with many events today, security was present at President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s
       inauguration. How can you tell?

    4) In this photo the separate wings of the White House are evident. Have you heard of the
       West Wing? It is to the left of the White House. What is the function of this area?

    5) Some people were wary of re-electing a president who was ill for fear he would not
       fulfill his term in office. What happened in the case of Franklin D. Roosevelt?

    6) This inauguration was unprecedented at the time and has remained so ever since. What
       made this election and inauguration different from any other inauguration?

Ticket to the White House Inauguration Ceremonies, January 20, 1945.
Library of Congress. Manuscript Division. The Papers of Harold L. Ickes.

The White House Historical Association                                                          2
Answers for Educators:

    1) This is an aerial photograph of the White House taken from the south side of the mansion
       with a view of the South Portico and South Lawn.

    2) The first group in the photograph attended the inauguration on the south grounds near the
       White House. They are most likely congressional leaders and important invited guests of
       the president and first lady. The second group of people observed the inauguration from a
       point just south of E Street on the Ellipse. This is the general public that viewed the
       inauguration from afar but was not invited to the small and more secure ceremony on the
       White House grounds.

    3) There are no cars on the street and the public is prevented from standing near the White
       House fence and gates. There is a separation between the invited guests and the general
       public. See the photograph of the invitation. This ticket was required to attend the
       ceremony on the South Lawn.

    4) For the past 100 years, the West Wing has served as the office of the president and his
       staff. The middle section of the White House complex, the mansion, is the residence of
       the president and first family. The East Wing, on the right, includes the offices of the
       first lady.

    5) Yes. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, while at in Warm Springs, Georgia, three months
       after his fourth inauguration and weeks before the Nazi Germany’s surrender in World
       War II.

    6) First, no other president has been elected to four terms. Term limits were established
       shortly thereafter and presidents can no longer be elected to more than two terms in
       office. Second, his inauguration was a public event held at the White House instead of
       the Capitol, the traditional inaugural location. (Several presidents have been sworn in at
       the White House in small private ceremonies. For instance, Harry Truman took the oath
       of office in the West Wing Cabinet Room after he received the news of FDR’s death.)

This lesson contributed by Michelle Pearson, Annunciation School, Denver, CO

The White House Historical Association                                                              3

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