My Unethical Inauguration Trivia Question

Washington Inaug

Today began with an unethical Presidential trivia question from a friend, who couldn’t even wait for me to get up, and left it with Grace. The question? “What was the warmest Presidential inauguration?” His answer: Gerald Ford, who was sworn in after President Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, and it was 89 degrees. However, the question was misleading (and knowing this guy, deliberately so), especially since it was asked on Inauguration Day, which is what we generally mean when we we refer to a President’s inauguration. Vice-Presidents who take over the job don’t get “inaugurations,” although it is technically correct to call the beginning of anything an inauguration. Have you ever heard or read about Lyndon Johnson’s swearing in on Air Force One on November 22, 1963 as his “inauguration” after President Kennedy was assassinated? Neither have I. He was “sworn in.” A Presidential Inauguration with an upper case “I” always refers to Inauguration DAY, but as my wife pointed out, you can’t tell over the phone whether a word is capitalized.

Millard Fillmore was also sworn into office during a Washington, D.C. summer, on July 10, 1850, after President Taylor expired. I can’t find any reference to the temperature, but it often tops 90 in July here. If we are discussing Inaugurations with a big I, Ronald Reagan gets credit for the warmest modern ceremony at 55 degrees for his first term , and also the modern record for the coldest January D.C. day at 7 degrees when he took his second oath.

My guess this morning, without checking, was that the warmest Inauguration record belongs to George Washington. The first inauguration ceremony was held on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City on April 30, 1789. (It had been delayed from the original March date because such a throng was expected, and more time was needed to prepare.) Accounts say there was sunshine and a temperature of around 60 degrees for that event. (That’s another problem with my annoying friend’s “gotcha!” question: weather stats for the 19th and 18th century are often sketchy.) I think my guess is probably right, too. After George Washington, the inauguration date became March 4th where it stayed until 1937; it was changed to January 20th. If the day falls on a Sunday, the event is moved to the 21st.

18 thoughts on “My Unethical Inauguration Trivia Question

    • This is exactly it and it’s probably only floating around to incite people to think somehow Biden is welcomed warmly by America. He isn’t. At best he’s being greeted warmly by about half of America – a half who have spent a decade being virulent and hateful towards the other half… so I could care less what “warmth” means for them.

      • Such a warm welcome, that they had to plant an entire division’s worth of Guardsmen around the Capital; you know, to keep all the warm-wishers a safe distance away.

        • Hey, Joe, good to hear from you. So far, at least, I have heard no reports of violent activity up in Austin. But we are still a red state.

  1. I wonder – are trick questions unethical? It reminds me of the scene in “Airheads”* where a stand off at a radio station led to a hostage negotiator attempting to infiltrate the radio hijackers, Thus, ensued this exchange:

    Chazz : Who’d win in a wrestling match, Lemmy or God?
    Chris Moore : Lemmy.
    [Rex imitates a game show buzzer]
    Chris Moore : … God?
    Rex : Wrong, dickhead, trick question. Lemmy *IS* God.


    *Ed. Note: Yes, i know. “Airheads” is a spectacularly dumb movie but I always loved that scene. Lemmy was a metal legend. Any Lemmy/Motörhead reference warms my heart.

  2. I would give your friend the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure it never occurred to him the difference between a swearing in and an actual Inauguration Day.

    However, it is quite possible that your example of Millard Fillmore could be correct. I have struggled to find out the temperature in Washington when Taylor died, but I do recall it’s often described as sweltering which is why the raw cherries and cold cream he ingested were long-considered the cause of the stomach ailment that killed him – and could also have contributed to the cholera that probably did kill him.

    But that’s only if we are following your friend’s example of a new President taking office, regardless of whether he is merely sworn in or actually inaugurated.

  3. Ford had a rather peculiar presidency. He was appointed as Vice President by Nixon having been the House Minority Leader. His term of office was the shortest of any U.S. President who didn’t die in office.

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