The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) has announced the Bibles that will be used by President Obama and Vice President Biden during their swearing-in ceremonies to be held on Sunday, January 20 and Monday, January 21.
The PIC revealed today that President Obama will use two Bibles stacked together for the public swearing-in ceremony to be held on January 21. The president will use a Bible described as Dr. King’s “traveling” Bible paired with the inaugural Bible of President Lincoln used for his 2009 swearing-in.
“President Obama is honored to use these Bibles at the swearing-in ceremonies,” Steve Kerrigan, President and CEO of the PIC stated in a release. “On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, this historic moment is a reflection of the extraordinary progress we’ve made as a nation.”
For the private swearing-in on January 20, President Obama will use the Robinson Family Bible, which was specifically selected for the occasion. This Bible was a gift from first lady Michelle Obama’s father, Fraser Robinson, III, to his mother, LaVaughn Delores Robinson, given on Mother’s Day in 1958.
The children of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have expressed great pride in President Obama’s selection of their late father’s traveling Bible for the public swearing-in. They noted that this was the Bible Dr. King used on the road as a source of inspiration and spiritual nourishment as he prepared speeches and fought for greater justice in America.
“I’m proud that my father’s Bible will be used at the swearing-in ceremony of President Obama, and I hope that our great nation uses the moment to reflect on the enormous responsibility we have to serve our neighbors and communities,” Martin Luther King, III said. “Thousands of Americans joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the National Mall in the fight for equality and justice fifty years ago, and I am excited that my father’s legacy will be honored as thousands more join President Obama to begin his second term.”
Dr. King’s daughter, Bernice A. King, sees the simultaneous use of the Lincoln Bible and King Bible as a symbol of how the United States has evolved.
“As an ordained minister, I feel that these two Bibles represent the stride for freedom,” King said. “One represents emancipation; the other represents inclusion into the fabric of the American experience – the freedom to participate in government, the freedom to peacefully coexist, and the freedom to prosper in life. We are honored as a family as we celebrate the second term inauguration of America’s first African American president in the 50th anniversary year of my father’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.'”
Vice President Biden will use the Biden Family Bible when he is sworn in on both Sunday and Monday. The Biden Family Bible has been in his family since 1893. Vice President Biden used this Bible, which has a Celtic cross on its cover, for his first swearing in as vice president. In addition, it was used each time he was sworn in as a U.S. Senator. Vice President Biden’s son Beau Biden also used it when he was sworn in as Delaware’s attorney general.
The Lincoln Bible is part of the collection of the Library of Congress, and was used during President Lincoln’s swearing-in ceremony on March 4, 1861. “The Bible itself is bound in burgundy velvet with a gold-washed white metal rim around the three outside edges of both covers, and all of its edges are heavily gilded,” according to a statement by the PIC. By selecting it for his 2009 inauguration, President Obama became the first president to be sworn in using this tome since Lincoln.
The King Bible will be stacked on top of the Lincoln Bible for the January 21 event. The Constitution does not require the use of a Bible for the swearing-in ceremony, although it has been a tradition for presidents to use Bibles with personal or historical significance. President Obama’s term will officially start on January 20 after the first, private swearing-in ceremony.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.