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The Day of Introductions (the Wednesday 1202021 post) January 21, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.

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“The year 2021 offers us a string of palindrome dates. Dr. Aziz Inan, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Portland, Oregon, has been studying palindrome dates for more than a decade, and says this year is special because it contains a total of 22 palindrome dates:

• One is a four-digit palindrome – which occurred on 1-2-21;

• Nineteen of them are five-digit palindromes – which occur in January and December…;

• Two are six-digit palindromes – which also occur in December….”


– quoted from an article entitled, “2021: A Special Year for Palindrome Dates, Starting this Month!” in the 2021 Farmers’ Almanac


The way some of us numerically denote today’s date (mmddyyyy or mmddyy) makes today a palindrome date. A palindrome is a word, phrase, sentence, or series of numbers that is the same when read forwards as when read backwards. Some people consider palindrome dates to be auspicious and we must be very lucky indeed since today, 1202021, is a palindromic inauguration day! When written as mmddyy, today, 12021, introduces a series of days (through 12921) that are all palindromes.


Literally speaking, an “inauguration” is a formal, ceremonial “induction” or “introduction.” And, if you are interested in the United States, then when you read that today was “a palindromic inauguration day” you probably thought I was talking about today’s Presidential Inauguration Day – because it is that too. In fact, as far as I know, this is the first time a United States President and Vice President have been inaugurated on a palindrome day. And, according to the Farmers’ Almanac, it’ll be 1,000 years before another inauguration day occurs on a palindrome day. (Also, historically and racially, this one is its own special kind of palindrome – which I personally hope makes it especially auspicious.)


“Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution.  We affirm the promise of our democracy.  We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names.  What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’


Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.   The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob.  They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.  


And for more than two hundred years, we have.”



– quoted from the 2013 Inaugural Speech by President Barack Obama


Since their introductions, inaugurations have been a day when the whole world, officially meets the newly elected “leaders of the free world.” It has also, historically, been a day to remember what is no longer; reflect on what is; and be inspired about what will be. That last part is one of the new president’s first orders of business: to inspire the people to keep leading, keep pushing, keep climbing, keep walking together and talking together, and to keep working and healing together. It is simultaneously inspiring and spiritual to look back and realize how much the words of past presidents still matter; simultaneously daunting and haunting to realize some of these words matter because of how little has changed.


 “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”


“Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.”


– quoted from the March 4, 1933, Inaugural Speech by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt


“…here is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens – a substantial part of its whole population – who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life. I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day. ….I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.”

“It is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in hope – because the Nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, proposes to paint it out.”


“We are moving toward an era of good feeling.”


– quoted from the January 20, 1937, Inaugural Speech by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt


The first United States Inauguration occurred on April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City. President George Washington’s second inauguration took place on March 4, 1793, at Congress Hall in Philadelphia. President Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, D. C., in 1801 and, with the exception of 1821, 1849, 1877, and 1917 – when it fell on a Sunday –  March 4th would remain “America’s Day” (or “Democracy’s Day,” as President Joseph Biden called it) until 1933.

Those Sunday exceptions were odd for several different reasons. President James Monroe’s second inauguration (1821) required approval from the Supreme Court, because there was no precedent for moving the inauguration, and it was held indoors because of a snowstorm. It was also the first, and possibly the only time, when (technically) the United States didn’t have a president for 24 hours. President Zachary Taylor’s inauguration (1849) was preceded by his kidnapping, sort of, and followed by the third shortest time in office: 1 year, 4 months, and 5 days. In theory, Senate President pro tempore David Rice Atchison was “acting” president for 24 hours in 1849, but scholars and historians disagree with this claim (and no official biographers have supported it).

As far as I can tell, President Rutherford B. Hayes’s inauguration (1877) was the first time a private ceremony was held before the public one – and the first time a swearing in happened inside the White House. It’s also the first, and possibly the only time, when the (technically) the United States had two presidents. In subsequent “Sunday exceptions,” a president private ceremony would still be held on the 4th; but President Hayes’s private ceremony was held on March 3rd – possibly due to security concerns around his hotly contested election. Also of note, he came into office with the promise that he would only serve one term. President Woodrow Wilson’s second term (1917) also started on a Sunday, this time with a private ceremony on the Sunday and a public one on that Monday. However, one of the things people and the press noted at the time was that the “Silent Sentinels,” suffragists led by Alice Paul (and also called the “Sentinels of Liberty”) were (still) protesting President Wilson. One of the reasons the protests were newsworthy was because many of those women engaged in civil disobedience were assaulted during the inauguration. Yet, they persisted – even despite being arrested and assaulted (in some cases by law enforcement) through 1917.


“And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”


– quoted from the January 20, 1961, Inaugural Speech by President John F. Kennedy



“We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another – until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.”

“For its part, government will listen. We will strive to listen in new ways – to the voices of quiet anguish, the voices that speak without words, the voices of the heart – to the injured voices, the anxious voices, the voices that have despaired of being heard.” 


“We have endured a long night of the American spirit. But as our eyes catch the dimness of the first Ray’s of dawn, let us not curse the remaining dark. Let us gather the light.


Our destiny offers, not the cup of despair, but the chalice of opportunity. Let us seize it, not in fear, but in gladness – and, ‘riders on the earth together,’ let us go forward, firm in our faith, steadfast in our purpose, cautious of the dangers; but sustained by our confidence in the will of God and the promise of man.”


– quoted from the January 20, 1969, Inaugural Speech by President Richard Nixon



“I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding.”


– quoted from the January 20, 1989, Inaugural Speech by President George HW Bush (in a nod to President Nixon’s 1969 instruction to “gather the light”)


Like President Washington, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had the privilege of being the first and last president to be introduced to the world on particular dates; as his first term started on March 4, 1933 and his second term started on January 20, 1937. FDR is also notable as the only United States President to be elected and inaugurated four times. After he died in office (in 1945) and before the subsequent election cycle in 1948, Congress approved the Twenty-second Amendment to the Constitution, which limits an eligible person to two elected terms (and further limits a person’s election eligibility if they replace a president who had more than two years left in their unexpired term). The “Sunday exception” has also been applied for the January 20th date and has been utilized in 1957, 1985, and 2013. Of note, those three “exceptions” marked the beginning of second terms for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, President Ronald Reagan, and President Barack Obama (respectively).


“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”


“We hear much of special interest groups. Our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and our factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we are sick – professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, cabbies, and truck drivers. They are, in short, ‘We the people,’ this breed called Americans.”


– quoted from the January 20, 1981, Inaugural Speech by President Ronald Reagan


“We only have to summon it from within ourselves. We must act on what we know. I take as my guide the hope of a saint: In crucial things, unity; in important things, diversity; in all things, generosity.”


– quoted from the January 20, 1989, Inaugural Speech by President George HW Bush


“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”


– quoted from the January 20, 1993, Inaugural Speech by President Bill Clinton


So: Here we are – again, beginning and also ending. Ending also and beginning, again – are we here? Are we all in? That is a question that could be asked (and is implied) by every president and vice president. Never forget, that every administration is intended to serve us, we the people. And yet, we also serve; as citizens of this nation – even of the world – we have responsibilities to ourselves and to one another. Just as we look at what a candidate, a president and/or vice president elect, and a sitting president and/or vice president has to offer us, we must consider what we have to offer ourselves and one another. Then, we offer it.

Offering what we have to offer is a reoccurring theme with these inaugurations. And, it’s what Robert Frost meant when, on January 20, 1961, he spoke of “The Gift Outright” as the first poet to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. What we offer can be as profoundly simple as a “[hopeful] Good morning,” as Maya Angelou suggested when she became the second inauguration poet on January 20, 1993 – or as simply profound as “[dreaming] for every child an even chance” as Miller Williams had us consider on January 20, 1997. We must, as Elizabeth Alexander said on June 20, 2009, “consider, reconsider [our words]” and the mighty power of love. We must, as all the poets have said, remember where from where we come and, as Richard Blanco reminded us in January 21, 2013, to say “hello / shalom, buon giorno / howdy / namaste / or buenos días in the language my mother taught me—in every language spoken into one wind[.]” And we can, we must, as the sixth and the youngest inauguration poet to date implored us, “forge our union with purpose” and “lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.” This is what we need to live well.


“Scripture tells us to envision that ‘everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.’ If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade but in all the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare it, because being American is more than a pride we inherit – it’s the past we step into and how we repair it.”


– quoted from the poem “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman, during the January 20, 2021 Presidential Inauguration (the “Scripture” she cites Micah 4:4)  



Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.



“In another January, on New Year’s Day in 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper, the president said, and I quote: ‘If my name ever goes down into history, it’ll be for this act. And my whole soul is in it.’ My whole soul was in it today. On this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause.”


“We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes, as my mom would say, just for a moment, stand in their shoes. Because here’s the thing about life: There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days when you need a hand. There are other days when we’re called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be. That’s what we do for one another. And if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future. And we can still disagree.”


– quoted from the January 20, 2021, Inaugural Speech by President Joseph Biden





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