Today the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) announced the Bibles that President Obama and Vice President Biden will use at their swearing-in ceremonies on Sunday, January 20, and Monday, January 21.
On Sunday, January 20, President Obama will take the oath of office using the Robinson Family Bible. On Monday, January 21, the President will take the oath of office using two Bibles: the Bible used by President Lincoln at his first Inauguration, which the President used in 2009, and a Bible used by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“President Obama is honored to use these Bibles at the swearing-in ceremonies,” said Steve Kerrigan, President and CEO of the PIC. “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.”
Though there is no constitutional requirement for the use of a Bible during the swearing-in, Presidents have traditionally used Bibles for the ceremony, choosing a volume with personal or historical significance. In 2009, President Obama became the first President sworn in using the Lincoln Bible since its initial use in 1861.
The Robinson Family Bible was selected specifically for the occasion. The bible was a gift from the First Lady’s father, Fraser Robinson III, to his mother, LaVaughn Delores Robinson on Mother’s Day in 1958. Mrs. Robinson was the first African-American woman manager of a Moody Bible Institute’s bookstore and she used the Bible regularly.
The Lincoln Bible is part of the collections of the Library of Congress and was originally purchased by William Thomas Carroll, Clerk of the Supreme Court, for use during 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.
The King Bible was Dr. King’s “traveling bible.” An avid reader who was constantly on the road, Dr. King typically traveled with a selection of books that included this Bible. It was used for inspiration and preparing sermons and speeches, including during Dr. King’s time as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
“We know our father would be deeply moved to see President Obama take the Oath of Office using his bible,” Dr. King’s children said today. “His ‘traveling bible’ inspired him as he fought for freedom, justice and equality, and we hope it can be a source of strength for the President as he begins his second term. With the Inauguration less than two weeks away, we join Americans across the country in embracing this opportunity to celebrate how far we have come, honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. through service, and rededicate ourselves to the work ahead.”
Members of the King family will also join Americans across the country to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King by participating in National Day of Service events on Saturday, January 19. Additionally, a float in the Inaugural parade will commemorate Dr. King’s enduring legacy.
On Sunday and Monday, Vice President Biden will be sworn in using the Biden Family Bible, which is five inches thick, has a Celtic cross on the cover and has been in the Biden family since 1893. He used it every time he was sworn in as a US Senator and when he was sworn in as Vice President in 2009. His son Beau used it when he was sworn in as Delaware’s attorney general.
“For decades, the Vice President’s bible has been part of our country’s history,” Kerrigan said. “It will continue to serve not just the Biden family, but the American people as well.”