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Inauguration of Ronald Reagan

By Patrick Mondout

Ronald Reagan, the one-time FDR democrat, former head of the actors union (Screen Actors Guild), the radio, television, and movie actor, and former Governor of California finally fulfilled the dreams of the ultra-conservative "Goldwater" wing of the Republican Party by taking the presidential oath of office on January 20, 1981. Reagan's oath of office was administered by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger.

The inauguration of a new president is almost always the lead news story for the day, but this day also saw the release of the American hostages from Iran. The timing of the release, coming just a few hours into the Reagan administration, raised some eyebrows and was the subject of Gary Wills' 1991 book October Surprise (Wills, who was ultimately unable to prove his allegations, served on the National Security Council under Ford, Carter, and Reagan).

Whether the release of the hostages was coordinated conspiracy or just good luck, the Reagan administration was off to a great start in the minds of many Americans having accomplished something President Carter was unable to do.

You can read President Reagan's inaugural address here.


There were a number of firsts at this inauguration:

  • Outdoor band concert was held on the West Front lawn on the day before the inaugural.
  • First inaugural held on the West Terrace of the Capitol.
  • First time that room EF--100 was used as a holding room.
  • First closed-captioning of television broadcast for the hearing impaired. (Washington Post, 12/22/1981)
  • First post-inaugural luncheon held in Statuary Hall.
  • Post-inaugural luncheon was partially televised.
  • Nine Inaugural Balls were held.
  • A record $100 was charged for tickets to the Inaugural Balls.
  • First time that an inaugural ball was held in a legislative building (Rayburn House Office Building).
  • Balls were transmitted by satellite to 32 ballroom sites across the country. (Washington Star, 12/19/1981)


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Ronald Reagan is sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice Berger on January 20, 1981.

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