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“Faith in America's Future” Is 2013 Obama Inaugural Theme

31 December 2012
Capitol Dome under construction (Architect of the Capitol)

Construction of the Capitol Dome began in 1855. The crowning feature of the dome, the Statue of Freedom, was positioned on December 2, 1863.

Washington — Ceremonies for President Obama’s inauguration for a second term will have “Faith in America's Future” as an overall theme.

New York Democratic Senator Charles E. Schumer, chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC), which selected the theme, said the theme commemorates the United States’ perseverance and unity and marks the 150th year since placement of the Statue of Freedom atop the new Capitol Dome in 1863.

When the U.S. Civil War threatened to bring construction of the dome to a halt, workers pressed on, even without pay, until Congress approved additional funding to complete the dome that would become a symbol of unity and democracy to the entire world. The official inaugural program, luncheon and other activities will reflect the theme, the JCCIC said.

“Our nation has faced countless challenges throughout its history, and each time we have come together as Americans and moved forward with renewed strength,” Schumer said. “During the 57th presidential inauguration, Americans from across the country will gather beneath the Capitol Dome to celebrate our history, take measure of how far we have come, and look towards our future with hope and determination.”

Inaugural “themes” are relatively recent additions to the ceremonies surrounding a presidential inauguration and highlight historic events that helped shape the U.S. democracy and the peaceful transfer of power that a U.S. presidential inauguration symbolizes.

According to the JCCIC website, the 2013 inauguration will be the third with an overall theme. The first, President George W. Bush’s inauguration for a second term in 2005, had “A Vision of America” as its theme. The JCCIC said this theme commemorated “two centuries of American exploration, development, and conservation of our nation’s ample resources and scenic beauty, and looks ahead to a new century of scientific expeditions and research that will span the globe, probe far into space, and continue the wise stewardship of America’s natural resources.” The theme was chosen, JCCIC said, to commemorate 200 years since the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805 sighted the Pacific Ocean, reaching the end of its mission to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Territory.

“A New Birth of Freedom” was the theme for Obama’s 2009 inauguration as the nation prepared to celebrate the 200th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Despite changes over time in inaugural traditions, the JCCIC said, the “ceremonies continue to bring together the three branches of the federal government, with the magnificent backdrop of the gleaming white Capitol dome, for an event that represents the purposes and ideals that Abraham Lincoln so often expressed, for national renewal, continuity, and unity.”


The 2013 theme marks the 150th anniversary of completion of the exterior of the Capitol Dome.

On March 4, 1861, when Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office, the half-built dome epitomized a nation being torn in two, the JCCIC says. “Slowly and steadily, work continued on the massive dome during the tumultuous years of the Civil War. Skilled and unskilled workers, including African Americans who began the project enslaved and continued as free labor following the D.C. Emancipation Act of 1862, performed arduous tasks such as operating machinery at dangerous heights to hoist the heavy cast iron pieces into place.”

The U.S. Capitol Building's great cast-iron dome is an astonishing feat of architecture and engineering. It was the Capitol's second dome; the earlier wooden one was removed as a precaution against fire. Work began in 1855 with the removal of the old wooden dome. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the contractor was advised not to expect further payment but the company decided to continue anyway. That decision, according to a history of the dome from the Architect of the Capitol, inspired President Lincoln and others to see the dome as a sign that the nation would also continue. The last section of the Statue of Freedom was positioned on December 2, 1863, and the interior was finished in 1866. The dome's total cost was $1,047,291.

The JCCIC also said 1863 “was one of the most fateful in our nation’s history. It began with the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, and ended with a celebration of the new Capitol Dome crowned by the Statue of Freedom in December. It also was the year of the first homestead claim, the start of the first transcontinental railroad, the opening of the first land grant college, and President Lincoln’s historic and visionary Gettysburg Address."

More information on presidential inauguration history and the 2013 inauguration is available on the JCCIC website.

Capitol Building framed by tree branches (AP Images)

The U.S. Capitol Building