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Colonial Williamsburg Education Resource Library: Learn More About the Office of the President
From Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Gazette:
Today, Donald J. Trump becomes the nation's 45th president. But did you know presidents weren't always inaugurated in January? January 20 was designated as inauguration day by the 20th amendment in 1933 (although the date moves slightly based on when the weekend falls). Prior to 1933, presidents were generally inaugurated on March 4, although our first president, George Washington, was inaugurated on April 30. At a time when traveling during the winter was much harder and nationwide votes took longer to compile and tally, a later inauguration made sense. Today, the January date reduces the amount of time between the election and the swearing in of the new president.
Learn more about the office of president.
- Listen as author and historian Alan Brinkley shares his thoughts on the alchemy of luck and chance in the Oval Office. (Transcription also provided.)
- Listen as presidential historian Michael Beschloss visits Colonial Williamsburg and shares his views on the changes technology brings to politics and the presidency, and ruminates on the importance of place. (Transcription also provided.)
- Read the text of the 20th amendment, which sets the date for inauguration of presidents, senators, and representatives.
Explore primary sources from the Library of Congress about presidential inaugurations.
Access these great resources about U.S. presidents by signing into your account on the Colonial Williamsburg Education Resource Library!
Create a free account here.
Washington: Man and Myth
Videos and Lesson Plans
The "Father of Our Country" has been mythologized over time. What's fact and what's been embellished? Learn about George Washington's early years as a young soldier and politician in Virginia.
Interview with Thomas Jefferson
On March 4, Jefferson became the first president to take the oath of office in Washington, D.C. Here, Bill Barker, who portrays Thomas Jefferson for The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, answers questions as the president-elect.
Who Has the Power?
In this lesson, students review the system of checks and balances and apply their knowledge to historical situations. They identify the branches that were involved in each event and how the branches checked each other's power.
Teaching Tips: How to Use these Resources
These resources also work well for Presidents' Day, February 20!
Who Has the Power is a great middle school-level lesson plan for reviewing the structure of our government with students. While the president is an important part of the executive branch, the federal government contains many more people and two other branches as well! How do all these people work together, what are their roles, and how do they "check" and "balance" each other?
Spoiler alert: George Washington didn't really chop down a cherry tree. There's many myths about the nation's first president in American popular culture. In Washington: Man and Myth, students discover the real story behind the legendary man. Generally speaking, the video segments are suitable for 4th-8th grade students, and the lesson plans for 3rd-6th grade students.
The Interview with Thomas Jefferson is provided for teacher reference, but it may also be interesting to advanced-level high school students.
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The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership,
PO Box 1776, Williamsburg, VA 23187