WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is putting a symbolic twist on a time-honored tradition, taking the oath of office for his second term with his hand placed not on a single Bible but on two — one owned by Martin Luther King Jr. and one by Abraham Lincoln.

The inclusion of King’s Bible is particularly significant since the inauguration comes on Jan. 21, the federal holiday in honor of the civil rights leader, who delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech 50 years ago at the Lincoln Memorial. Obama will be facing the memorial as he takes the oath. King’s Bible, which his children say he used early in his career as a preacher, has never been part of a presidential inauguration.

The selection of the pair of Bibles announced Thursday is richly symbolic of the struggle for equality in America, beginning with Lincoln’s emancipation of slaves 150 years ago this month, through King’s leadership of the civil rights movement, and ultimately to Obama becoming the nation’s first black president.

Inaugural planners say Obama plans to place his left hand on the stacked Bibles held by first lady Michelle Obama as he raises his right hand to repeat the oath administered by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. It hasn’t been determined which will be on top, with Obama’s hand actually resting on it, but King’s is larger, so it may need to be on the bottom.

Obama used the Lincoln Bible while taking the oath four years ago — the first time it had been used since the 16th president’s inauguration in 1861. Obama’s inaugural committee says that the president plans to use the first lady’s family’s Bible for a private swearing-in at the White House on Sunday, Jan. 20. Public presidential inaugurations traditionally aren’t held on Sundays, even though the Constitution states that a president’s new term begins automatically at noon on the 20th.

King’s children describe their father’s King James version as his “traveling Bible” that he took as part of a collection of books he carried with him while constantly on the road and used for inspiration and preparing sermons and speeches. His daughter Bernice King says her father marked the pages with several dates from May 1954, the same month he delivered his first sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.

“We know our father would be deeply moved to see President Obama take the oath of office using his Bible,” King’s children said in a statement provided by the inaugural committee. “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.”

Obama also plans to honor King throughout his inaugural weekend, beginning by asking Americans to volunteer in their communities on Saturday, Jan. 19, to honor the civil right leader’s legacy of service. The King family plans to participate. Inaugural planners also say there will be a float honoring King in the parade to the White House after the swearing-in ceremony.

Though there is no constitutional requirement for the use of a Bible while taking the oath, George Washington began the tradition with a Bible hastily grabbed from St. John’s Masonic Lodge No. 1 for his swearing-in on April 30, 1789, in New York. Since then, presidents have typically chosen Bibles with historical or personal significance, many using family heirlooms. Obama is not the first president to select two Bibles — Harry Truman did so in 1949, Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 and Richard Nixon in 1969.

Some presidents kiss the book after completing the oath. Sometimes the Bible is open to meaningful passages, such as President George W. Bush’s choice of Isaiah 40:31 — “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

The Lincoln Bible is part of the Library of Congress collections. The Supreme Court clerk bought the Bible, bound in burgundy velvet with a gold-washed white metal rim and heavily gilded edges, especially for Lincoln’s swearing-in.

The first lady’s Robinson family Bible was a gift from her late father, Fraser Robinson III, to his mother, LaVaughn Delores Robinson, on Mother’s Day 1958. The first lady’s grandmother was the first black female manager of a Moody Bible Institute’s bookstore, and her son’s present was her favorite, inaugural planners say.

They also say Vice President Joe Biden will use a Bible with a Celtic cross on the cover that has been in his family for 120 years. Biden has used the Bible every time he’s been sworn into federal office, back to his entry in the Senate 40 years ago.

(Photo: AP)

6 thoughts on “Obama Using MLK, Lincoln Bibles During Oath

  1. @Della, I can understand your pride. Just think about how many more little black babies will be aborted in the next 4 years under Obama, he’s giving planned parenthood millions of dollars for their “services,” he wants to make sure we women have “access” to good “healthcare.” In the United States, the abortion rate for black women is almost five times that for white women. It would have been nice though if he could put some of that Planned Parenthood money towards helping moms and dads raise their kids together, or maybe he could use some of that money for family counseling or promoting family values and really strengthening the family unit, ya know, making dads feel like they are important and encouraging them to stick around, raise their kids with the mom. And then there’s the whole gay marriage thing. Ya know, if he can promote gay marriage then it would have been nice for him to support the importance of the strong black family too, ya know, while he’s at it. And let’s not talk about the black unemployment rate, it’s the highest it has ever been under any president. I find it a little ironic that it’s so high with a black president in office, I would have thought it would be a lot better with a black man/family in the White House. In the words of the famous Peggy Joseph, “I won’t have to worry ’bout putting gas in my car, I won’t have to worry ’bout payin’ my mortgage. You know, If I help him, he’s gonna help me.” I wonder what ever happened to her?

  2. Funlayo on said:

    I am happy for the PRESIDENT…I’ve been reading comments on other sites and I tell you…if people had been on Bush the same way perhaps we wouldn’t be in the mess that we’re in now…

  3. Pingback: Tom Joyner News: Obama Using MLK, Lincoln Bibles During Oath | 93.1 WZAK

  4. melbaback on said:

    If you think Gloria`s story is shocking…, three weeks-ago my friend’s dad easily made $7849 workin a 20 hour week an their house and there neighbor’s step-sister`s neighbour did this for 9-months and got more than $7849 in there spare time from a labtop. applie the advice from this web-site,…….. BIT40.ℂOℳ

  5. della1 on said:

    I just love the president, first lady………I am so full of pride and joy. Thank you my Lord for four more years with the Obamas.

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