The story behind the Bible use by US presidents adds gravitas — and gives media commentators something to talk about.
On Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump announced his choices: a Bible his mother gifted him in 1955 when he graduated from Presbyterian Sunday school and the one President Abraham Lincoln used at his inauguration.
In a statement, Presidential Inauguration Committee Chairman Tom Barrack explained the selections.
“In his first inaugural address, President Lincoln appealed to the ‘better angels of our nature,’” Barrack said. “As he takes the same oath of office 156 years later, President-elect Trump is humbled to place his hand on Bibles that hold special meaning both to his family and to our country.”
Trump’s choices seem to make a nod to themes that deeply defined his controversial campaign for the presidency and the direction of his administration since emerging victorious — religion and race, and his complicated relationship with both.
VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE
Vice President-elect Mike Pence intends to send a message when he takes the oath of office on Friday afternoon, there can be no doubt about that.
When he is sworn in, his hand will be on a Bible that hasn’t been used in 32 years—the Reagan family Bible used by President Ronald Reagan for all of his swearing-in ceremonies as president and governor. Not only that, but the Bible will be turned to an important piece of scripture, 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
“President Ronald Reagan placed his faith in a loving God and the goodness of our country,” Pence said. “He set out to change a nation and in doing so, he changed the world. In the march of history, Ronald Reagan’s time in office was limited, but his legacy inspired a generation and will continue beyond.
“It will be humbling to enter office with President Donald Trump, standing next to my family, with my wife Karen holding the same Bible used by President Reagan when he took office.”
Getting the Reagan family Bible to the Inauguration is actually a bit of an undertaking. It has never been out of the possession of the Reagan family or the Reagan Foundation, and as such, it needs special security.
The Reagan family Bible is currently on permanent display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. To get it to Washington, D.C., it will be hand-delivered by long-time Reagan aide Andrew Littlefair, who now serves on the board of trustees for the Reagan Foundation and Institute.
Once in Washington, D.C., it will be put under lock and key until it is used for Pence’s inauguration. But that’s only part of the message the vice president-elect intends to send with his swearing-in ceremony.
Administering the oath of office will be U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, who becomes the first African-American to swear in a president or vice president. Having served more than 25 years, he is the longest-serving African American on the high court.
“It will be my honor to take the oath of office to defend our Constitution from a man who has dedicated his life to the same noble pursuit,” Pence said. “Justice Thomas was born into poverty in Pin Point, Georgia. From those humble beginnings, Justice Thomas went on to graduate from Holy Cross College and Yale Law School.
“He served in the Reagan administration and was appointed to the federal bench in 1990 and the Supreme Court in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush. I have long admired Justice Clarence Thomas and deeply respect his judicial philosophy, dedication to the rule of law and his historic service on the bench of our nation’s highest court.”