Since George Washington's appearance on the balcony of New York City's Federal Hall in 1789, the term of each American president has started with a single sentence.
The authors of the Constitution did provide some room for "artsitic interpretation." On March 4, 1853, Franklin Pierce became the only president to "affirm" instead of "swear" that he would protect and defend the Constitution.
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Although many promises are made as presidential candidates vie for votes, the oath is the first one that really counts. It transforms a citizen into a president and, according to the second article of the Constitution, signals the beginning of a new administration.
This feature is a supplement to Presidential Inaugurations: "I Do Solemnly Swear...", a Library of Congress Web Guide with resources on each inauguration from George Washington's in 1789 to Barack Obama's second inauguration of 2013.