Most US presidents have opted to swear the oath on a Bible – many choosing an open Bible and noting, for the record, the verse(s) on the page to mark the occasion. It’s a moment that can offer a rare glimpse into the spiritual lives of US presidents or, at least, into how they want their spiritual lives or place in history to be understood.
Mr. Obama has left nothing to guesswork on this point. The choice of the Lincoln and King Bibles is “fitting,” he said in a video statement on Friday, “because their actions, the movements they represented, are the only reason that it’s possible for me to be inaugurated.”
“Me stating before the entire country that I will uphold my oath of office while at the same time letting them know that there’s a connection between me being there and the sacrifices of those of the past, I think it’s entirely fitting,” he added.
The King Bible, on loan from the King Center in Atlanta, was Dr. King's "traveling Bible," heavily annotated and used in preparing sermons and speeches. It has never been used previously in a presidential inauguration.