Ronald Wilson Reagan took the presidential oath of office for a second term Sunday in a low-key White House ceremony and, hours later, took the historically rare step of canceling today's inaugural parade and shifting the public inauguration indoors because of new-fallen snow, bitter winds and record cold temperatures.
The customary parade down Pennsylvania Avenue was called off after officials were warned Sunday night that the expected subzero weather conditions would expose thousands of marchers and spectators to serious risks of frostbite and other medical problems.
Reagan, in a statement issued Sunday night by the White House, said that medical and military authorities had warned that "exposed flesh can freeze within five to 10 minutes" in the conditions expected today, "triggering considerable danger to many of the parade and ceremony participants, spectators and the general public."
Safety 'Must Come' First "The health and safety of those attending and working at these outdoor events must come before any celebrations," he said.
As a result, Reagan will deliver his second Inaugural Address in the Rotunda of the Capitol, instead of from the traditional site on its front steps. And inaugural spokesman James Lake said that officials were hurriedly trying to organize an indoor event this afternoon at the Washington Capital Centre--a convention arena--so that the thousands of would-be parade participants still could gather with the President.
When Reagan took the oath Sunday, the outside temperature stood at only 9 degrees--with a windchill factor equal to 22 degrees below zero--apparently making it the coldest day ever for a presidential swearing-in.
Washington's previous record-low temperature for Jan. 20--8 degrees--was shattered as the thermometer went to 1 below zero at 11 p.m. Sunday and headed even lower.
Risk to President In recommending that Reagan scrub today's outdoor activities because of the hardships and potential dangers that others would face, his advisers were also clearly cognizant of the possible added strain of an outdoor inauguration on Reagan himself, although he was to have watched the parade from an enclosed and heated reviewing stand outside the White House and was to have traveled to and from the Capitol by limousine.
Bad weather has proven hazardous for other Presidents. William Henry Harrison caught cold and died a month later of pneumonia after spending five hours in bone-chilling wind and rain at his inauguration in 1841.
Reagan, who will be 74 on Feb.6--the day he has chosen to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress--became the oldest President in U.S. history five months after taking office in 1981.
Reagan, only the 14th person ever to have won reelection to the nation's highest office, will outline his goals for the second term during today's Inaugural Address. White House spokesman Larry Speakes said that Reagan's speech will look forward to "an American renewal, continuing America's proud and revolutionary tradition," and he promised that the oration will be "poetic at times, ringing."
Today's ceremonies will be held at noon, as scheduled, inaugural spokesman Lake said, but attendance will be limited essentially to members of Congress and the Cabinet and their families. The inaugural committee had given out 140,000 tickets to the scheduled outdoor swearing-in and sold 25,000 tickets to the parade at prices ranging from $12.50 to $100. The money will be refunded to persons who request it, Lake said.
35 Seconds for Photos It was so cold Sunday that, although Reagan and Vice President George Bush did not don hats or overcoats before stepping outside onto the North Portico of the White House to pose for news photographs after they had taken their oaths of office, they stood there for just 35 seconds.
"Oh, wow!" the President exclaimed as he faced the subzero conditions. When asked by shouting reporters what would be different about his second term, the former California governor replied: "Well, I hope it will be warmer."
Then, the President and vice president, who had been sworn in as part of the same ceremony, stepped back inside to join family members, congressional leaders, Cabinet members, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a handful of senior aides at a buffet luncheon of pasta carbonara--a concoction of noodles, bacon, eggs, onions and cheese--as well as spinach salad and pastries.
Only 96 guests had been invited to attend the swearing-in, but the White House ceremony was witnessed by millions watching on national television.
The 20th Amendment to the Constitution decrees that the President shall assume office on Jan. 20. Customarily, when Inauguration Day falls on Sunday, the sabbath for most Christians, as it did this year, the Inaugural Address and the public celebration are postponed until Monday.
It had happened that way five times before.
Reagan was administered the constitutionally prescribed 35-word oath by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger in the White House Grand Foyer, at the foot of the 40-step marble staircase that links the upstairs family quarters with the state rooms.
"Congratulations, sir," Burger said as he finished.
Reagan then turned to his wife, Nancy, dressed in a wool dress of her trademark red and holding a Bible that belonged to his mother, Nellie. "I'm going to kiss you now," Reagan said. And he did, adding a hug as well.
The Rev. Donn Moomaw, pastor of the Bel-Air Presbyterian Church, which the Reagans often attended when they lived in Los Angeles, delivered the invocation, praying that the oath-taking would be "more than a formality" and instead would be "a splendid new time of commitment and dedication."
In addition, he asked the Lord to "fill Mr. Reagan and Mr. Bush with a new sense of their divine appointment . . . that they may know that they have been called by you."
Two hours earlier, Reagan, Bush and most of their official guests attended a National Prayer Service in Thanksgiving for the 50th American Presidential Inauguration at the National Cathedral.
The Episcopal cathedral is just two blocks from the home of Democrat Walter F. Mondale, whom Reagan trounced in an electoral landslide last November. About 2,100 other persons, many of them parishioners, attended, having braved the bitter cold plus a wind-driven snowstorm to get there.
Speakes quipped to reporters that the arctic cold had blown in from Mondale's home state of Minnesota, the only state to support the Democrat in the election.
Reagan Hears Graham The Rev. Billy Graham, speaking from the pulpit, with his voice and image being beamed throughout the cavernous cathedral by microphones and a dozen color TV monitors, told Reagan that during the next four years he "will have to make decisions of state perhaps greater than any of those made by your predecessors. Because of modern technology, you will hold in your hands the destiny not only of America but the entire world . . . .
"There is a mandate that is higher than the ballot box, and it comes from God," Graham said. "We have a responsibility not only to all the people of America and to the people of the world, but we also have a great responsibility to the God of our fathers."
Reagan regarded the service as "impressive," according to Speakes, who described the President's mood after the swearing-in as "upbeat and enthusiastic."
Reagan had reason to be upbeat because, among other things, a nationwide ABC-Washington Post poll published Sunday found him starting his second term with a job approval rating higher than at any time since April, 1981, just after he survived an assassination attempt.
Sixty-eight percent of those interviewed approved of Reagan's handling of the presidency, compared to only 28% who disapproved. That makes the President not quite as popular as Dwight D. Eisenhower was on being sworn in for a second time but a lot more popular than was Richard M. Nixon at the same period, according to Gallup Poll surveys.
Although Sunday's presidential oath-taking was by invitation only, it was hardly private, with many millions of Americans watching on television. The day's events were described by United Press International as "a telegenic blend of religion, pomp and media-age wizardry."
Bush led an all-star cast of top Administration officials who went on national TV interview shows Sunday to talk about Reagan's second term and to promote his policies.
Both Secretary of the Treasury Donald T. Regan and White House Chief of Staff James A. Baker III--who in two weeks will swap jobs--emphatically reiterated that the President will oppose any attempt to raise taxes as a way of reducing the federal deficit.
"If this election meant anything, it meant that the American people overwhelmingly reject that approach," Baker said. "You're not going to see any support for a tax increase from this Administration in any way, shape or form."
Regan said that reducing federal spending will be the President's "first priority" during his second term.
Reagan's first priority on Sunday, however, clearly was savoring the day with his family and friends--and, like millions of other Americans, watching the Super Bowl football game on television.