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Inauguration 2009 Sermons and Orations Project


On January 20, 2009, the United States will inaugurate Barack Obama, the country’s first African American president. In anticipation of citizens’ efforts to mark this historic time around the country, the American Folklife Center will be collecting audio and video recordings of sermons and orations that comment on the significance of the inauguration of 2009. It is expected that such sermons and orations will be delivered at churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship, as well as before humanist congregations and other secular gatherings. The American Folklife Center is seeking as wide a representation of orations as possible. 

President-elect Lincon on his way to his first inauguration (drawing) President-elect Lincoln and President Buchanan en route to Lincoln's first inauguration. American Memory:  "I Do Solemnly Swear ...": Presidential Inaugurations. Harper's Weekly, March 16, 1861: select on the image for the full drawing.

This collection will become one of many oral history and spoken-word collections at the American Folklife Center that preserve American's accounts of, and reactions to, important cultural events. Over many decades, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress has documented everyday citizens’ reactions to major historic events in our collective American experience.  For instance, man-on-the-street interviews were recorded on the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 (see the online collection); the traditions of Italian-Americans were documented to celebrate the Columbus Quincentenary, in 1992;  interviews were conducted with Americans across the nation in the weeks following the tragedy of September 11, 2001 (see the online collection); and the Veterans History Project is preserving the personal-experience stories of Americans who served the nation in wartime.  These voices of ordinary Americans responding to extraordinary events exist as valuable research collections for the scholars of today and they are a cultural legacy preserved for future generations.

Congregations and groups interested in contributing to this once-in-a-lifetime documentary project are asked to record sermons and orations delivered during Inauguration Week 2009 and donate them to the Library of Congress. The donated recordings will be preserved at the American Folklife Center in order to enhance the nation’s historical record and preserve the voices of religious leaders and other orators for researchers and scholars of the future. After being processed by archivists, the collection will be made available to scholars, students and the general public. In addition, copies of collected materials may also be deposited at the National Museum of African American History & Culture at the Smithsonian Institution so that they may reach as wide an audience as possible.

Individuals and groups interested in contributing to the Inauguration 2009 Sermons and Orations Project are asked to submit audio and video recordings made in digital or other approved formats. To be accepted into the collection, the recordings must be of sermons and orations that were delivered to congregations and other audiences between Friday, January 16 and Sunday, January 25, 2009.

In addition to audio and video recordings, the American Folklife Center is collecting written texts of sermons and orations (submitted in the form of print or electronic media), as well as printed programs from the events during which the sermons and orations were delivered. All submissions must be postmarked by February 27, 2009, and must be accompanied by signed release forms and a completed information form, found on this website.

For additional information about the Inauguration 2009 Sermons and Orations Project, call the American Folklife Center at (202) 707-5510 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, Eastern Standard Time.

The Library of Congress, the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, is the world's preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s Web site and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized Web site at

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to “preserve and present American Folklife” through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training.


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   May 15, 2015
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