Carter took the Oath with a Family Bible, opened to Micah 6:8 and also the same Bible used by George Washington at his 1789 inauguration. The Bible that originally belonged to Washington was at the time in the possession of St. John's Mason Lodge No. 1. The weather was cold, but sunny, with a wind chill factor in the teens. The estimated noon time temperature was at about 28 degrees, but the cold did not stop many excited spectators from catching a glimpse of the new president being sworn into office. Carter ended the Oath with the famous words, "so help me God"
Carter's inaugural address was 1,228 words long. In it, he spoke of bringing "a new spirit" among us all", and urged Americans to "reject the prospect of failure or mediocrity". He also expressed his desire that someday "the nations of the world might say that we had built a lasting peace, built not on weapons of war but on international policies which reflect our own most precious values".
Following the swearing-in ceremony, Carter became the first president to walk from the Capitol to the White House in the post-ceremony parade. Carter also requested that the traditional Inaugural luncheon, an event hosted by the Joint Congressional Inaugural Committee be canceled. Coverage of the event was provided by CBS and the ceremony was televised throughout the United States. Carter popularized the ILY sign when he signaled it to a group of Deaf people. Prior to this, the ILY was an obscure sign only used among a specific in the Midwestern United States. Today, it has become an international signal in both Deaf and hearing culture, informally meaning "I Love You."
The Carter Inauguration was the first following the opening of the Metro system and, in part because the inaugural committee paid to make the system free all day, it set a single day ridership record of 68,023 riders. A record that would last until the system was expanded the following July.