Fortunately, even in the midst of star sightings and party hopping, the symbolism of the inaugural ceremony and ceremonies attendant to President Obama’s swearing-in never escaped the public mood. It is perhaps the republic’s ultimate symbol of its nature: that political power and leadership transfers peacefully, nearly effortlessly, as the people decide.

At the center of symbolic gestures, events, and moments there is one symbol—obvious but frequently ignored—I find especially important for us to remember as this enormously popular and extraordinarily talented president begins his administration.

The Chief Justice administers the oath of office, but the ceremony does not take place at the Supreme Court. Although his occupying the White House signals the new era in American history, the president’s inauguration does not take place there. He is now the most powerful military commander in the world, but the president did not, however, become commander-in-chief at a military location – a possibility most Americans would find abhorrent and a fact that attests to enduring wisdom of civilian control over our military.

Most of us accept without question, that presidents become, officially, presidents at the United States Capitol, Congress’ home. Indeed, Congress not only provides its building and grounds to the executive branch, it is the Congress that organizes the event, oversees it, and hosts it, just as the framers of the Constitution decided.

Equals – Congress, The Presidency, and the Courts – to be sure. But the remarkable ceremony the world watched on January 20th sends another too often overlooked signal, itself a symbol ignored at our peril in this era of the imperial presidency.

This was unequivocally a congressional ceremony, yet another unmistakable signal that framers, and their descendants, believed, at least in my judgment that the Congress was slightly more equal than its other equal branches of government.

In the celebration of the last several days, I read that a key Democratic senator, and strong supporter of the new president, had been quoted as saying that he is looking forward to working with, not for, the new president. I though about how, to ensure that their new government would not devolve into the monarchy they fled and rejected, the framers of the constitution separated power into the three branches while devoting the first article of their document to the creation of the Congress.

Jefferson opined that one of the greatest threats to our liberties is the unwarranted encroachment of executive branch power, something our new president repeatedly talked about during his campaign and something no doubt to remember no matter how popular a new president is. As important as the president is, especially this one, Congress is a co-equal branch, perhaps a little more co-equal, and has the grave responsibility to protect our liberties.

In our zeal to move on from some of the excesses of the last administration we need to keep the lessons of the framers in mind, never overlooking the obvious and powerful symbolism in where President Obama took the oath of office, in Congress’ home.