INAUGURATION WEEKEND: AN OVERVIEW
Enormous grandstands are erected on the Capitol steps in the weeks preceding the inauguration in order to seat government officials and guests. (PBS NewsHour)
WASHINGTON -- An estimated 500,000 to 800,000 people will flock to the nation’s capital for the 57th presidential Inauguration to see the 44th United States President, Barack Obama, sworn into office for a second term. The Presidential Inauguration Committee and the Obama Administration have been working overtime to prepare the nation and the world for a historic day.
The nation will also honor and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday is celebrated the same day as the public inaugural ceremony. In the spirit of Dr. King’s legacy, President Obama called for a National Day of Service on Saturday to officially kick off the inauguration weekend.
With politics temporarily sidelined, Obama is encouraging everyone to live out Dr. King’s dream by working and volunteering in their communities. A massive tent has been built on the Mall in front of the Smithsonian Institutions to serve as a hub for the community service fair.
Nearly 100 community service organizations from across the country will be in attendance. Obama said that he wanted service to be a big part of his inauguration because it played such a huge role in his life. After a weekend of community service projects, the ceremonial swearing -in will take place on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol.
The program lineup will also include musical artists, Kelly Clarkson, James Taylor and Beyoncé, who was personally tapped by the First Family to sing the national anthem.
Obama will take the oath of office with his hand on a traveling Bible owned by Dr. King. King’s Bible will then be stacked on top of the one owned by Abraham Lincoln, which Obama used in his 2008 inauguration.
Because the Constitution requires a president’s term to begin at noon Jan. 20, Obama will actually have two swearing-in ceremonies. The tradition of holding two swearing-ins began in 1821 when President James Monroe’s inauguration fell on a Sunday. With guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court, they decided to hold a public inauguration the following Monday.
Jumbotrons will display a stream of events for the thousands of people standing throughout the National Mall. To stay connected, the Presidential Inaugural Committee has even designed an official inaugural app.
The U.S. Marine Band will be marking its 200th anniversary and 54th consecutive presidential inauguration this year. They have played and marched to tunes at presidential inaugurations since 1801, which celebrated President Thomas Jefferson. During the ceremony, they will accompany vocalists and play iconic American songs such as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
They will march in the inaugural parade along with other bands, military troops, Native American tribes and other organizations from nearly every U.S. state. A few of those participants are the South Shore Drill Team from Illinois and the Military Spouses of Michigan.
Representing the East Coast are Londonderry High School Marching Band and Color Guard from New Hampshire and the United War Veterans Council of New York.
The Grambling State University Band from Louisiana will showcase their Southern hospitality while the Native American Women Warriors represent the West and the Utuqqagmiut Dancers demonstrate the spirit of Alaska.
NASA will also roll out a replica of their rover, Curiosity, down Pennsylvania Avenue for the inaugural parade. Curiosity’s flight directors and other NASA scientists will walk beside the float.
Security preparations for the inauguration have been underway for months. Several streets and sidewalks around the proximity of inauguration events have been blocked off and will be lined with security enforcers. Local, state and federal law enforcements and military organizations will be present in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia area to provide security and ensure public safety within the city, at the inaugural events, concerts and balls.
The President and First Lady Michelle Obama will only attend two official inaugural balls on Jan. 21st at the Washington Convention Center. A-list stars such as Smokey Robinson, Brad Paisley, Usher, Stevie Wonder, Katy Perry, the cast of “Glee” and Marc Anthony will either perform at the balls or the children’s concert.
There is no fee associated with getting on the parade route, but getting past security can be quite a price to pay. It’s going to require patience and determination for anxious parade goers to get through the United States Secret Service checkpoints in the frigid January temperatures.