WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, the 57th presidential inauguration, may not attract the same crowds as the first in 2009, but it will engage the nation with a powerful theme, according to organizers.
Faith in America’s Future, a theme selected by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), will surface repeatedly in key speeches throughout the inauguration ceremony, according to Matt House, communications director for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCICC).
The inauguration theme was inspired by this year’s 150th anniversary of the capping of the Capitol dome with the Statue of Freedom, which marked the completion of the iconic building.
The Capitol project began in the 1850s but was stopped midway due to the Civil War, the dome standing only half built when Abraham Lincoln took office. Congress baulked at the cost of completion during such troubled times; however, Lincoln insisted that construction continue.
“If people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on,” said the former president in an interview with Union Chaplain John Eaton.
Schumer, chairman of the JCCIC, was inspired by the ideas of faith and unity amid similarly challenging times today, he told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Wednesday.
“If we look back at what we accomplished 150 years ago, we can find faith in America’s future that we can overcome these obstacles again,” he said.
Constitutionally, the president must be sworn in before noon on Jan. 20, which falls on a Sunday this year. The official public event will occur instead, as it has in only seven other presidential inaugurations, on the following Monday.
Obama will take the oath, attended by immediate family, before Chief Justice John Roberts at the White House Sunday morning. The Robinson Bible, belonging to the first lady’s family, will be used for the swearing in ceremony.
Obama will take the oath again in a formal ceremony on Capitol Hill Monday, Jan. 21. The president will use two bibles: significantly the Lincoln Bible, the same bible Abraham Lincoln used in his inauguration in 1861, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “traveling Bible.”
As the third Monday in January, this year’s inauguration day is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday in the United States marking Dr. King’s birthday, which was Jan. 15.
Theo LeCompte, director of events and ceremonies for the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) said that Obama feels that the two bibles represent “two people whose shoulders he’s standing on when he goes to take the inauguration.”
The oath will be taken in front of what is expected to be less than the estimated 1.8 million people who turned out in 2009 to see the inauguration of the first African-American president, but the oath will still happen before hundreds of thousands people who will gather at the National Mall to witness the event.
Washington, D.C., has been in preparation for weeks, with barricades and seating stands lining the mall, Pennsylvania Avenue, and the streets around the Capitol Building and with the White House in preparation for the ceremony and the following inaugural parade. Over 2,000 groups representing the 50 United States applied for the parade this year, which will have over 50 floats and 10,000 servicemen and servicewomen.
Inaugural activities will start Saturday with the National Day of Service, an initiative started by President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in 2009 as a day of giving back to the community. Events and giving activities will not only be ongoing all Saturday at the National Mall, but also nationally this year for the first time in cities and towns around America.
Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton has agreed to be the honorary chair for the 2013 National Day of Service, and she will be accompanied at the mall by musician Ben Folds and actress Eva Longoria.
Other inaugural activities include the Children’s Inaugural Concert Saturday night, where children of military families will be particularly well represented. The concert is an initiative of the first lady and second lady Dr. Jill Biden, who, throughout Obama’s first term, worked specifically to help military families.
Finally, there are the inaugural balls. In 2009, inaugural ball celebrations broke new ground, with the president and first lady attending 10 in total. Pleading cost at a time of austerity, and on another level, considering security logistics nightmares, organizing committees this year have put all their effort into hosting just two large official balls.
The commander in chief’s ball, primarily for members of the armed services, and the inaugural ball, largely by invitation although with limited public tickets, will be held at one venue—the Washington Convention Center.
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