The 2009 inauguration will be remembered as a milestone for a nation built on slavery and blood-stained by the civil rights movement. But Obama clearly has that historical context in mind for his second go-round, as evidenced by the Bibles he chose to place his left hand on while taking the oath of office — one owned by Abraham Lincoln and one by Martin Luther King Jr.
Their selection is especially symbolic because Obama's second inauguration comes on the federal holiday marking King's birthday and in a milestone anniversary year involving both men. It was 150 years ago when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery, and 50 years ago when King delivered his "I Had a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial — a monument that will be straight ahead in Obama's sight as he speaks to his country.
"We've got the Bible of the great emancipator on top of the Bible of the leader of the civil rights movement for an African- American president to take the oath of office," Kerrigan said. "It's an amazing moment that people want to touch and feel and be a part of."
The inauguration will transform Washington, where most federal offices would be closed for the King holiday, by shutting down streets downtown and bringing regular daily life in the city to a halt. Viewing stands are set up along Pennsylvania Avenue for the parade from the Capitol to the White House. Street lamps will be removed, then replaced at the day's end.
It takes lots of people to pull it all off.
There are 550 people working for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, 1,300 members of the military coming in support roles and countless security officials, including police from multiple agencies and Secret Service providing security. The cost is high: Tens of millions of dollars in donations typically are raised to pay for the parade and parties, more than $1 million is appropriated by Congress for the swearing-in ceremony and security costs are kept under wraps but also covered by taxpayers.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who oversees the ceremony on Capitol grounds, has committed to preventing the crowd problems that marred the 2009 celebration, when thousands of ticketholders got stuck for hours underground in what became known as "the purple tunnel of doom." That 3rd Street tunnel is being closed, and Schumer says there will be better signs to direct attendees, and staff will monitor Twitter and other social media to detect and address any problems.
Obama's inaugural theme, "Our People. Our Future," is meant to reflect the strength of Americans, their ability to overcome challenges and the country's diversity. Diversity has been a focus in choosing participants throughout the festivities, with performers representing a range of demographics and parade participants from all 50 states.
The entertainment, too, reflects a variety of musical talents, with Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor performing patriotic standards at the swearing-in ceremony. Others such as Smokey Robinson, Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, Marc Anthony, Stevie Wonder and the cast of "Glee," are signed up for the other events, including a children's concert next Saturday and the president's two official balls.
Obama plans to kick off the weekend's festivities on that Saturday with the National Day of Service, a call for Americans to serve their communities in honor King's legacy. Obama, a former community organizer in Chicago, started the volunteer program four years ago and inaugural organizers say he hopes future presidents will continue it.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee is setting up a fair on the National Mall to encourage service that day and beyond and has staff working in all 50 states to coordinate local programs. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and their families plan to personally participate in projects in Washington
Also on Saturday, first Lady Michelle Obama and Biden's wife, Jill, are set to host a concert for America's children as they did four years ago. Popular young artists are putting on a show and tickets are being distributed to Washington schoolchildren, among others. The concert will pay special tribute to military families as part of the two women's focus on supporting their service and sacrifice.
At noon on Sunday, Jan. 20, the time the Constitution requires the new term to begin, Obama plans to take his official oath in the White House's Blue Room with some media coverage, while Biden plans an official swearing in at the Naval Observatory. The public ceremony is not being held until the next day because inaugurations historically have not been held on Sundays.
Presidential Inaugural Committee: http://www.2013pic.org
Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies: http://www.inaugural.senate.gov
Follow Nedra Pickler on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nedrapickler
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