By Camisha L. Jones
When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, a record breaking 1.8 million people flooded the nation’s Capitol eager to witness the swearing in of our country’s first African-American president. It was a landmark occasion that many likely felt would not come again soon. Four years later, here we are with a second opportunity to celebrate the election of President Barack Obama. From Saturday, January 19th until Tuesday, January 22nd, numerous Inaugural activities will be held, several of which the public may participate in or watch via internet or television.
Themed “Faith in America’s Future,” the 2013 Presidential Inauguration will commemorate many historical moments. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the placement of the Statue of Freedom on top of the Capitol Dome in 1863. Our nation’s annual observation of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday also falls on Monday, January 21st.
The weekend will begin with a National Day of Service in honor of King’s legacy. Begun in 2009 as an Inaugural tradition by President Obama and the First Lady, the day will include a major service fair held on the National Mall on Saturday, January 19th. Service opportunities to be held in all 50 states are also being organized and publicized at http://www.2013pic.org/service. “The National Day of Service is an opportunity for all Americans, no matter where they are, to be a part of the Inauguration,” Vice President Joe Biden said.
In accordance with the constitutionally mandated date for Presidential Inaugurations, the official Swearing-In of President Obama and Vice President Biden will occur on Sunday, January 20th as a private ceremony attended by family, friends and staff. This is only the 7th time in our nation’s history that the 20th has fallen on a Sunday. As is customary, a public Swearing-In Ceremony will occur on Monday, January 21st.
During the Inaugural Swearing-In Ceremony, Barack Obama will take the oath of office on the steps of U.S. Capitol’s West Front with his hand on both a Bible owned by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and one which belonged to President Lincoln. As is traditionally done, the Chief Justice of the United States, John G. Roberts, Jr., will administer the oath. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor will administer Vice President Biden’s oath as the first Hispanic and the fourth female judge to do so. President Obama will share his vision and goals for the country as part of the ceremony in his Inaugural address.
The Swearing-In Ceremony will include some familiar and historically significant faces. Mrs. Myrlie Evers-Williams, former chair of the NAACP from 1995-1998 and widow of Medgar Evers, will provide the invocation. Evers-Williams’ selection for the task is particularly profound in light of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement. Beyonce will sing the National Anthem. Kelly Clarkson will perform “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” and James Taylor will sing “America the Beautiful.” The Inaugural Poet, Richard Blanco, will be the youngest and the first Hispanic or LGBT person to serve in that role. The ceremony will be broadcasted live.
The Inaugural Parade will occur after the Swearing-In Ceremony and also be broadcasted on television. “The talented groups chosen to participate in the Inaugural Parade reflect the spirit, values, and diversity of our great nation,” said President Obama about the groups selected from the 2,800 applications submitted for participation in the Parade. In addition to representatives of all five branches of the Armed Services, some of the Parade participants include the Virginia Military Institute Marching Unit of Lexington, Virginia; the Native American Women Warriors of Pueblo West, Colorado; the Chinese American Community Center Folk Dance Troupe of Hockessin, Delaware; the Lesbian and Gay Band Association of St. Louis, Missouri and the South Shore Drill Team of Chicago, Illinois representing the inner-city youth of President Obama’s hometown.
While tickets are required to enter certain areas of the Swearing-In Ceremony and to enjoy bleacher seating at the Parade, both events are free and open to the public. To watch the Swearing-In Ceremony, enter the National Mall beginning at Fourth Street NW. There will be large screens set up all along the Mall broadcasting the ceremony. The Parade can be viewed anywhere between 4th Street and 14th Street. Public entry points will open at 6:30am.
If you are going to the Mall on the 21st, be prepared for potentially chilly weather and the security measures that will be in place. The high for the 21st in DC averages around 43 degrees. Consider wearing a warm coat, gloves, a scarf, a hat and your most comfortable shoes as you will likely be standing or walking outside for three or more hours. Keep these conditions in mind when deciding whether to bring infants, small children, the elderly or anyone with an impaired immune system.
Bring a lot of patience as the day will likely include many crowds, long lines and delays. Closed streets, bridges and major roadways are to be expected. Traveling by Metro (http://www.wmata.com/) and pre-purchasing your fare may be helpful, as will arriving early. Be sure to check the list of items prohibited at the Mall that day at http://inauguration.dc.gov/.
This year there are a lot fewer Inaugural Balls to be broadcasted. In light of the country’s economy, there will be only two official Inaugural Balls, eight less than in Obama’s 2009 inauguration and the lowest number of balls in 60 years. The Inaugural Ball will span every hall of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and the Commander-In-Chief’s Ball will honor the men and women of our country’s armed services as well as their families.
The Inaugural weekend will conclude with a National Prayer Service at Washington National Cathedral at 10:30 am on Tuesday, January 22nd. The interfaith service will include prayers, readings, blessings and hymns delivered by various religious leaders. It will be viewed via live webcast at www.nationalcathedral.org.
Whether you watch the Inauguration on television or travel to DC to see it all unfold for yourself, may these words from President Obama ring true and prophetic on January 21st: “This year’s Inaugural will reflect our belief that working together, we can keep moving our country forward and fulfill the promise of the American Dream for all families.”
For more Inauguration information visit: http://www.2013pic.org/.