The 16-page list of Inaugural events is published. The detailed entry map for reserved seating and standing area patrons extends close to a half mile from the Capitol steps out to 4th Street. This means those without tickets need to gather on the Mall between the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and Washington Monument obelisk before dawn on Tuesday. And the 10-day forecast has the mercury only reaching a day-time high of 23 F (-5 C). And yet 1.5 million up to 4 million people will descend on this 2 mile (3.2 km) long by 300-yard-wide stretch of earth known as the Washington Mall.
The dress rehearsal, complete with a Marine One helicopter landing, went off flawlessly. The thousands assembled partied heartily in advance and Washington DC is getting ready for a ritual not seen since January, 2001, the Inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President.
Almost two years from that cold February day in Springfield, Illinois when Obama announced his candidacy on the State House steps, Obama’s journey comes to an end as he places his hand on the same Bible Abraham Lincoln used and recites the oath of office.
An estimated television audience of 2 billion people around the globe will watch the historic moment.
The Big Five
Last week the three living former Presidents representing the last 32 years of those in that office joined President Bush and President Elect Obama in the Oval Office for a meeting and luncheon. The group photo op was an impressive testament to peaceful transition and there is a fraternity there. Clinton and Poppy Bush have become good and fast friends since leaving the White House and Jimmy Carter continues to do good works abroad.
The tension though between him and Bill Clinton, even being from the same party was clearly there. When Clinton looked down and said, “I love this rug.” hold your hand up if your dirty little mind flashed on interns, blue dresses and cigars on that rug?
Quite a day.
The Inaugural Address
Democrat John F. Kennedy’s is considered the best and most inspiring address (“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”) and there have been many bad ones contending for worst but the hands-down winner for many is the three-hour long address by Republican President William Henry Harrison, perhaps America’s most foolish president.
Even though it was in March, there was a blinding snowstorm and him not wearing a coat or hat. Harrison contracted pneumonia and died three weeks after being sworn in.
Since Obama is such a skilled orator and his speeches in South Carolina, Philadelphia (on race), at the Democratic National Convention, and in Grant Park on election night are considered some of the best ever, there are high expectations for his 12-15 minutes on Tuesday.
Historically, the Dow declines as the inauguration of a Democrat approaches because of the party’s less favourable treatment of business; it tends to rise as a Republican inauguration nears for the converse reason. This year, the market has been hopeful for change but angry with the inattention of George W. Bush. The economic stimulus package is looked upon with great anticipation and is much needed. The bar is set at such a ridiculously low level that even a modest post election jump will proclaim him Saviour.
No morning coat, tie, and top hat for Obama (last used by Kennedy in 1961). It was announced will be wearing a dark business suit and coat for the inauguration ceremony specially made for the occasion by Hart, Schaffner & Marx. Since Texan Lyndon Johnson’s Inaugural business suits have been the order of the day
President Eisenhower, a former general and leader of Supreme Allied forces during WWII was said to be vexed because he hated putting on tails and wearing a top hat. The modern Presidency has been a model of modernity with stylish suits and topcoats. Sadly, temperatures will not allow for one to go coatless The First Grandma. When Michelle Obama’s mother Marian Robinson, moves into the White House with the family, she’ll be the first presidential “parent” to live full time with her children in the residence in more than 100 years. She is moving in to continue helping Michelle with the daughters, who adore their grandmother and with whom they lived for much of the time during the campaign.
There is a long history of Grandmothely involvement in African American families. While many are there out of economic necessity there is also a wisdom tradition handed down from one’s elders that is a big part of it. Although mine died when I was only 12, there are lessons of behaviour and manners that stick with me still almost 40 years later. Grandparents provide the right balance of stern discipline and a loving, consistent presence. Grandmas have their own rules and woe it be it to the child (albeit an adult one) that tries to control their own parent.
The scene in Grant Park of Barack Obama wordlessy grabbing his mother-in-law’s hand and bringing her forward for the adulation of the assembled crowd and the unspoken mutual love, respect, and adoration there spoke volumes. Mrs. Peterson will provide a family constancy for the two girls for when the President and/or Michelle are away from the White House. She’ll likely live in a bedroom on the third floor which has an adjacent sitting room as well as being close to the Solarium which is as close to a “family room” as there is in the residence.
Denis Campbell is a US journalist based in the United Kingdom. He contributes to newspapers and magazines, is a BBC Radio election commentator and publishes the daily e-magazine The Vadimus Post from the Latin Quo Vadimus – where are we headed and do we know why?