Obama swearing-in to be more low-key affair than 2009 ceremony

President Obama’s January swearing-in will be a much more low-key affair than his 2009 ceremony.

This time, there will only be three days of festivities instead of the four days of parties held for his first inauguration. 

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And officials expect that the 2013 crowd will be smaller than its 2009 counterpart, Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Errol Schwartz said at a briefing last week.

There will also be fewer inaugural balls, according to The Associated Press, although the list of formal celebrations has yet to be released.

Gone, too, is the star-studded concert on the National Mall, according to a staffer who is working on the inaugural festivities.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be a celebrity component: actress Eva Longoria, a prominent Obama supporter and fundraiser, is one of the co-chairwomen of the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee.

But there won’t be any Jon Bon Jovi, Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen or U2 performing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, as they did in 2009.

Instead, the festivities — like last time — will begin with a National Day of Service on Saturday, Jan. 19, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, Jill Biden and various Cabinet members will participate in service projects around the city.

As for the actual swearing-in, that will happen twice: once on Sunday, Jan. 20, in a small ceremony at the White House, followed by the ceremonial swearing-in on Monday, Jan. 21, which takes place on the West Front of the Capital. 

It will be followed by Obama’s Inaugural Address.

The Constitution requires a president to be sworn in on Jan. 20, but when that day falls on a Sunday, the public ceremony gets pushed to Monday.

That follows a precedent set in 1821 by President Monroe, who was the first commander in chief to have his inauguration fall on a Sunday. 

Monroe decided, after consulting with the Supreme Court, to hold a public ceremony on Monday because most public institutions weren’t open on Sundays, according to the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

The timing of the inauguration has led several observers to point out that Obama will technically take the oath four times. 

He took it twice in 2009, retaking it at the White House the day after he was formally sworn in due to a mistake on the part of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. And he’ll take it twice in 2013. 

The last president to take the oath that many times was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who served four terms in the White House.

The announcement of Sunday’s ceremony at the White House caused a bit of controversy as organizers described it as “small” and “private.”

It was the word “private” that led to questions about whether the press would be allowed to cover the event.

Stephen Kerrigan, the chief executive officer of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, reassured reporters there would be access. And on Monday the committee announced there will be pool coverage of the Sunday ceremony, meaning a small group of reporters and photographers will be allowed to attend the event.

This is the seventh time a president has taken the oath on Sunday and then ceremonially on Monday.



The last was Ronald Reagan in 1985, when he took the oath at the White House on Sunday — an event that was televised — and then had another swearing-in on Monday at the Capitol. 

The planning of the 57th presidential inauguration is a joint effort between Congress, the Presidential Inaugural Committee and the National Park Service. The theme is “Faith in America’s Future.”

Each group has its own responsibilities.

Congress is in charge of the swearing-in platform on the West Front of the Capitol and the lunch for Obama that takes place afterward.

“It is on schedule and on budget,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters last week, referring to the platform construction. The estimated cost is $1.2 million.

The 10,000-square-foot stadium-style platform can hold more than 1,600 people. 

Obama and Biden and their families, lawmakers, Cabinet members, the Supreme Court justices, former presidents, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the diplomatic corps will fill the space on Inauguration Day.  

For Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers, who spends the night before inauguration in his office, it’s all in the details.

“I’m sitting there with a police radio in one ear and thinking about all of the plans that we made, thinking about everything that could possibly go wrong. ‘What happens if the lights go out? What happens if the president is giving his address to the nation and our sound system goes out?’ ... I don’t relax until the presidential motorcade gets off of Capitol Square and we turn the president over to the executive branch,” he said. 

By that he means the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which is in charge of the parade, the balls and other festivities surrounding the swearing-in.

After giving his address on Capitol Hill, Obama will head down Pennsylvania Avenue to take his seat in the viewing stand in front of the White House.

The National Park Service handles that portion. And while they’re busy building the stand, the military has constructed a 60-by-40-foot model of Washington, D.C., that officials are using for their practice runs.

The size of half a basketball court, with a 2-foot-tall Washington Monument and toy-like recreations of the Capitol and White House, officials are using it to simulate the parade route on the real Pennsylvania Avenue.


It’s one of roughly two dozen exercises that are being conducted on the map as part of the preparations.

Security is another concern.

Military officials said that about 6,000 National Guard members from at least 15 states and territories will participate, along with 7,500 active-duty and reserve service members. The active-duty component includes 1,500 service members who will have ceremonial roles in the inauguration ceremonies.

As for the cost, most of it falls to the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which raises the funds for the event. That sum was $53 million in 2009.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who sits with Schumer on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, emphasized the bipartisan nature of the day.

“Whether we’re Republicans or Democrats, we’re looking forward to this,” he said.


Jeremy Herb and Geneva Sands contributed to this report.