Washington gets set for Obama's inauguration festivities
Published Sunday, January 20, 2013 8:33AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, January 20, 2013 10:29PM EST
Washington will put political wrangling on the backburner Monday as thousands of people converge on Capitol Hill to watch Barack Obama take his second and final presidential oath of office.
In keeping with age-old tradition, Obama’s swearing-in ceremony is to take place on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Monday, to be followed by his inaugural address. The president will then travel down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.
Monday’s public ceremony and evening inauguration galas cap a three-day-long celebration in Washington to mark the commencement of Obama’s second term.
Though Monday’s public event will be laden with pomp and circumstance Americans have come to expect at presidential inaugurations, both Obama and Vice-President Biden were actually formally sworn in Sunday in private and separate ceremonies. By law, the U.S. president must officially take office on Jan. 20, but since the date fell on a Sunday, organizers decided to put off the public festivities until Monday.
Surrounded by family, Obama was administered his oath by Supreme Court Justice John Roberts in the White House’s Blue Room. After, Obama’s daughter Sasha hugged her father and told him “good job” and “you didn’t mess up.” The moment of levity was a reminder of four years ago on Inauguration Day, when some words were left out of Obama’s oath. Then, the newly elected president had to redo it.
Earlier in the day, Biden took his oath from Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor at his official residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory. More solemn events were also held Sunday as Obama and Biden laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery. Later, Obama attended church services at the historic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church.
At an evening event at the National Building Museum, Obama thanked U.S. citizens for a successful campaign, and for promoting the “common good.”
“All of you here understood and were committed to the basic notion that when we put our shoulders to the wheel of history, it moves. It moves forward,” Obama said to rousing cheers. “And that’s part of what we celebrate when we come together for inauguration.”
Introducing Obama and wife Michelle to the stage, Biden spoke of previous accomplishments of the administration, including support for marriage equality.
“And I want you to know something else about this guy Barack Obama – he’s just getting started,” Biden said.
NBC’s Tracie Potts told CTV News Channel that Obama’s second presidential inauguration is likely to draw smaller crowds than did his historic first-term swearing-in ceremony in 2009, which saw about two million people line the National Mall to catch a glimpse of the 44th U.S. president.
“Less than half as many people expected this year, 800,000 is the most that we’ve heard, that’s still a lot of people to plan for,” Potts said.
Major preparations were underway along the National Mall for the event. Crews constructed grandstands for the crowds, and over 40 agencies were said to be overseeing security, Potts said.
Once the party is over, Obama will return his attention to major challenges facing his administration, both domestic and abroad. Most immediately, the president has been tasked with guiding Congress through difficult economic problems, including the fiscal cliff, debt ceiling and the budget, which runs out in March.
Abroad, Obama must contend with tensions both full-blown and simmering in the Mideast. While Israeli-Palestinian tensions heat up once more over settlement building, Obama is also facing pressure to take action on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Spurred by the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., Obama is also seeking gun control reforms, but his proposals are seeing heavy pushback from Republicans and gun lobbyists.
Obama may also look to put comprehensive immigration reform back on the agenda, something he promised but never did in his first term in office, Potts said.
“He’s got four more years to try to get it done, but really the fiscal issues seem to be chief at this point,” she said.
With files from The Associated Press