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Politics 2013: President Obama's inauguration festivities lower key

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International   |   Jan. 20, 2013 at 4:01 AM   |   Comments

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Barack Obama's first presidential inauguration was one for the record books. So is his second, but for a different reason.

Four years ago, America watched as Obama became the first African-American sworn in as president. Now, however, inauguration festivities that begin Sunday and conclude Monday have less pomp and circumstance because they are, well, the second time around.

Obama's first inauguration "was as big as it gets," inauguration expert Jim Bendat said. "Whenever you have a repeat inauguration, it's not as big."

Stressing inauguration "is an important American event," Bendat said a second inauguration just doesn't carry the same weight.

"It's a continuation rather than a transition," he said.

There are two swearings-in this time: a private, official one Sunday and the public, ceremonial one Monday.

Vice President Joe Biden will be sworn in first Sunday, the Presidential Inauguration Committee said. Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will preside over his swearing-in at the Naval Observatory.

A few hours later, Chief Justice John Roberts will administer Obama's oath of office in the Blue Room at the White House.

The ceremonial swearings-in, hosted by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, take place at the U.S. Capitol.

Wunderground.com's forecast for the nation's capital Monday called for partly cloudy skies and a high of 38 degrees F.

More than 58 groups will participate in this year's parade, the Presidential Inaugural Committee said.

A predicted 600,000 to 800,000 people are expected on the National Mall Monday to watch the public inaugural ceremony, far fewer than the approximately 1.8 million who watched Obama take the oath of office four years ago, CBS said.

Obama's second inauguration does tie a record: When all is said and done, he will have taken the oath of office four times -- tying Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Roberts botched the oath in 2009, necessitating a second swearing-in. This year, the official swearing-in is Sunday as prescribed by the Constitution, and the ceremonial swearing-in is Monday.

Because of these events, Obama ties Roosevelt, even though FDR earned his four inaugurations by being elected four times, Bendat said.

Everything from the inauguration in 2009 to this year's event has been scaled back to some extent, Bendat said, in part because it is a second inauguration but adding, "I'm sure the economy has something to do with that."

While the Obamas will attend two balls -- down from 10 in 2009 -- for the second inauguration, the record number of second-inauguration dances is 14 for Bill Clinton's re-election.

"There's [a] big difference this time," Bendat said.

He said the two smartphone applications available from the two inaugural committees are a bow to the event keeping up with the times rather than an effort to reach a global audience.

Four years ago "the world pretty much stopped" when Obama was inaugurated, Bendat said. "Will it be in such a similar vein this time? Probably not. It doesn't have the same magnitude.

"It'll be interesting to see if people who are on the National Mall in Washington are using those apps to communicate with each other," or whether too much use would grind app usage to a halt.

If something truly memorable happens, "it'll be almost by accident," Bendat said.

He said one area that moved the festivities to a different level was the list of musical performers.

Pop star Beyonce will sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and Kelly Clarkson, "My Country 'Tis of Thee." Singer-songwriter James Taylor is expected to sing "America the Beautiful."

"That's something really great," he said. "In past inaugurations, you had military bands playing military music. This year, there are three performers who are well-known -- not a military band, not an opera singer."

There was a pre-inauguration issue. The Rev. Louie Giglio, founder of Passion Conferences and a prominent voice in the evangelical movement, withdrew from delivering the benediction because of controversy over comments he made against same-sex marriage.

The Rev. Luis Leon, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, will give the benediction instead. Leon delivered the benediction for President George W. Bush in 2005.

The invocation will be delivered by Myrlie Evers-Williams, wife of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers.

Richard Blanco is the inaugural poet and will appear at Obama's swearing-in ceremony Monday. Blanco will be the country's youngest inaugural poet, as well as the first Hispanic and first member of the LGBT community to serve in that capacity, the Presidential Inaugural Committee said.

On Sunday, Obama takes the oath of office using the Bible of his wife's family. On Monday, he will take the oath of office using two Bibles: one used by President Lincoln at his first Inauguration -- which the Obama used in 2009 -- and one used by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

A week before the inauguration, law enforcement agencies were finalizing security preparations and an FBI official told CNN authorities had "no credible corroborated threats to any of the activities."

Debra Evans Smith, the FBI's acting assistant director of its Washington field office, said the agency will have specialized personnel to meet any security challenge.

"[Pretty] much all of our specialty teams will be available and on standby," Smith said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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