January 21, 2013
Huge Crowd Awaits Inauguration Ceremony
After being formally sworn in for his second term at the White House in a brief ceremony Sunday, as required by the U.S. Constitution, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will appear at the U.S. Capitol Monday for a public celebration as they repeat their oaths of office again before hundreds of thousands of people on Washington's National Mall.
It won't be as large as the crowd of 1.3 million people who witnessed the nation's first African-American president take the oath in 2009, but the more than 600,000 people expected will pack the huge mall stretching from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.
Obama and Biden begin the day at St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, where chief executives have attended services throughout U.S. history.
They then go to the Capitol. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath of office to the president. The nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, swears in Biden.
Obama will put his hand on two Bibles - President Abraham Lincoln's from his 1861 inauguration, and another carried by the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The inauguration ceremony this year happens to occur on the national holiday established to honor Dr. King.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the 1963 civil rights march on Washington and the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation that initiated the process of freeing slaves in America.
Giving the invocation will be Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who was murdered 50 years ago in the southern U.S. state of Mississippi.
The Constitution requires that a U.S. president be sworn into office on January 20, so President Obama actually took the oath of office in the White House on Sunday. His wife, Michelle, held a family Bible for Obama as he repeated the presidential oath, read by Justice Roberts.
Monday's public inauguration will feature musical performances by James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce, and a poem by Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco. Obama and Biden will attend a traditional luncheon inside the Capitol building, then participate in the inaugural parade to the White House. Later, they attend two inaugural balls.
After beginning his first term grappling with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Obama starts his second amid a mix of optimism and pessimism about the direction of the country.
Polls show there is more optimism about what he can accomplish in his second term. A majority of Americans have a favorable view of the president.
But fewer than half believe Obama and opposition Republicans can end partisan bickering to prioritize reducing unemployment and fixing fiscal problems.
John Hudak is an expert in governance at the Brookings Institution. He says Obama may be less concerned about his legacy, and more with getting things done.
"I think in a lot of ways what the president will be known most for has already happened: his health care law, his removal of troops from Iraq and a host of other areas. What he is looking to do now is address problems," Hudak said.
Related video clip
Aides say Obama has been editing and refining his inaugural address. The White House is expected to release excerpts shortly before he speaks.
While he may make reference to political gridlock in Washington, Obama is not expected to adopt a confrontational tone in the speech.
In remarks to supporters late on Sunday, President Obama spoke about the significance of the inauguration to him.
"What the inauguration reminds us of is the role we have as fellow citizens in promoting a common good," he noted, "even as we carry out our individual responsibilities, the sense that there is something larger than ourselves, that gives shape and meaning to our lives.”
Obama's inaugural address occurs about three weeks before his State of the Union Address on February 12 to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, a speech traditionally used to lay out specific policy objectives.
Obama's second term agenda includes continuing economic recovery, reforming U.S. immigration law, gun control legislation, and overseeing the drawdown of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan.