The [url id=”http://www.mtv.com/ontv/dyn/obama_inauguration/series.jhtml”]presidential inauguration[/url] is an event that’s about as close to a royal coronation as American government gets. It’s a day filled with ceremony, guards, salutes, parades, speeches, a party that’s actually still called a “ball” and, of course, symbolism: of new beginnings, rites of passage, of change. It’s the president’s opportunity to declare his administration’s intent: At John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961, he made his legendary “Ask not what not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country” speech.
It’s also an opportunity for surreal mismatches, as anyone who remembers the sight of President George W. Bush dancing awkwardly next to Ricky Martin during the 2001 inaugural celebrations can attest. (Several years later, Martin extended his middle finger when singing a lyric including Bush’s name during a concert, which he later said was a comment on the war in Iraq.)
The historic nature of Barack Obama’s presidency — not to mention his oratorical abilities — guarantees that his inauguration on January 20, 2009, will be one for the ages.
Until that day, Obama will not be president; he’ll be president-elect, meaning that the people have voted him in power, but he hasn’t taken office. While the lag between election and inauguration was originally designed to allow for travel in pre-rapid-transit days, it has since become the sitting president’s opportunity to finish up his term and/or tidy up his office (literally or metaphorically) — and, of course, issue last-minute pardons.
The inauguration usually takes place at noon on the steps of the west front of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., an appointee of outgoing President Bush, will oversee the changing of the guard by administering the oath, which traditionally is done on a Bible. Also present will be members of the U.S. armed forces, since the president is also commander-in-chief.
Joe Biden, the vice president-elect, will take his oath first, in the same ceremony. A band will play “Hail to the Chief,” the infantry guard will give a 21-gun salute, and then Obama will make his inaugural address — his first speech to the country as president.
The United States Congress then will invite Obama and Biden to lunch, after which Obama will parade down from the Capitol to the White House.
And after all this pomp and circumstance, it’s party time. Inaugural celebrations can last up to five days after the initial ceremony, but the most anticipated one is the Inaugural Ball — tickets, which are available on various ticket Web sites at exorbitant prices, are going fast. The official inauguration Web site unhelpfully says: “Tickets for the Inaugural swearing-in ceremony will be distributed to constituents in January 2009 by both Senators and Representatives of Congress of the 111th Congress.”
It seems likely that the events surrounding the inauguration will be the kind of star-studded affair that Obama’s victory celebration Tuesday night was not. The day before the election, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Obama campaign had asked some of its famous supporters to stay away from Tuesday’s rally. Although the campaign is reportedly grateful for the high-profile support, several prominent celebs had reportedly been asked “politely but very firmly” to skip the rally — and focus on attending the Obama inauguration.
An Obama insider reportedly told the newspaper’s Bill Zwecker that Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, Sean “Diddy” Combs (who was surrounded by media, including MTV News, when he voted Tuesday), Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Ben Affleck were among those asked to stay away.
“There really only needs to be one star in Grant Park, and that’s Barack,” the insider reportedly said. “There will be plenty of time for a new President Obama to be surrounded by famous fans, all hopeful about a new administration.”
So either way, on January 20 our nation’s capital looks to be filled with A-listers of every stripe.
“Be the Change: Live From the Inaugural” will air live on MTV on Tuesday, January 20, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. MTV News will have wall-to-wall coverage of the event and of the scenes in Washington, D.C., New Orleans and Kenya in the days leading up to the event and in the days that follow.