With an estimated audience of over one million people covering the National Mall, Obama and Biden took the oath of office for a second time on Jan. 21. Even though it seemed to be a much bigger deal last time, when the first African-American was being sworn in as President, the inauguration this time around was still a day for many Americans to celebrate after what they considered a hard-fought campaign for Obama’s re-election against Republican, and former Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.
One of the people that had the opportunity to watch the inauguration in Washington, D.C. on Monday was Kaila Millett, a sophomore at Suffolk. Millett explained that it “was really cool to finally see the capitol building and the President after having seen all of it on TV before.”
After leaving at 5 a.m., Millett “stood out in the massive crowds until 1 p.m.”
Millett, an international relations major, also mentioned that she received “a gold ticket, which isn’t as exciting as it sounds,” and that she “was behind the reflecting pool, and was a little too far away from the capitol building to see anything.”
As she has never attended a presidential inauguration before, Millett expressed how “it was really exciting. There were so many people,” and they “were standing side by side with people for as far as the eye could see. It was worth it, but in a once in a lifetime kind of way.”
In his second inaugural speech, President Obama discussed a lot about several seemingly progressive ideas for the next four years. Obama mentioned that “[we] will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
The President also recognized the fact that “[s]ome may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”
From one topic to another, the President went on to explain that “[our] journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” Obama originally expressed, publicly, his support for LGBT rights and equality last year. Also last year, the Democratic Party included a section which gave its first formal support for same-sex marriage.
Additionally, Obama told how immigration reform would be a necessity in the coming years. “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity,” the President continued, “until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.”
Whether or not Obama keeps to his word this time after his mostly inspiring, but somewhat idealistic words during his last term on similar issues, will be the decisive factor on if he can maintain his support from the liberal and progressive Democrats that backed him for re-election.
Among the celebrities in attendance were actor Marlon Wayans, rapper and record producer Jay Z, singer Katy Perry, singer and guitarist John Mayer, singer Ke$ha, actress Eva Longoria, and former Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell. Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, as well as human rights advocate Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were also there.
During the ceremony musician James Taylor, a Boston native, sang “America the Beautiful” while Kelly Clarkson, the winner of American Idol season one, sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” Afterwards, Beyoncé gave, what many considered, a
moving rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Aside from the music, part of the entertainment festivities for every inauguration is a poetry reading by a poet selected before-hand for the ceremony. This year, the Presidential Inaugural Committee chose a Cuban-American by the name of Richard Blanco. Mr. Blanco, who is the fifth person to share a poem at an inauguration (beginning with Robert Frost at President Kennedy’s inauguration in 1960,) was particularly notable for his background in several ways: he is young, Hispanic, and gay. The story he told was like that of not many others. The poem he shared, titled “One Today,” talked about how we “[h]ear: the doors we open/for each other all day, saying: hello| shalom, /buon giorno |howdy |namaste |or buenos días/in the language my mother taught me—in every language spoken into one wind carrying our lives /without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.”
The poem elaborated on the diversity within the United States while still focusing on what it is exactly that makes us who we are. Blanco described the beautiful landscapes as “[one] sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed/ their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked/ their way to the sea.”
Both Presidents Jimmy Carter (39th) and Bill Clinton (42nd) were at the inauguration with their wives. However, Presidents George H.W. Bush (41st) and his son, George W. Bush (43rd,) were not present at the inauguration ceremony. The lack of attendance was due to Bush Sr.’s recent release from a hospital following weeks of unstable and persistent bronchial conditions, but President Bush Sr., and his wife Barbara, sent their “best wishes” to Obama and his family.
In the midst of all the celebratory events, the ceremony, parade and various evening balls, Republicans were mostly quiet throughout the day. Many of them are preparing for key votes on legislation in Congress in the next few weeks, including a vote to extend the debt-limit.
Even as the extensive public ceremony was conducted throughout the day on Monday, the actual and official swearing-in took place the day before as required by the Constitution. In the Twentieth Amendment, section one, it is stated that “[t]he terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3rd day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.” Since the 20th of January fell on Sunday, they had to be sworn in, on that day, at noon.
The last president to actually have his formal inauguration ceremony fall on Jan. 20 was John F. Kennedy, the former Massachusetts senator, in 1961. Before the Twentieth Amendment was ratified, the inauguration ceremonies were held on March 4. Although a lot of people attend each inauguration in person, many more watch from the comfort of their homes on television. The first televised inauguration was for President Harry S. Truman’s second term in office in 1949. In 1997, President Bill Clinton’s second inauguration was the first to be live-streamed online.