Inauguration 101: what to watch and when

by Patricia Treble

Why doesn’t the Canadian Prime Minister warrant the hooplah being lavished on Barack Obama when he’s sworn into office? Surely becoming PM is worth a Mountie escorted carriage ride through Ottawa so he can wave to Canadians lining the procession route. At the very least he should get high school marching bands from all 10 provinces and three territories.

Oh right. Stephen Harper heads the government, not the nation. That’s the job of Queen Elizabeth II and her representative in Canada, Governor General David Johnston.  Harper gets the power, but not the pomp–that modestly comes when a new GG is picked and then on a grand scale for the coronation of a new monarch, something that hasn’t happened in 60 years. Drat. Indeed, this is what the Governor General’s website says about the swearing in:

The Oath of Office is administered to the prime minister designate by the Clerk of the Privy Council at the commencement of the swearing-in ceremony. The prime minister, the governor general and the Clerk of the Privy Council sign the Privy Council Oath Book. If the prime minister designate is not a member of the Privy Council (Privy Councillor) he or she will be sworn in as a member of the Privy Council before the Oath of Office is administered.

So every four years everyone looks south of the border as the Americans go though their quadrennial ceremonies. Here’s a list of what to watch and when (all times approximate):

1. The swearing in

Mandated to be in January by the Constitution, it’s really happening twice.

a)  Sunday, Jan. 20 at noon: President Obama took the oath of office using the family bible of his wife’s family.

Chief Justice John Roberts led the President through the oath without a hint of the linguistic mangling that occurred four years ago. After Michelle congratulated her husband, Barack responds, “Thank you, sweetie.” Malia said, “I’m so happy, yay!,” while Sasha tells him, “Good job, Dad.” He responded, “I did it” to which she retorted. “You didn’t mess up.”

b) Monday, Jan. 21 at 11:55 a.m. EST: Oath of office No. 2. This time outside with all the usual spectacles. He’ll use two bibles–one from Abraham Lincoln and one from Martin Luther King Jr.

2. The big ceremony, edited version

(Click here for a minute-by-minute timeline by Reuters).

a) 11 a.m.: the arrival of Michelle Obama and girls signals the real start of the event

b) 11:50 a.m.: singer James Taylor performs America the Beautiful just before the presidential swearing in No. 2

c) noon: the inaugural address. Obama has an unenviable task–to match his oratorical skills from 2008 and to not mess it up like Warren Harding.

d) then more singing–Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce

3. Parade

a) it starts at about 2:30 and goes down Pennsylvania Avenue (look out for the Canadian Embassy in a zillion shots) to the White House. If tradition, and the weather, holds, then the Obamas and Bidens will walk part of the way.

b) they are followed by a dizzying array of bands, regiments, Boy Scouts and even ballerinas. The march starts with the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment, a civilian re-enactment brigade wearing uniforms like those worn by the storied regiment during the Civil War.

4. Balls, galas and letting loose

a) starting at 6 pm the President and Michelle Obama go to the first of two official balls–one for the military and a huge 35,000-plus person inauguaration gala. They’ve attracted some of the best musical talent out there. Here’s from the official press release:

Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, Chris Cornell, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson and Marc Anthony will perform at the Commander-in-Chief’s Ball, where President Obama and Vice President Biden will honor the brave men and women of our country’s armed forces and their families. Dan Moose will DJ the event. Tickets to the Commander-in-Chief ’s Ball are being provided free of charge by the PIC to all invited guests, who include active duty and reserve military, Medal of Honor recipients, and Wounded Warriors and their spouses. The event will take place in the Ballrooms of the Convention Center, nearly doubling the size of the event from 2009. The ball will be pooled press and doors open to the public at 6 p.m.

At The Inaugural Ball, Alicia Keys, Black Violin, Brad Paisley, Far East Movement, FUN., members of the Glee cast, John Legend, Katy Perry, Maná, Smokey Robinson, Soundgarden, Stevie Wonder and Usher will perform on multiple stages. D-Nice will DJ the event.

b) there are a bazillion other galas out there, ranging from those thrown by state associations to rather esoteric trade ones. Hey, there’s  even a Black McDonald’s Operators Association Ball.  

5. National Prayer Service

It will be held at the Washington Cathedral on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 10:30. Just what everyone wants after a hard night of partying: a church service.




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