If you’re really lucky, you get to make history once in your life. But when President Obama takes the stage Monday (January 21) for his second inauguration, it will mark yet another milestone for the commander in chief, his party and the nation.
Once he takes the oath of office, Obama will become only the sixth Democratic president since 1900 to earn a second term in the White House, and at a time in the nation’s history when monumental changes loom on the horizon, from potentially historic legislation on immigration and gun-law reform to a looming Supreme Court decision that could set a national precedent on gay marriage.
But first things first: Inauguration Day.
The president, his family and Vice President Joe Biden and family will take their place on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., with the day’s official theme dubbed “Faith in America’s Future.” Events will mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the placement of the Statue of Freedom on top of the Capitol dome in 1863.
In keeping with the theme, Obama will once again take the oath of office on both a Bible owned by President Lincoln, as well as a second Bible owned by the late civil-rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The day will kick off shortly after 11:30 a.m. ET with opening musical selections from the United States Marine Band, as well as the kids of P.S. 22 from Staten Island, New York, and the Lee University Festival Choir from Cleveland, Tennessee.
Longtime New York Senator Charles Schumer will provide the opening remarks and call to order, followed by the invocation from Myrlie Evers-Williams, wife of slain civil-rights activist Medgar Evers. After a selection from the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, VP Biden will take the oath of office, which will be administered by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Just before Obama gets ready to take his oath of office from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, James Taylor will sing “America the Beautiful.” The stage will then be set for Obama’s inaugural address. Huffington Post columnist and former Bill Clinton speechwriter David Kusnet wrote last week that the challenge facing one of the nation’s most eloquent public speakers is even steeper than the historical hill Obama scaled in 2009.
“While crafting any inaugural address is difficult, drafting a second inaugural is even more daunting,” he said, allud ing to the memorable first addresses from Lincoln, FDR and Kennedy. “Traditionally, inaugurals are prose poems, seeking to reunify the American people after divisive election campaigns, situate the current challenges in the sweep of the nation’s history, and rally the nation to tackle the tasks at hand. But second inaugural addresses are almost always more prosaic because the president has presented his vision for the future many times before while striving to achieve his agenda for the past four years.
“When President Obama delivers his second inaugural address on Monday, he’ll strive to clear two different historic hurdles,” he continued. “As a second-term president at a time of intense partisanship, he’ll have a harder time than four years ago at appealing to Americans’ yearning for hope and change.”
With hopes of passing substantive gun-rights and immigration legislation, Obama also strives to keep the economy on a path out of the Great Recession and address climate change. As with other second-termers, he will likely avoid taking specifics and focus on the broader principles behind his programs, leaving the details to his February 12 State of the Union address.
He’ll likely remind us of where we’ve gone over the past four years — passing health care legislation, winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ending the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and staving off a ruinous financial disaster — and appeal to the nation to come together to build a brighter future. When he’s done, Kelly Clarkson will follow with “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” poet Richard Blanco will read one of his works and Beyoncé will close things out with the national anthem. And then? Well, it’s time to party at the official Inaugural Ball!
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