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5 Ways This Obama Inauguration Will Be Different 5 Ways This Obama Inauguration Will Be Different

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5 Ways This Obama Inauguration Will Be Different

A model of the White House sits on a giant map during a media tour highlighting inaugural preparations being made by the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region for military and civilian planners at the DC Armory in Washington.(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

photo of Sophie Quinton
December 25, 2012

1. Fewer People

President Obama’s inauguration as the first African-American president drew 1.8 million people to the National Mall—some of whom flew across the country and the world to be in D.C. for Obama’s big day. Second inaugurations tend to be more low-key, and Obama’s will be no exception. His second is expected to draw only half as many people, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. That’s probably a good thing for the National Mall: After Obama’s 2009 swearing in, the National Park Service and its partners cleaned about 100 tons of debris—including blankets, sleeping bags, and lawn chairs.

2. Downsized Celebrations


Although Obama’s first inauguration took place as the economy was cratering, that didn’t dampen the festivities. Bruce Springsteen and Bono rocked on the Mall, and the new president and first lady kicked up their heels at 10 official inaugural balls. But after a prolonged recession and an expensive reelection campaign, the president’s inaugural committee has downsized its plans. There could be as few as two official inaugural balls in 2013, according to The Wall Street Journal, and they’re slated to take place in the staid Washington Convention Center. It remains to be seen whether outside groups—like private companies and advocacy organizations in town—will similarly downsize their own party plans. As in 2009, Obama’s second inauguration will kick off with a day of community service.

3. More Corporate Money

Presidential Inauguration Committees always raise money to pay for the parade, the balls, and other festivities. Back in 2009, Obama sought to limit the influence of outside cash: He refused to accept corporate contributions, and he capped individual donations at $50,000. Four years later, big money is getting a big embrace. Obama is accepting unlimited donations from corporations, although he’s still not accepting donations from super PACs and lobbyists, The New York Times reports. The president’s finance team is offering groups that donate $1 million a special package of inaugural activities; individuals can contribute $250,000 to get the same package.

4. Cementing History, Not Making History

Obama’s reelection proves that the 2008 election wasn’t a fluke. His first victory was groundbreaking; his second gives him time to cement his legacy. Obama’s second inauguration will still allow history buffs to draw some powerful connections, however. He’ll be sworn in three weeks after the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and will deliver his second inaugural address on Martin Luther King Day. It might be hard for Obama (or his speechwriters) to resist referencing the civil war or the civil-rights movement in his remarks.

5. Two Swearing-In Ceremonies

The Constitution requires that new presidents be sworn in on Jan. 20, but that falls on a Sunday this year. It’s long been deemed inappropriate to host a showy inauguration ceremony on the Sabbath, so that means Obama gets to take the oath of office twice: he’ll be sworn in in a private ceremony at the White House on the 20th, and will take part in a big public ceremony at the Capitol on the 21st. The last president to take two oaths in this way?  Ronald Reagan, in 1985.

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