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Putting Finishing Touches on Preparations for Obama’s Second Inauguration

January 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
Massive preparations for the 2013 Inauguration of President Barack Obama have been underway for months. From the roar of the military band, to the official Inauguration balls, to security at the swearing-in, Ray Suarez explores what the president's second inaugural ceremonies will look like.
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RAY SUAREZ: After months of planning for President Obama’s second inaugural, the moment has almost arrived. A holiday weekend of inaugural events in Washington is about to begin.

Every four years since 1789, the military has massed its personnel to prepare for one of the grandest traditions in America, the presidential inauguration. The music rose before the sun during a rehearsal this past weekend and gave a hint of what to expect when the actual parade and ceremony happen Monday.

The celebration will be shorter and smaller than President Obama’s first inaugural. But because it falls on the Martin Luther King holiday, organizers say attendance Monday may be higher than for any other second inauguration. Published estimates indicate the private fund-raising goal for the festivities is about the same as 2009, when $53 million was raised.

Four years ago, individual donations were capped at $50,000 per person. This year, the Presidential Inaugural Committee, or PIC, is accepting unlimited contributions from both individuals and corporations.

STEPHEN KERRIGAN, Presidential Inaugural Committee: Hey, everybody. How you doing?

RAY SUAREZ: PIC CEO and president Stephen Kerrigan told the NewsHour about the theme “Our People, Our Future,” as the clock behind him ticked down to Monday.

STEPHEN KERRIGAN: The president since he started his campaign back in 2007 really started it with a conversation with people all across the country about how we can collectively move this country forward.

And he has kept that up all throughout his administration and throughout the second campaign, because he really believes that our people are the future of the country and the strength of our country. You know, he’s watched the grit and determination and hard work of average, everyday, ordinary Americans help turn around this economy and get it growing again.

And, you know, in first inaugurals, it’s about a transition of power, and a peaceful transition of power. In this inaugural, it’s really about the continuation of this president’s legacy and his vision for the country.

RAY SUAREZ: Mr. Obama will actually be sworn in Sunday, in private, to meet the constitutional requirement for the oath on the 20th. Then, he will take the oath in public the next day.

In a way, he will become the first president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to take the oath of office four times. In 2009, he took the oath twice because, in a do-over performed the day after chief Justice John Roberts tripped on his lines during the first inauguration.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. Supreme Court: I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: … that I will execute…

JOHN ROBERTS: … faithfully the office of president of the United States…

BARACK OBAMA: .. the office of president of the United States faithfully.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, D-NY: Within a few days, the president will be walking from that part of the Capitol right here, and then down these stairs.

RAY SUAREZ: New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer is chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which oversees all of the inaugural rituals related to the Capitol.

CHARLES SCHUMER: There are no tanks in the streets. There’s no rioting or picketing or protesting. It’s a beautiful thing about America that the inauguration reminds us of. With all the trouble we have, the inauguration symbolizes that the republic marches onward.

RAY SUAREZ: The president’s inauguration will begin, as it did four years ago, with a National Day of Service tomorrow, where people will be encouraged to pledge a year’s effort to community organizations. At the inauguration itself, there are a few firsts.

STEPHEN KERRIGAN: One hundred and 50 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, 50 years after the March on Washington, you’re going to have the Bible of the great emancipator placed on top of the Bible of the leader of the civil rights movement in Lincoln’s and MLK’s Bibles. And then the president of the United States is going to take his oath of office on that.

RAY SUAREZ: There were 10 official balls last time. This year? Just two, the lowest number in the past 60 years, in order to save federal and local resources. One of the balls, the Commander in Chief’s Ball, is for members of the armed forces, as is a kids concert intended for children of those serving in the military.

Along with celebrating the country’s rich history, there will be modern touches as well. All official groups involved, even the Secret Service, are using social media to get out updates on events, live-stream the inaugural, and deal with any issues quickly.

In Washington, D.C., tourism groups have said they expect about 500,000 to 700,000 visitors this time. About 400,000 attended President George W. Bush’s second inaugural in 2005. To accommodate visitors and make money, official inaugural shops are selling all kinds of memorabilia, and luxury hotels such as the Willard InterContinental have been advertising specialty packages, including the oval suites for $5,700 a night.

The Capitol has been readied over the last weeks and months, shown here in time-lapse. Not much is left to chance. Over 13,000 military have been game-planning the parade, traffic, crowd control since the summer.

Chief Master Robert Valenca:

CHIEF MASTER ROBERT VALENCA, U.S. Air Force: We have rehearsal of concept drills, ROC drills, that we bring out a large map, and we go through each individual stage and we break it down in timeline with locations.

And each section that has a responsibility goes through their portion and says exactly when they will be in what specific location. If you can imagine, you have seen old war movies where they have a tabletop with all kinds of little moving pieces? This is the exact same thing.

RAY SUAREZ: At this secret government operations center in the Washington suburbs, representatives of some 50 agencies will gather together to form the multi-agency communications center around the clock, beginning Sunday.

U.S. Secret Service special agent in charge David Beach:

DAVID BEACH, U.S. Secret Service: It is a higher-profile event, but we deal with the commander in chief every day. And this event is the same as any other in that respect. We’re responsible for his safety. The difference between this event and any other day is we are also responsible for every other participant and every other spectator involved with the national special security event.

RAY SUAREZ: FBI Special Agent in Charge Debra Smith says security will be at its peak, including the services of SWAT, weapons of mass destruction, dive, and hostage teams, all for quick response in the event of any incident.

During the campaign, according to published reports, there was a spike in death threats to the president, as there was in 2008, but now the situation is comparable to that of other presidents.

DEBRA SMITH, FBI: At this point, we do not have any credible threats regarding any of the inaugural events. Of course, we ask that everyone be diligent, and mainly for the public to be diligent, and if there is something suspicious that someone sees, we would like for them to report it to law enforcement.

RAY SUAREZ: The idea is to replicate 2009.

Officials say there were no arrests, despite a crowd of some two million people.

For 1st Lieutenant Melissa Huval, who joined the military just a few years ago, when her six months of work preparing for the inaugural is done, the day takes on a special meaning.

1ST LT. MELISSA HUVAL, U.S. Army: I think the hugest thing is to actually see the commander in chief out in person. I mean, you get to see him drive and render salute, and I think that’s just — that’s huge, even for myself. You know, I may get a glimpse of him, so that’s a big deal.

RAY SUAREZ: And so will millions of others, in person and on televisions, computers and mobile devices across the world.

CHARLES SCHUMER: He will walk down the hall, and then he will go outside, and when he opens those doors, he will see hundreds of thousands of people cheering him. It will be a sight, in a word that is overused, but in this case appropriate, awesome, inducing awe.