Obama has a second date with history

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 21, 2013 04:40 hrs

Washington, Jan 21 (IANS) Barack Obama has a second date with history Monday as the first African-American president is sworn in again with all the pomp and circumstance in a ceremony steeped in symbolism.

Palpably there is much less excitement in the air than it was back in 2009 when an estimated 1.8 million people gathered at the National Mall for the inaugural ceremony of the man who had created history by winning the presidency with a promise of hope and change.

Obama officially began his second term Sunday when he took the oath of office in a quiet little ceremony in the ornate Blue room of the White House from Chief Justice John Roberts flanked by only the first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha.

Constitutionally, the president must be sworn in before noon on Jan 20, which fell on a Sunday as it has in seven other presidential inaugurations before. So he would go through the ritual again in a public ceremony Monday on the steps of the Capitol's west front.

As the son of a Kenyan father and an American mother outlines his vision for his second term he will use two bibles, one used by Abraham Lincoln for his first inauguration in 1861, and the other, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "travelling Bible."

Obama is said to feel the two bibles represent "two people whose shoulders he's standing on when he goes to take the inauguration".

It also happens to be the third Monday of January, which is observed as a federal holiday marking King's Jan 15 birthday.

The day carries great symbolic resonance as the country's first black president is being sworn in 150 years after Lincoln's emancipation proclamation and almost 50 since King's famous "I have a dream" speech.

The musical programme for the swearing-in ceremony will include music from The United States Marine Band, PS 22 of Staten Island, New York and Lee University Festival choirs.

The official swearing-in ceremony is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. when Vice President Joe Biden will take the oath of office administered by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Obama will follow taking the oath from Roberts.

After the oath taking ceremony Obama, Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden will join the Inaugural Parade from the Capitol to the White House. This year's parade features participants, floats and vehicles representing more than 58 groups.

It's hard to say what the whole show would cost. But in 2009, Obama raised $53 million in private money for his inauguration.

The private money pays for the official inaugural balls, the traditional parade, giant TV screens on the National Mall for the swearing-in and thousands of portable toilets. Public money is used only for security.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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