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How Obama's 2nd Inauguration Will Differ From 1st

Dec 10, 2012
Originally published on December 10, 2012 7:37 am

Details are starting to come out about President Obama's second inauguration next month. The co-chairmen include some leaders of the Democratic Party and the business world as well as actress Eva Longoria. A record crowd came to the nation's capital in 2009 to witness the country's first black president take the oath of office, but this event is expected to be less flashy.

On Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, a huge metal and wood structure has been erected over the past several weeks for Inauguration Day. The same thing is happening at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the U.S. Capitol. These hard structures are pretty much exactly what they were four years ago, but the feel of a second inauguration is always very different from a first.

"By the time of the second inaugural, I could at least find my way to the mess to get a cup of coffee," says Gordon Johndroe, who worked through all eight years of the George W. Bush White House.

Like everyone who has been through two inaugurations, he says from the inside, the second one feels way more relaxed.

"The president and first lady aren't moving into a new house. The staff aren't moving from a new city. People aren't trying to find their way around the West Wing. So it just has a different feel than when you're moving up to Washington for that first time," Johndroe says.

A first inauguration launches a sweeping new project in America. It's the start of a new chapter — full of questions and full of potential. A second inauguration is more prosaic, says Marcia Hale, who was an assistant to President Clinton.

"You can still stop and appreciate the day for the historical significance," Hale says. "But you take that afternoon and enjoy it, and then you're back to work the next day."

A second inauguration does have its own unique magnitude, though. It's bittersweet, says Muffy Cabot, who was social secretary in the Reagan White House.

"There's a slight sense of its coming to an end. You know, this is the last chance; this is where I make my history," Cabot says.

A president going through his second inauguration knows that he will never run for office again — that the next four years will cement his legacy. And, Cabot says, for whatever reason, second inaugurations often take place under a cloud. That was true of Reagan in 1985.

"There was the Contras in Latin America," Cabot says. "They'd had the terrible Marine barracks bombing in Beirut. It was not a happy time. And it was a sober time."

President Obama is beginning his second term at a sober time, too.

The Middle East is boiling with violence and protests. The U.S. unemployment rate has been stubbornly high for years. And a divided government is wrestling with a "fiscal cliff" that economists say could drive the country into another recession if it's not resolved.

Still, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who heads the congressional committee on inaugural ceremonies, says the proceedings on Inauguration Day may not look too different from last time.

"We do pretty much the same thing. We make sure there's a platform, we're in charge of the ceremony. So there's very little difference except it's going to cost a little less; we've managed to find some savings," he says.

Schumer helped drive the first nail into the inaugural platform in late September — more than a month before the election was over. Schumer says one thing that will be different is the size of the crowds.

Nobody's expecting 1.8 million people to flood Washington the way they did last time.

"I'm finding, and many of my colleagues are finding, for instance, in requests for tickets, it's not as great as it was last time, but it's very high," Schumer says.

Another difference this year comes thanks to the calendar. Inauguration Day is Jan. 20, which falls on a Sunday. Chief Justice John Roberts will officially swear in the president at a private White House ceremony at noon that day.

Public events — a ceremonial swearing-in on the mall, the procession, the inaugural address and balls — all will take place on Monday, Jan. 21.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And new details are starting to trickle out about the president's inauguration next month. The co-chairs for the event include actress Eva Longoria, and also a handful of leaders from the Democratic Party and also business world.

President Obama's first inauguration was a groundbreaking moment for the country that drew a record crowd. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports that, like most second inaugurals, this one may be less flashy than in 2009.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: I'm standing on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, where a huge metal-and-wood structure has been erected over the last few weeks for Inauguration Day. The same thing is happening on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, in front of the Capitol building. These hard structures are pretty much exactly what they were four years ago, but the feel of a second inauguration is always very different from a first.

GORDON JOHNDROE: By the time of the second inaugural, I could at least find my way to the mess to get a cup of coffee.

SHAPIRO: Gordon Johndroe worked through all eight years of the George W. Bush White House. Like everyone who's been through two inaugurations, he says from the inside, the second one feels way more relaxed.

JOHNDROE: The president and first lady aren't moving into a new house. The staff aren't moving from a new city. People aren't trying to find their way around the West Wing. So it just has a different feel than when you're moving up to Washington for that first time.

SHAPIRO: A first inauguration launches a sweeping new project in America. It's the start of a new chapter, full of questions and full of potential. A second inauguration is more prosaic, says Marcia Hale. She was an assistant to President Clinton.

MARCIA HALE: You can still stop and appreciate the day for the historical significance, but you take that afternoon and enjoy it, and then you're back to work the next day.

SHAPIRO: A second inauguration does have its own unique magnitude, though. It's bittersweet, says Muffy Cabot. She was social secretary in the Reagan White House.

MUFFY CABOT: There's a slight sense of it's coming to an end. You know, this is the last chance. This is where I make my history.

SHAPIRO: A president going through his second inauguration knows that he will never run for office again, that the next four years will cement his legacy. And Cabot says, for whatever reason, second inaugurals often take place under a cloud. That was true of Reagan in 1985.

CABOT: There was the Contras in Latin America. They'd had the terrible Marine barracks bombing in Beirut. It was not a happy time, and it was a sober time.

SHAPIRO: President Obama is beginning his second term at a sober time, too. The Middle East is boiling with violence and protests. The U.S. unemployment rate has been stubbornly high for years, and a divided government is wrestling with a fiscal cliff that economists say could drive the country into another recession if it's not resolved.

Still, New York Senator Chuck Schumer says the proceedings on Inauguration Day may not look too different from last time. Schumer chairs the congressional committee on inaugural ceremonies.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: We do pretty much the same thing. We make sure there's a platform. We're in charge of the ceremony. So there's very little difference, except it's going to cost a little less. We've managed to find some savings.

SHAPIRO: He helped drive the first nail into the inaugural platform in late September, more than a month before the election was even done. Schumer says one thing that will be different is the size of the crowds. Nobody is expecting 1.8 million people to flood Washington the way they did last time.

SCHUMER: I'm finding, and many of my colleagues are finding, for instance, in requests for tickets, it's not as great as it was last time, but it's very high.

SHAPIRO: Another difference this year comes thanks to the calendar. January 20th, Inauguration Day, is a Sunday. The chief justice will officially swear in the president at a private White House ceremony at noon that day. The public events, a ceremonial swearing-in on the Mall, the procession, the inaugural address and the inaugural balls, all of that will take place on Monday, January 21st. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.