Inauguration night to echo with the words of Lincoln

Barack Obama's political hero will provide inspiration for the events that will 
mark his swearing-in as President

By Leonard Doyle in Washington, DC
Friday, 7 November 2008 



Stirring words from Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama's political hero, will 
provide the theme for the inauguration ceremonies as the historic handover of 
power takes place at noon on 20 January 2009 

In 74 days' time as many as two million people are expected to line The Mall in 
Washington, DC to celebrate the inauguration of America's first black president 
and join what is expected to be the biggest and wildest public party in the 
city's history. 

Stirring words from Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama's political hero, will 
provide the theme for the inauguration ceremonies as the historic handover of 
power takes place at noon on 20 January 2009. There will be military escorts 
for VIPs and extensive security on hand to deal with what is expected to be the 
largest ever crowd for a presidential inauguration. 

Plans for a huge parade in front of the White House are well under way. 
Reviewing stands are already being built and marching bands are practising for 
the big day. Hotels have jacked up their prices and are approaching capacity. A 
$1m (£635,000) 300-room package on offer from the Marriott hotel chain was 
snapped up earlier this week by an anonymous buyer. The exclusive Ritz-Carlton 
was filling even as the reservations manager was being interviewed. "Wow, 
they're jumping, the numbers are jumping!" said Payton Wynne as he watched his 

Preparations are also advanced to cater for the heads of state and government 
who will attend formal ceremonies along with ambassadors, dignitaries and other 
elected officials. President-elect Obama's family and friends from Chicago will 
also be in attendance, including Oprah Winfrey who long ago revealed that she 
had picked out a ball gown for the event. 

But great efforts are also being made to ensure that millions of ordinary 
Americans are made to feel part of the historic ceremony, just as they were 
included in every stage of Mr Obama's campaign for the presidency. Officials 
preparing for the inauguration expect crowds well in excess of the 250,000 
tickets that are being made available for the event. Early predictions forecast 
more than two million people crowding the Mall - a vast public thoroughfare - 
to participate in the celebrations. When George W Bush arrived in town after 
winning the disputed 2000 election, it was a bitterly cold day and protesters 
heckled as his cavalcade passed by. But the customary extravagance associated 
with the inauguration of the world's most powerful politician may be reined in 
this time in deference to the grim economic outlook and the fact that US 
soldiers are currently involved in two bitter wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr 
Obama will be keen not to imitate the first inauguration of Bill Clinton, which 
was organised by Hillary Clinton and comprised five days of non-stop parties. 
Those events were choreographed to fix Americans' attention on Mr Clinton's 
political hero, Thomas Jefferson, and every effort was made to contrast with 
the privileged eras of Mr Clinton's White House predecessors, George Bush Snr 
and Ronald Reagan. But the event turned into a public relations disaster as the 
bill for the official parties topped $25m, surpassed by George Bush's $40m 
extravaganza in 2000. 

Unlike former presidents, Mr Obama does not have a lobbyists' slush fund to dip 
into for the parties, and his record of doing things on the cheap are more in 
tune with today's bleak economic climate. 

Mr Obama's advisers are putting much emphasis on the fact that President 
Lincoln and he were first elected to office in Illinois. Known as the Great 
Emancipator, President Lincoln's leadership in the Civil War helped end 
slavery, and for his election night speech Mr Obama borrowed heavily from 
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address with his reference to government "of the people, 
by the people, for the people". "It is especially fitting to celebrate the 
words of Lincoln as we prepare to inaugurate the first African American 
president of the United States," said Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. 

"On 20 January, as President-elect Obama takes the oath of office, he will look 
across the National Mall toward the Lincoln Memorial, where many of the 16th 
president's immortal words are inscribed," said Ms Feinstein, who is in charge 
of the inauguration ceremonies. 

"The swearing-in ceremony continues to symbolise the ideals of renewal, 
continuity, and unity that he so often expressed," she said, adding that "at a 
time when our country faces major challenges at home and abroad, it is 
appropriate to revisit the words of President Lincoln, who strived to bring the 
nation together by appealing to 'the better angels of our nature'."

The great Abe: 10 facts about President Lincoln

* Abraham Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated, shot on Good 
Friday at For's Theatre by John Wilkes Booth.

* His mother Nancy died when the family cow ate poisonous mushrooms and she 
then drank its milk.

* Abe's formal schooling consisted of about 18 months of classes, but he was an 
avid reader and educated himself.

* At 6ft 4 ins, he was the tallest president.

* He married Mary Todd and they had four boys, but only one of them lived to 
see his 18th birthday.

* He was the only president to receive a patent (Number 6469). Inspired after 
being on a ship that ran foul of a sandbank, he dreamt up a device for lifting 
boats over shoals. However, his invention was never manufactured.

* He had a scar on his thumb after an accident with an axe; and a scar over his 
right eye, sustained during a fight with a gang of thieves.

* Lincoln's favourite author was Edgar Allan Poe, and his favourite sport was 

* His most memorable piece of oratory was the Gettysburg Address during the 
American Civil War. "We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died 
in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and 
that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish 
from the earth".

* Lincoln's head is one of the four etched into the granite of Mount Rushmore, 
alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt.


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