National Press Club

Symbolism and diversity illustrate inaugural weekend’s theme, 'Faith in America’s Future'

January 17, 2013 | By Lorna Aldrich |

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden will take their official second-term oaths of office at their residences Sunday, Jan. 20, the date required by the Constitution, Brent Colburn of the Presidential Inaugural Committee said Wednesday, Jan. 16 at a National Press Club Newsmaker.

Obama will use the Robinson Bible from First Lady Michelle Obama’s family for the official ceremony and Biden will use his family’s Bible, Colburn said. The two men will also lay a wreath Sunday at Arlington National Cemetery, he said.

Matt House of the Joint Inaugural Committee described the ceremonial oaths, which will be administered at the Capitol on Monday. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will administer Biden’s oath on the family Bible, he said. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will administer Obama’s oath on both the Lincoln Bible, used at Lincoln’s first inauguration, and the King family Bible, on loan from Martin Luther King’s family.

The Bibles underscore two civil rights anniversaries in 2013, 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation and 50 years since the civil rights March on Washington, House said.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chair of the joint committee, chose the theme of the inaugural weekend, “Faith in America’s Future,” because 2013 also marks 150 years since the completion of the Capitol dome during the Civil War, House said. Lincoln, he said, continued construction during the war as a symbol of faith in the union and the future.

Richard Blanco, the youngest inaugural poet, and the first to be gay and Latino, will read a poem written for the event, House said. Luis Leon, the Cuban-American priest of St. John’s Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square, will offer the benediction, he added.

Following lunch in the Capitol, the presidential party will return to the White House and watch the parade, beginning about 2:30 p.m., House said.

Army Col. Michelle Roberts of the Joint Task Force described the military logistics of the 10,000-person parade. The parade will consist of five divisions each headed by a different military service. Colburn added that 58 floats, vehicles and groups will parade.

Service members and their families will be honored Saturday at a children’s concert and at the Commander-in-Chief’s Ball Monday night, Colburn said. Children of military members and their parents will comprise the majority of the concert audience, he said.

Attendees at the ball will be mostly enlisted service members attending for free, according to Colburn.

The Washington Convention Center will host both the official ball and the Commander-in-Chief’s ball, in order to “reduce our footprint and try to make this logistically a more manageable process,” Colburn said.

Both the Obamas and the Bidens will attend a traditional prayer service Tuesday at the Washington National Cathedral, Colburn said.

The Mall grounds open at 7 a.m. Monday. House advised those with tickets or wishing to watch from the Mall to arrive by 9:30 a.m. in order to clear security in time to see the official activities begin around 11:30 a.m. and the oath at noon.