Your choice: Inaugural fun, or a serious time-waster. . .

At the end of the last post, I posted a link to this amazing photo. It was made by photographer David Bergman who made the gigantic panoramic image by taking 220 separate photos and through the genius of computer magic "stitched" them all together. The result is an amazing photo that you can zoom in and out of, all while keeping the sharp focus and clarity desired. Another result, intentional or not, is the creation of a real-life "Where's Waldo?"

Open up the picture in another window and see how many politicians, celebrities, and other famous people you can spot. Remember, you can zoom and in out and navigate all around using the controls on the left side of the screen.

Here's a short list to get started:
President Obama
President Bill Clinton
Aretha Franklin
Denzel Washington
Yo-Yo Ma
Laura Bush
Newt Gingrinch (who wins the Non-Verbal Body Language Award)
And if you find Bigfoot, I'm really impressed. Oh yes...he's there, back by the Botanical Garden.

I'll post a list of the ones that I've identified in a day or so.

Inaugural Conclusions

I guess I should say a few words about the Inauguration, but honestly, it's been all over the news and I feel like I overdosed on it. Still, I'd like to provide a quick recap of our day.

It was just as crowded and chaotic as we expected, but we're glad we went.

Our time started at the Illinois State Society Inaugural Ball on Monday night, which is rather ironic since neither one of us has ever been to the state of Illinois. We took the Metro downtown and were, by far, the most elegantly dressed riders on the train. Dinner was a very fancy affair--the table was crowded with so many glasses and silverware and food that it was hard to sit down. Dinner was great; a number of Illinois politicians and "celebrities" spoke, but the President-Elect did not make an appearance. There were about 2,000 people for dinner, and after the meal, they opened the doors to the remaining 5,000 people who bought tickets just for the ball, not for dinner. At that time, it became extremely crowded and we headed out before too late.

The dinner table. We eat like this every night.

We were fortunate to have some friends who live close to the Capitol (10th and C) and they had invited us to spend the night with them. This is when things really began to get interesting. Ginger has a friend who works on the Capitol Police Force, and he called us Monday night to tell us he had some extra tickets to the swearing-in--would we like them? Yes--but the catch was we had to meet him after his morning brief and before he actually went on duty. No problem...except his brief was at 3:00 AM! So we hoofed it down to the Capitol and met him shortly after 4 for the exchange. Of note, even at 3:30, there were lots of people out on the street headed downtown.

The 3:00 AM trip resulted in this ticket.

The morning of Jan 20 was brutally cold. We had on so many layers, we looked like the love child of the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Woman and the Michelin Man. Since we had tickets, and the gates didn't open until 9, we didn't leave the house until shortly after 8 and walked the 10 blocks to Maryland Avenue and our appointed section. We were by the Reflecting Pool, just on the other side of the Ulysses S Grant statue (a suiting place, as during Grant's second Inauguration, in 1873, the temperature was a frigid 4 degrees with 40 mph wind gusts!). There's a subtle rise there, and since we were on the down side, we didn't have the best sight line, but could hear everything with crystal clarity.

Security was everywhere, as seen here on top of the National Gallery of Art.

The crowd was huge--immense. If were looked back towards the Lincoln Memorial, it was a sea of faces and little American flags. I haven't heard an official number, but I think a conservative estimate of 1.5-2 million would be fair.

The ceremony itself was relatively short, and there's three moments that really stand out in my head.

First, much has been made of the verbal stumble during the Oath of Office. As someone who has taken that Oath several times (it's basically the same as the oath for military officers), it's not easy---it's full of big words and they don't have a natural flow. Every time I've taken it (3 times), someone has messed it up. No big deal.

Here's a short video of the end of the Oath of Office. You'll catch a glimpse of Ginger in the first 2 or 3 seconds, then you can hear the Marine Corps Band launch into "Hail To The Chief"

Second, I was amazed when Rick Warren, during the Invocation, started to recite the Lord's Prayer and everyone around us, en masse, joined in. If you were watching, there was really no indication what was about to happen (and the Lord's Prayer is not a traditional part of the ceremony), but the people quickly joined in. I'm sure there are many sociological conclusions that can be drawn from that, but it was very interesting.

Rick Warren leads the Inaugural Invocation.

Third, I was struck at how quiet the crowd became during the classical music performance by Yo-Yo Ma. It's a beautiful piece, but more than that, that entire immense crowd became totally quiet. Thousands and thousands of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder, listening to the haunting cello music. For some reason, it really stuck out in my brain and I couldn't help but think of the old line, "Music soothes the savage beast." (Trivial side note. The actual quote by William Congreve is, "Music has charms to soothe the savage breast, To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.". It's from his play The Mourning Bride, written in 1697.)

Yo-Yo Ma and the Classical Crew.

After it was all over, we decided not to wait for the Parade. We knew there would be hundred of thousands of people in the Metro Stations downtown, so we walked the length of the Mall, crossed the Arlington Bridge and entered the Arlington Metro Station. This was a good idea, as it was virtually empty and we got on the first train. We metro'd home, and I was laying on the couch with the cat by 4:00.

A busy day with a tremendous amount of people, but I'm glad we went.

Stop by in February, as I have a couple of great posts in the works.

Here's some random photos of the day:

Thanks to those eyebrows, this man was very warm.

The end of a long day.

If you want to see one of the coolest photos of the day, click here. You can zoom in and out as you like--you can even play Find-A-Person. Can you find every living President, The Supreme Court Justices, Ted Kennedy, Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma, and if you are really good, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen.

Madera County, Abraham Lincoln, and the Inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama

Madera County—besides being our former home, is the home of Oakhurst and Bass Lake and part of Yosemite National Park. How is it connected to the 16 President (Lincoln) and the soon-to-be 44th President, Barack Obama? To know the answer, we have to go back in time.

Thomas Hill was born in England in 1829, when he was 15, immigrated to the United States with his family where they settled in Taunton, Massachusetts. At the age of 24, Hill started attending evening classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). During his time as a student, he became interested in mountain landscapes, and often travelled to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to use them as a backdrop. In 1856 (for unknown reasons), Hill and his family moved to San Francisco, California.

Thomas Hill, c. 1880

During this time, Hill continued to draw and paint mountain scenes. Apparently, he made his first trip to Yosemite Valley in 1865, and made annual pilgrimages to the Yosemite area. He also visited Mt Shasta, and even made a trip to Alaska. His frequent travels, unfortunately, had a negative impact on his marriage. In the 1880s, after 20+ years of marriage and 9 kids, he and his wife were divorced.

Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite c.1870

Bridalveil Falls

When the artist was seventy, he was described as, "The most ardent devotee at the shrine of Yosemite and the most faithful priest of the valley.” His enormous Yosemite panoramas were purchased by many of the social and business leaders of San Francisco, and he enjoyed a life of semi-celebrity for many years.

Yosemite Falls

Mount Lafayette in Winter

Towards the end of his life, Hill maintained a studio at the Wawona Hotel, and also had a home in nearby Raymond, California (just below Oakhurst). Hill was very prolific; it’s estimated he completed over 5,000 paintings of Yosemite. Tragically, he had a stroke in 1896 which greatly hampered his painting ability. He died on June 30, 1908 in Raymond, CA.
Now. . .how is that relevant?

Since 1953, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) has been hosting an Inaugural Luncheon for the new President and Vice-President immediately following the swearing-in ceremonies. It is held inside the Capitol, in the Old House Chamber (also known as Statuary Hall), and it usually features cuisine reflecting the home states of the new President and Vice President, as well as the theme of the Inauguration.

Additionally, an historical painting is traditionally used as the backdrop for the event. In 2005, an Albert Bierstadt painting, “Wind River, Wyoming” (in honor of VP Dick Cheney’s home state) was used as the backdrop.

Albert Bierstadt, Wind River Wyoming

The 2005 Inaugural Luncheon with the Bierstadt painting in the background.

The backdrop for the current luncheon will be Thomas Hill’s painting, "View of the Yosemite Valley" chosen for occasion and borrowed from the New York Historical Society. The painting reflects the majestic landscape of the American West and the dawn of a new era. The subject of the painting, Yosemite Valley, represents an important but often overlooked event from Lincoln's presidency—his signing of the 1864 Yosemite Grant, which set aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias as a public reserve.

Yellowstone National Park is often celebrated at the first National Park (established in 1872), but it’s vital to remember that the Yosemite Grant was the first piece of federal property ever protected in the United States and set a precedent for the 1872 creation of Yellowstone.

There you have it…from Lincoln to Yosemite back to Washington, DC, all in 13 easy paragraphs.

You can read all about the luncheon, and even check out the menu, here:

January: "A New Birth of Freedom"

I'm going to pause in my pursuit of noteworthy historical landmarks of the DC area to blog about the history that is currently being made here in the Capital.

DC is currently abuzz with the run-up to the Presidential Inauguration, and we need to take a moment to look at what it is, what it's been, and what's going to happen next week. For a historian like myself, it's a great time to be here.

What it is:
Quite simply, the US Presidential Inauguration is the swearing in of a new President. More importantly, it is one of the defining landmarks of American society-the peaceful transfer of power and authority from one group of leaders to the next. Power-the control of the government- is the wedge that has split societies and cultures from the beginning of time, but in America, our Presidents willingly step down from a position of power and transfer that power to the next duly-elected President. It's a noteworthy event-and one that happens in full view of the public, not hidden in some back room for the exclusive elite. This will be the 56th Presidential Inauguration since the first Inauguration of George Washington, in New York City, in 1789. Since then, it has evolved into a rich and colorful tradition and I'll highlight a few of those traditions below.

What it has been:
From 1789-1937, Inauguration Day was held March 4, the last day of the ending Congressional term (the passage of the 20th Amendment to the US Constitution, which deals with Presidential succession, vacancies, and other administrative terms of office) established Inauguration Day as January 20th). From the presidency of Andrew Jackson (1829) through Jimmy Carter (1977), the ceremony took place on the Capitol's East Portico-the side that faces the Supreme Court, opposite the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan was the first President to move his Inauguration Ceremony to the West side of the U.S. Capitol. Every President since then has followed his lead and used the west steps of the Capitol as the stage for the event.

There have been eight "private" swearing-ins of the President, but they have always occurred at times of crisis-the tragedy of a Presidential assassination (LBJ sworn-in on board Air Force One after JFK's death in 1963) or death of the President (John Tyler sworn-in in a hotel room after the death of William Henry Harrison in 1841).

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (since 2005, it's been Justice John Roberts) administers the Oath of Office to the President, although there have been 7 other times when various people, for one reason or the other, have performed the duty.

Although it now occurs in Washington, DC, that hasn't always been the case. Presidents have also taken the oath in New York City (twice), Philadelphia (twice), Buffalo, NY, Vermont and Dallas, Texas.

Immediately after the Oath of Office, the President gives his Inaugural Address. Throughout history, this has been the scene for some of our most memorable speeches and phrases:

"Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle"-Thomas Jefferson; March 4, 1801

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."-Abraham Lincoln; March 4, 1865

"We wish peace, but we wish the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness. We wish it because we think it is right and not because we are afraid. No weak nation that acts manfully and justly should ever have cause to fear us, and no strong power should ever be able to single us out as a subject for insolent aggression."-Theodore Roosevelt; March 4, 1905.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."-Franklin D Roosevelt; March 4, 1933.

"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."-John F. Kennedy; Jan 20, 1961

The Inauguration has always been viewed as a significant time, and a time of celebration. For some, it's a celebration of the success of democracy. For others, it's a celebration of a popular President's term, or a celebration of the ending on an unpopular President's term.

What is going to happen on Jan 20:
The events that occur on Inauguration Day have developed over the last 200 years and follow a predictable pattern.

Morning Worship Service: The morning worship service tradition began with Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, and is usually a private service for the President-elect and a few select family and friends. For a listing of the president's since FDR and where they attended a service, click

President-Elect John F. Kennedy shakes hands with Father Richard J. Casey after attending Mass at Holy Trinity Church.

Procession to the Capitol: After the Morning Worship Service, the President and President-Elect proceed together to the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremonies. This tradition has endured since 1837, when Martin Van Buren and Andrew Jackson rode together in a carriage made from wood taken from the U.S.S. Constitution. Since the first Inauguration of George Washington in 1789, the procession to the Inaugural ceremonies has provided an occasion for much celebration. In fact, the Inaugural parade that now follows the swearing-in ceremony first began as the procession, when military companies, bands, the President's cabinet, elected officials, and friends escorted the President-elect to the Inauguration. Of note, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson both walked to the Capitol, and in 1841, William Henry Harrison rode to the Capitol on the back of a brilliant white horse. In 1921, Warren G. Harding became the first President to ride to his Inauguration in a car.

President-elect Woodrow Wilson and President William Taft riding in a horse drawn carriage during the presidential inaugural ceremonies in Washington, D. C; March 4, 1913.
Vice-President's swearing-in ceremony: Just before the President is sworn in, the Vice-President takes the Oath of Office. Since World War II, Vice Presidents have been free to choose who they would like to administer the oath of office. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the oldest and longest-serving justice on the Court, will swear in Joseph Biden as Vice-President on Jan. 20.

President's swearing-in ceremony: As previously mentioned, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court administers the oath to the President-Elect. Some Presidents have chosen to have their hand resting on a Bible, but not all of them. Obama will rest his hand on the same Bible that Abraham Lincoln used during his swearing-in ceremony.

President-Elect George H.W. Bush takes the Oath of Office; 1989

Inaugural Address: George Washington's 2nd Inaugural Address was the shortest one in history, at 135 words. It's a safe bet that Obama will be slightly longer.

(If you are really into this stuff and want to read each and every Inaugural Address ever made, you can do so here:

Departure of outgoing president: Following the ceremony, the outgoing President and First Lady leave the Capitol to begin their post-presidential lives. In recent years, the newly installed President and Vice President have escorted their predecessors out of the Capitol.
The members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies gather on the east steps of the Capitol Building. The new Vice President escorts the outgoing Vice President and his spouse out of the Capitol through a military cordon. Then, the new President escorts the outgoing President and his spouse through the military cordon.
Since Gerald Ford's departure in 1977, the former President and First Lady have left the Capitol grounds by helicopter (weather permitting).
George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush depart the Capitol; Jan 20, 1993.
Inaugural luncheon: After the outgoing-President has left, the new President will be escorted to Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol for the traditional Inaugural luncheon, hosted by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC). Often featuring cuisine reflecting the home states of the new President and Vice President, as well as the theme of the Inauguration, the luncheon program includes speeches, gift presentations from the JCCIC, and toasts to the new administration.

The 2004 Inaugural Luncheon in Statuary Hall.

Inaugural parade: After the Inaugural Luncheon, the guests of honor-the newly sworn President and Vice President-will make their way down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, leading a procession of ceremonial military regiments, citizens' groups, marching bands, and floats. The President, Vice President, their wives, and special guests will then review the parade as it passes in front of a specially built reviewing stand. The Inaugural parade is a celebrated and much anticipated event for millions of Americans across the country The tradition of an Inaugural Parade dates back to the very 1st Inauguration, when George Washington took the oath of office in New York City. As he began his journey from Mount Vernon to New York City, local militias joined his procession as it passed through towns along the way. Once he arrived in New York City, members of the Continental Army, government officials, members of Congress, and prominent citizens escorted Washington to Federal Hall for his swearing-in ceremony.

The Old Guard's Fife & Drum Corps in the 1989 Inaugural Parade.

A few noteworthy events:
The first organized parade occurred in 1809, at the Inauguration of James Madison.
In 1865, during Abraham Lincoln's second Inauguration, African Americans marched in the parade for the first time.
In 1873, President Grant started the tradition of reviewing the parade at the White House after the Inaugural ceremony, shifting the focus of excitement to the post-Inaugural procession, rather than the escort to the Capitol.
In 1909, for the first time, the First Lady accompanied her husband (William H. Taft) as they led they parade from the Capitol to the White House.
In 1917, women first participated in the Inaugural Parade.
In 1921, President Warren G. Harding became the first President to ride in the procession in an automobile.
In 1977, Jimmy Carter broke precedent by walking in the parade, from the Capitol to the White House, with his wife and daughter.
The only parade known to have been canceled owing to bad weather was Ronald Regan's second in 1985, when frigid temperatures made the situation dangerous.

Inaugural Balls: The tradition of the Inaugural Ball dates to 1809 when the first Inaugural ball was thrown for James and Dolley Madison. In modern times, there are dozens of balls, although only a few are "official" balls recognized by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Most importantly, we have tickets to the Illinois State Society Inaugural Ball, a fancy black-tie affair held on the evening prior to the Inauguration.

President Reagan dances with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at his 1984 Inaugural Ball.

In summary
It's worth noting that the Theme of this Inauguration is "A New Birth of Freedom". If it sounds familiar, and I hope it does, it because that phrase was lifted out of The Gettysburg Address. In the last paragraph of his speech (by the way, one of only 5 copies of The Gettysburg Address written in Lincoln's own hand is currently being displayed at the National Museum of American History) Lincoln writes, "we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

This is a historical event-regardless of your political beliefs, this is an event that 40 years from now may very well be a watershed moment for American history. It is estimated that somewhere between 3-5 MILLION people will attempt to attend the ceremony in person-the parking and security logistics are incredible complex. Where do you park an estimated 10,000 tour buses? For the first time in history, the entire length of the National Mall, from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, will be open to pedestrians. 5,000 Porta-Potties will be trucked in for the event.

It may very well be the largest gathering of humanity I'll ever have the chance to be a part of.

I plan on being right in the middle of it, and I'll have the pictures to prove it.

January: Presidential Inaugurations from GW to GWB

The first Presidential Inauguration. President-Elect George Washington takes the Oath of Office on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City; April 30, 1789

President John Adams; 1797

An Inaugural Banner created for Thomas Jefferson's Inauguration; 1801

President James Madison's Inaugural Ball; 1809

President James Monroe; 1817. He stated during his Inaugural Address, "The best form of government is that which is most likely to prevent the greatest sum of evil."

President John Quincy Adams; 1825

The swearing-in of President-Elect Andrew Jackson; 1829

The Inaugural Ceremony of President-Elect Martin Van Buren in the old House Chamber; 1837

The Inauguration of President William Henry Harrison; 1841

A messenger delivers the news of President Harrison's death to then Vice President John Tyler; April 1841

The Inaugural Ceremony of President James K. Polk; 1845

President Zachary Taylor's Inaugural Ceremony; 1849

President Millard Fillmore's post-Inaugural photo; 1850

Inaugural Festivities for President Franklin Pierce; 1853

The first known photograph of a US Presidential Inauguration--President James Buchanan's Inaugural Ceremony; 1857

President Abraham Lincoln's 1st Inaugural Ceremony; 1861

President Lincoln's 2nd Inauguration; March 4, 1865.

The Swearing-In of Vice-President Andrew Johnson at the Kirkwood Hotel after Lincoln's assassination; April 15, 1881

The Inauguration of President-Elect Ulysses S. Grant; March 4, 1881

Crowds at the Inauguration of President-Elect Rutherford B. Hayes; 1877

The Swearing-In of President-Elect James Garfield; March 4, 1881

The Swearing-In of Vice-President Chester Arthur after President Garfield's assassination; September 19, 1881

President-Elect Grover Cleveland's 1st Inauguration; March 4, 1885

The Inauguration of President-Elect Benjamin Harrison; March 4, 1889

The Inauguration of President Grover Cleveland; March 4, 1893 (He was elected President on two non-concurrent occasions!)

The Inauguration of President-Elect William McKinley; March 4, 1897

President-Elect Theodore Roosevelt en route to the Capitol for his Inauguration Ceremony; 1901

President William Howard Taft in the Inaugural Parade Reviewing Stand; 1909

President-Elect Woodrow Wilson's Inauguration; 1913

President Warren G. Harding's Inaugural Speech; 1921

President Calvin Coolidge leads the Inaugural Parade; 1923

President Herbert Hoover's Inaugural Speech; 1929

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1st Inaugural Speech; 1933

President Harry S. Truman's Inauguration Speech; January 20, 1949

President Dwight D Eisenhower & the First Lady during the Inauguration Parade; January 20, 1957

The Inauguration of President-Elect John F. Kennedy; January 20, 1961

Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson taking the Oath of Office on board Air Force One after JFK's assassination; 1963

President Richard Nixon's Inaugural speech; 1969

Vice President Gerald Ford taking the Oath of Office after President Nixon;s resignation; Aug 9, 1974

President Jimmy Carter & the First Lady walk down Pennsylvania Avenue at the start of the Inaugural Parade; 1977

The Inauguration of President-Elect Ronald Reagan; January 20, 1981

The Inauguration of President-Elect George H.W. Bush; January 20, 1989

The Inauguration of President-Elect Bill Clinton; January 20, 1997

The Inauguration of President-Elect George W. Bush; January 20,2005