Tuning Up For The Inaugural Ceremonies

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/99227815/99227794" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

A dress rehearsal for the presidential inauguration took place on a frosty Sunday morning in Washington, D.C., complete with stand-ins for President-elect Barack Obama and President Bush.


Welcome back to All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Rebecca Roberts. If you'd been wandering through downtown Washington in the wee hours this morning, you might have gotten a bit of a surprise - a presidential inauguration, or at least a rehearsal for one. NPR's Allison Keyes was there bright and early, or at least early.

ALLISON KEYES: On the south lawn of the Capitol under the brightest full moon of the year, with temperatures in the 20s, stand-ins beamed as they looked out over the National Mall to the Washington Monument in the distance.

(Soundbite of announcement)

Unidentified Man: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States, the honorable George Walker Bush and the Vice President...

KEYES: The swearing-in ceremony came first. Military personnel wore placards around their necks with the names of dignitaries who will be on stage on January 20. Navy Chief Petty Officer Lucy Quinn calls it a logistical rehearsal.

Chief Petty Officer LUCY QUINN (Spokeswoman, Armed Forces Inaugural Committee): The president is supposed to be taking the actual oath at noon, so we rehearse it to make it as perfect as we can.

KEYES: For the swearing-in ceremony, musicians will range from the United States Marine Band to Aretha Franklin. Supreme Court justices, former presidents and first ladies must be escorted to the stage and introduced in the proper order.

(Soundbite of announcement)

Unidentified Man: Ladies and gentlemen, the president-elect of the United States, Barack H. Obama.

(Soundbite of applause)

KEYES: Major Andrew Higgs(ph) of the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee says it is important for people to see a peaceful transition of power.

Major ANDREW HIGGS (Armed Forces Inaugural Committee): In the world that we live in today, to be able to see that here, for our leadership in this country to effectively pass the baton, if you will, from one president to the next really gives, I think, hopefulness to people all over the planet.

KEYES: Army Staff Sergeant Derrick Brooks stood in for President-elect Obama on stage, looking pleased and excited to be there. Higgs says Brooks and the other stand-ins were chosen by the military, who sent out an email asking for specific ethnicities, heights and weights.

Major HIGGS: And the people responded who fit that criteria, and they were then screened by leadership, and selected for what I think is a great opportunity, a great honor for them on that day.

KEYES: Brooks is 6 feet, 2 inches tall, like Mr. Obama, and weighs the same as well, 165 pounds. Part of the reason for that is visual, to make sure that everyone, including the young first daughters, can be seen. It also helps them nail down the timing, as someone shorter might walk faster and throw the whole thing off.

The biggest issue this year is the sheer number of ticket holders attending the ceremony, plus the million or so people expected to be on the National Mall. Carole Florman is spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Ms. CAROLE FLORMAN (Spokeswoman, Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies): It is of great concern because we have to make sure that the 240,000 people who are attending the event on the Capitol grounds know how to get here.

KEYES: Florman says she wishes she had the option of following in the footsteps of fictional wizard Harry Potter, and using supernatural means to help people get through the maze of closed streets, crowded sidewalks and Metro trains.

Ms. FLORMAN: I actually thought we should utilize the Floo Network, but not everybody is a Harry Potter fan.

KEYES: She says using the Capitol building's fireplaces would make organizers' lives a lot easier. Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.