- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 3, 2001

"Celebrating America's Spirit Together" is the theme of President-elect George W. Bush's four days of inaugural festivities starting Jan. 18, organizers announced yesterday.

"Our theme is inclusive, open, positive and spiritual," said Dallas political consultant Jeanne Johnson Phillips, executive director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

"President-elect Bush campaigned on a promise to bring America together, and his inauguration will help begin that process," said Mrs. Phillips.

The aim of the inaugural is to celebrate America's pioneer spirit and neighborliness "what we have done as a people" on the 200th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's swearing-in as the country's third president, the first inauguration in Washington, she said.

Private fund raising for inaugural events, culminating with a White House open house free to the public on Jan. 21, has already brought in about $9 million of the committee's targeted $30 million, she told reporters at a news conference.

Mr. Bush and soon-to-be first lady Laura Bush, along with Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, will bolster inaugural fund raising by following President Clinton's tradition of intimate dinners with well-heeled donors, the committee announced.

Three candlelight dinners will be held at various locations in Washington on Jan. 19 for people paying $2,500 per ticket or $25,000 per table. Two dinners will be closed to press coverage and one may be covered by a press pool, according to an inaugural schedule of events released yesterday.

Mrs. Phillips said inaugural events will highlight such things as "the act of neighbors helping neighbors, great figures like Dr. [Martin Luther] King who changed the course of our lives … the barnstorming of the pioneers … the one-room schoolhouse."

After a particularly divisive election, "we wanted to do something that's inclusive of everyone" with a variety of free public events as well as limited festivities restricted to ticket holders, the inaugural leader said.

Mrs. Bush will celebrate America's authors at a free event at Constitution Hall on Jan. 19, followed by a celebration of America's veterans by Mr. Cheney at the Washington Convention Center.

A concert celebrating America's youth at the MCI Center will cost those attending $5 per ticket. Eight inaugural balls at seven locations on Jan. 20 will cost $125 per ticket.

Organizers said they were unable yet to disclose names of any prominent authors, veterans, entertainers or athletes who would participate in inaugural events, reflecting some disarray caused by the protracted election outcome.

Inaugural spokesman Ed Gillespie said he did not even know whether Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a former Vietnam prisoner of war and Mr. Bush's main Republican primary challenger, would participate with Mr. Cheney in the salute to veterans. "I'm genuinely uninformed," said Mr. Gillespie.

Two unofficial events listed on the committee's schedule will raise money for the Texas and Wyoming state societies. A "Texas Black Tie and Boots Ball," to be held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on Jan. 19 will cost those attending $175 per ticket, or $125 if they are members of the Texas State Society.

The two-hour inaugural parade on Jan. 20 from the U.S. Capitol to the White House after the swearing in will include 11,000 participants and more than 100 marching units and floats, organizers said.

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