Thursday, December 11, 2008

CHICAGO | President-elect Barack Obama‘s inauguration will be a four-day affair, replete with the traditional balls but also featuring service projects to honor Martin Luther King, aides said Wednesday.

The events are expected to draw millions of visitors to Washington to witness the swearing-in of the country’s first black president. The preliminary schedule also includes a national prayer service the day after Mr. Obama and his vice-presidential choice, Joseph R. Biden Jr., take office on Jan. 20.

“At this moment of great challenge and great change, renewing the promise of America begins with renewing the idea that in America, we rise or fall as one nation and one people,” Mr. Obama said in a statement released by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. “That sense of unity and shared purpose is what this inauguration will reflect.”

The event’s theme — “Renewing America’s Promise” — is the same one used for the Democratic National Convention in Denver and for the party’s national platform. It’s a nod to the optimism that Mr. Obama tapped during a marathon campaign.

The schedule calls for an event on Jan. 18 to welcome visitors to the nation’s capital. During the first inaugural celebration for George W. Bush in 2001, a welcoming event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial featured popular musicians such as Ricky Martin, who prodded the incoming president to join him for a dance.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden are to perform a service project on Jan. 19, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Aides are not releasing details but said the two men would urge other Americans to follow their lead to honor the civil rights leader.

Inauguration Day will include the traditional oath of office on the western steps of the Capitol, the parade to the White House and the inaugural balls. Some have speculated that the balls would be more subdued affairs as the country faces an economic crisis, but aides said the pageantry would remain.

Not all events will be exclusive to tuxedoed insiders. Mr. Obama’s campaign wants his inauguration to be inclusive and open to the public, and the entire Mall will be open for the millions anticipated to flood the District for his swearing-in.

Aides declined to release the slate of balls Wednesday, saying the details had not been completed.

Meanwhile, Metro is planning to carry roughly 1 million riders on Inauguration Day, but WTOP radio reported that the agency will shut down all of its public restrooms because of security concerns.

The station said 146 portable restrooms will be set up outside selected rail stations, meaning there would be one bathroom for every 6,849 customers if the agency carries 1 million people.

The National Park Service also told WTOP that it is awaiting word from the Inaugural Committee to determine how many portable restrooms need to be in place on the Mall.

“They are in the process of formulating that plan and we will support what they ask of us,” Park Service spokesman Bill Line said.

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