Monday, September 22, 2014


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Obama's Inauguration By The Numbers

A worker cleans rows of seats where people will watch President Barack Obama take the oath of office during his second inauguration on January 21.
A worker cleans rows of seats where people will watch President Barack Obama take the oath of office during his second inauguration on January 21.

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U.S. President Barack Obama will take a public oath of office for his second term on January 21. While this inauguration won't measure up to the history-making spectacle of four years ago, it, too, will be the culmination of extensive planning, organizing, and fund-raising. RFE/RL correspondent Richard Solash breaks down the numbers.

2 – The number of smartphone apps created for the inauguration. They are the first-ever official inauguration apps and were unveiled on January 14. One, by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, provides schedules and a live stream of events, along with directions to the nearest first-aid booth and portable toilets. The second, by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, aims to help inauguration-goers travel smoothly through the city to find designated seats or viewing spots.

2 – The number of official inauguration balls being held in Washington this year. Planners scaled that number down from 10 balls in 2009 because of the country's still-struggling economy. It's the fewest number of official inaugural balls since President Dwight Eisenhower's first term in 1953. One of the balls will honor U.S. troops, while the main ball is expected to draw a crowd of more than 35,000. A limited amount of $60 tickets for the general public sold out fast and officials have tried to combat scalping.

2 – The number of Bibles that Obama will swear on while taking the public oath of office. One, a Bible covered in red velvet that belonged to President Abraham Lincoln, is the same one Obama used during the 2009 inauguration. The second belonged to U.S. civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King Jr.

Obama, the first African-American to become U.S. president, will take the oath for a second time on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery, and the 50th anniversary of King's historic 1963 "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom."

An official portait of Obama in the Oval Office released by the White House on January 17An official portait of Obama in the Oval Office released by the White House on January 17
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An official portait of Obama in the Oval Office released by the White House on January 17
An official portait of Obama in the Oval Office released by the White House on January 17
4 – The number of times that Obama will have taken the oath after this year's inauguration. That ties President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s record for the most presidential oaths ever.

In 2009, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts misspoke while administering the oath. The oath was privately administered again later as a precaution. This year, Obama will take the oath in private on January 20, which the U.S. Constitution decrees. But because January 20 falls on a Sunday, a public swearing-in ceremony will take place the following day.

This is just the seventh time in U.S. presidential history that a "Sunday exception" has occurred.

41 – The number of unicyclists participating in this year's inauguration parade.

57 – The total number of U.S. inaugurations, including this one. Presidential historians have kept track of the highlights, from George Washington's 135-word inaugural address in 1793 -- the shortest ever -- to Bill Clinton's 1997 inauguration, the first to be broadcast live online.

1,195 – The cost in dollars to stay for one night in the cheapest room at Washington's Mandarin Oriental Hotel during inauguration weekend. The same room is normally available for $295 a night.

2,800 – The number of groups who have applied to march in the inauguration parade. They include marching bands, military and veterans' organizations, dance troupes, and a children's circus. They will be accompanied by several floats, one of which is to represent "Our People: Our Future" -- the theme of Obama's inauguration speech.

3,000+ – The size in square meters of the inauguration platform. Obama will be sworn in on a wooden platform specially built over the steps of the U.S. Capitol building. More than 1,600 people will be on the platform to watch -- among them, the vice president, lawmakers, and cabinet members. This year's stage will tie the mark set by President George W. Bush's 2005 inauguration platform as the largest ever.

7,500 – The cost in dollars of the "official inauguration medallion set." The Presidential Inauguration Committee sells the set on its website and includes three commemorative medallions, cast in bronze, silver, and gold, with each displaying the profiles of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. This is the most expensive item on the site, which also sells everything from pencils to champagne glasses. The money collected helps expenses related to the inauguration festivities. Special donor contributions play a large role as well (more below).

A vendor sells inauguration paraphernalia near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
A vendor sells inauguration paraphernalia near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

28,189 – The number of seats on the inauguration parade route. While tickets are not required for the general public to gather along the route, which stretches down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol building to the White House, they are required for highly prized bleacher seats.

50,000+ – The number of volunteers who will assist with the inauguration weekend's festivities. They will supplement 550 official inauguration staffers. The Presidential Inaugural Committee says volunteers "will be assisting with all events, from the swearing-in to the parade."

600,000-800,000 – The number of people estimated to turn out for the inauguration. The figure is down sharply from four years ago, which drew a record crowd of nearly 2 million. While second-term inaugurations traditionally generate less fanfare, observers say the weak economy and dissatisfaction with partisan politics also could explain the smaller crowds.

1 million – The amount of money in U.S. dollars that corporations need to donate to the inauguration committee to become "Washington-level” donors. Individuals can contribute $250,000 to receive the same perks, which include attendance at VIP receptions, seats for the parade, ball tickets, and passes to a concert with musical artists Stevie Wonder and Katy Perry. Obama has come in for criticism for deciding to accept corporate money. Last time he refused to take it, a decision his team said was part of the president's "commitment to change business as usual in Washington."
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