Inauguration Day 2013: Abe Lincoln to Kelly Clarkson

SUNDAY-and-MONDAY, JANUARY 20 and 21: Monday is the big celebration and, for most Americans, is the Inauguration Day that rewrites history as our first African-American president begins his second term. Already connections with Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War-era second inaugural are flooding news coverage. BUT—and this is a great bit of American trivia to share with friends—the real Inauguration Day is January 20, so President Obama will privately take the oath on Sunday. The eyes of the world will be watching on Monday, but the truth is: The president already will be 24 hours into his second term.


The White House website—as Americans, it’s “our” White House website—offers many ideas for getting involved. The inauguration weekend began with the National Day of Service and culminates on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day national holiday. So themes of public service and volunteerism has been spreading coast to coast throughout the past week. This White House Inauguration 2013 landing page shares videos, stories and links to get involved. The theme: “Everyone has a part to play” and “It’s all about US.” The Washington Post reports on the linkages between public service, the inauguration and the King holiday.


Pointedly taking a page from President Abraham Lincoln’s historic Second Inaugural (“with malice toward none, with charity for all”), the event’s planning team has been reaching out to a wide array of people who have been separated from Washington D.C. in various ways. The Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies set one goal: Helping people with disabilities to have a better experience in 2013. This includes closed-captioning of the speeches direct to hand-held devices for hearing-impaired persons. Plans also call for greater assistance to help physically challenged people join in the crowd on the Mall. USA Today reports on the efforts and the need: “With hundreds of thousands of people coming to Washington this weekend for the inauguration, getting around will not be an easy task for people with disabilities.”

The LA Times and other news outlets are reporting on the healing of relations with pop superstar Kelly Clarkson. The singer is beloved by her fans for her outspoken nature. Her pride in her less-than-skinny shape has been a boost to the self esteem of other full-bodied Americans. Her sassy commentary on pop culture always makes her interviews a quotable opportunity for reporters. However, in early 2012, a Clarkson Tweet seeming to endorse Ron Paul touhed off a firestorm of angry responses. Later, Clarkson supported President Obama’s re-election campaign. But, as the LA Times reports, her appearance at the inauguration, belting out “America,” will be another sign of healing relationships.


Throughout 2013, ReadTheSpirit is publishing inspiring stories about 150th-anniversary events related to President Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln’s attempts to heal a tragically wounded nation. Here is our index to recent stories about Lincoln and this year’s 150th events. News media currently are buzzing with connections and comparisons to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, a message that Teddy Roosevelt called “a speech which will be read as long as the memory of this nation endures.” Here is a complete text of that 6-minute address, delivered 152 years ago. (Note of clarification: Inauguration Day fell in March that year so we haven’t yet reached that precise sesquicentennial moment.)

Prominent among the historians who are commenting on these connections, right now, is Boston University’s Stephen Prothero, who wrote a commentary for the Wall Street Journal that draws heavily on his own new book The American Bible. For the Journal, Prothero began by describing the two Bibles President Obama will use in the inauguration: “President Barack Obama will employ two Bibles: the Bible Abraham Lincoln used in 1861 at his first inaugural ceremony and a ‘traveling Bible’ used by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. It is tempting to see Mr. Obama’s choice of these two Bibles as an effort to underscore his legacy as America’s first black president. But this choice can also be read theologically, as the president’s assent to a theological tradition that runs from the Puritans to Lincoln to King and beyond.”


Throughout January, the authors at the WeAreCaregivers website are inviting the nation’s caregivers to take charge of the 2013 calendar. After all, the more-than-60-million caregivers who serve elderly, disabled and chronically ill people in our communities tend to dread a new calendar. Author Dr. Benjamin Pratt wrote about the idea of creatively declaring new holidays. This week, he is proposing a new twist: He calls it OUR Inauguration Day.

Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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