Obama’s whistle-stop tour, links past with historic present (Lead)

January 17th, 2009 - 11:35 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 17 (IANS) Barack Obama returns to Washington for his historic inauguration Tuesday as the nation’s first African-American president as he undertakes a whistle-stop train journey that symbolically links him to the nation’s icon Abraham Lincoln.Like Lincoln, who travelled by rail from Philadelphia to Washington on the last leg of his journey to be sworn in for his first term in 1861, Obama too will travel from the birthplace of the nation’s democracy to the capital city.

The train journey will symbolically link Democrat Obama with Lincoln, who as the first Republican president steered the Union forces to victory in the Civil War and ended the slavery of blacks in the US.

Obama’s whistle-stop tour will begin Saturday at an event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, around 10 a.m. He will later stop in Wilmington, Delaware, the home of Vice President-elect Joe Biden for an event in the back of the Wilmington train station.

The train tour later stops in Baltimore, Maryland, for another public event at the War Memorial Plaza. The final stop: Washington, where Obama will head to Blair House, his temporary home, across the street from the White House.

The trip kicks off several days of inauguration activities - including concerts, balls and the inauguration itself Tuesday.

Later Saturday evening, Michelle Obama, Jill Biden and their families will hold a free “Kids’ Inaugural” concert to honour military families.

On Sunday afternoon, Obama will help launch a star-studded free event at the Lincoln Memorial, which will be broadcast live on HBO and other cable and satellite providers.

Musical performers, according to the inaugural committee, include: Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, Heather Headley, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, will.i.am and Stevie Wonder.

Among those reading historical passages will be Jamie Foxx, Martin Luther King III, Queen Latifah and Denzel Washington. The Rev. Gene Robinson, who is openly gay, will give the invocation.

On Monday, Obama and Biden will honour American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr King’s legacy by urging supporters to participate in activities dedicated to serving others in communities across Washington.

That night, Jazz at Lincoln Centre and The Rockefeller Foundation will present “A Celebration of America” at the Kennedy Centre in Washington. The event will mark King’s legacy and the 56th inauguration.

On Inauguration Day, Tuesday Obama will take the oath of office, using President Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural Bible, on the steps of the Capitol to be sworn in as America’s 44th president in a colourful ceremony at noon.

After Obama gives the inaugural address, he will escort outgoing President George Bush to a departure ceremony before attending a luncheon in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall with a menu reflecting Lincoln’s life and presidency.

The 56th Inaugural Parade will then make its way down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, with groups travelling from all over the country to participate.

There will be 10 balls throughout Washington Tuesday night. They include: Commander-in-Chief Ball, which is dedicated to military personnel and their families; five regional balls dedicated to each section of the United States and a Neighborhood Ball, which will be open for Washington, D.C., residents who paid for tickets in advance.

On Wednesday, Obama - as the new president - will take part in a prayer at the National Cathedral in northwest Washington.

The Rev. Sharon Watkins, the general minister and president of the 700,000-member Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), will be the first woman to deliver the sermon at the traditional inaugural event.

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