Controversial evangelical pastor Rick Warren will perform the invocation at Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony. Warren is founder of the Saddleback Church, a sprawling California megachurch that draws 20,000 people to its Sunday services, making it the fourth largest church in the United States. While Warren and Obama agree politically on AIDS and poverty relief, the choice of a figure with conservative views on gay marriage, stem cell research and women’s rights has mystified and angered many of Obama’s liberal supporters.
Roll Call reported yesterday that 10,000 active-duty US military personnel will be on hand in Washington during the January 20 inauguration. That figure is double the previously mentioned figure of 5,000 soldiers slated to aid in security and crowd control. It remains unclear how many of the additional personnel will perform ceremonial functions. While the Secret Service controls overall security during the inauguration, the US military coordinates the inaugural parade of the newly sworn-in President. Traditionally, soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines march in the procession.
The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced that poet Elizabeth Alexander will read at the inauguration. Alexander, 46, a professor of African American studies at Yale will be the fourth poet to read at a US Presidential Inauguration, and the first since Miller Williams read at Bill Clinton’s second inauguration in 1997. Previously, Maya Angelou read in 1993 at Clinton’s first inauguration and Robert Frost read at John Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Alexander, the author of four books of poetry, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1995.
The Washington Post reported today that more than 700 of nearly 1,700 locations slated for inauguration vendors will be given to Washington locals. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs revised the original number of vendor locations up from 500 to address the massive turnout expected for the inauguration. Only 100 vendors were on hand during George W Bush’s second inauguration in 2005. 716 D.C. street vendors will be given first preference for locations near the National Mall and at parking lots where thousands of buses are expected to unload visitors.