Inauguration Day

INAUGURATION DAY…. I don’t recall exactly when I started seeing “1.20.09” bumper stickers; I guess it was about a year ago. But it wasn’t long before “1.20.09” was pretty much everywhere — on cars, on shirts, on hats, online.

And lo and behold, here it is. As Frank Rich noted the other day, “Barack Obama’s day is one that I never thought would come, and one that I still can’t quite believe is here.”

I know the feeling. In fact, I find myself in a rather awkward position: slightly at a loss for words. In four hours, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, and it’s genuinely difficult to capture the significance of the day. All of the various cliches became cliches precisely because so many feel compelled by the same observations and emotional reactions. There really is a renewed sense of hope and optimism. Politics in America really is about to change. We really are going to turn the page on a painful and destructive era of our collective history.

It’s time for an American Renaissance, it comes with an infectious excitement, and it’s going to start this afternoon.

As for what to expect and when, inaugural festivities are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. eastern, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol.

They will include:

— Musical selections of The United States Marine Band, followed by the San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus.

— Sen. Dianne Feinstein provides call to order and welcoming remarks.

— Invocation by the Rev. Rick Warren.

— Musical selection of Aretha Franklin.

— Biden will be sworn into office by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

— Musical selection of John Williams, composer/arranger with Itzhak Perlman, (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Gabriela Montero (piano) and Anthony McGill (clarinet).

— 12 pm ET: Obama will take the Oath of Office, using President Lincoln’s Inaugural Bible, administered by Chief Justice John Roberts.

— Obama gives the inaugural address.

— Poem by Elizabeth Alexander.

— Benediction by Rev. Joseph E. Lowery.

— The National Anthem by The United States Navy Band “Sea Chanters.”

After Obama gives inaugural address, he will escort outgoing President George W. Bush to a departure ceremony before attending a luncheon in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

The 56th Inaugural Parade will then make its way down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House.