Like everyone else in Washington, D.C., right now, we're gearing up for the long inaugural weekend, bracing ourselves for various events and balls around town that can be thrilling, patriotic, touristy and traffic-jamming, all at the same time.
As we prepare for President Obama's second inauguration on Monday, we've been looking back through our coverage of inaugurations past. (And it's reminded us that a lot has changed, even from just four years ago.) Along the way, we ran across a few memorable features that we thought worth revisiting.
A presidential inauguration is an event defined by huge, sweeping optics: the National Mall full of cheering Americans; a grandiose platform in front of the Capitol building; the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. And the centerpiece: a speech.
On Monday, President Obama will give his second inaugural address — and he faces a challenge in crafting a speech for this moment.
For the sake of argument, let's agree that when we use the word "inauguration" in this particular post, we are talking about the multiday, ball-bestrewn, soiree-soaked, tuxedo-dappled extravaganza that costs tens of millions of dollars and often leaves many Americans out in the cold — figuratively and literally.
Every four years in January, Washington, D.C., plays host to the country's biggest "prom." Inaugural balls bring out happy winners, administration bigwigs and a gown — on the first lady — that will become a part of history.
An exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History displays some of those gowns. NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg took her dance card to the show.