Obama Drastically Reduces Number Of Inaugural Balls
There will be far less official partying in Washington on Inauguration Day than there has been in the past:
WASHINGTON (AP) — With his nation under financial strain, President Barack Obama is restricting the inaugural balls to the lowest number in 60 years, with just two official parties plus a concert honoring military families.
The subdued celebration revealed Thursday is a big cut in reveling from the 10 balls Obama attended four years ago. Planners say the austerity in festivities is a reflection of tough economic times and an effort to minimize the burden on law enforcement, other security personnel and Washington residents.
Both balls are being planned at the Washington Convention Center on Monday, Jan. 21, the evening of Obama’s public inauguration at the Capitol on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Under the Constitution, the president’s second term begins Jan. 20 at noon, but he’ll be sworn in privately at the White House — with limited media coverage — since inaugural celebrations traditionally aren’t held on Sundays.
One party will be the Commander In Chief’s Ball, a tradition started by President George W. Bush for members of the Armed Forces. Tickets will be free for invited guests, including active duty and reserve service members, Medal of Honor recipients and wounded warriors, among others, with troops overseas participating via video. The other ball, simply being called the Inaugural Ball, will be larger than usual and held across all the halls in the vast convention center. Some tickets will be available to the public. For Obama’s first inauguration, six balls were held in the convention center.
[I]n recent times, presidents have tended to increase the celebration to kick off a second term. Bush went from eight balls in 2001 to nine in 2005, although he openly loathed the public display of dancing that is traditional for the first couple and sped through the parties in drop-by fashion.
Clinton went from 11 balls in 1993 to a record 14 in 1997.
The tradition has its roots with the country’s first inauguration in 1789, when sponsors held a ball in George Washington’s honor a week after he was sworn into office in New York City. The first official inaugural ball was 20 years later, when James Madison’s wife, Dolley, hosted a $4-per-ticket hotel gala for 400 guests.
President Jimmy Carter attempted to strip the balls of their glitz and glamour post-Watergate in 1977, calling his seven “parties” and charging no more than $25 each. And there is earlier precedent for avoiding an elaborate celebration, with Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Pierce and Warren Harding requesting no balls at all.
President Harry Truman revived the official ball in 1949, and organizers for President Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration in 1953 added a second event due to great demand for tickets. Eisenhower doubled the celebration to four balls in 1957.
Given the state of the economy, this sees like the politically smart move.