Inaugural anticipation runs high
Perhaps no one will watch the 57th presidential inauguration more closely than Wanda Gaugler Scott.
The retired Pittsburgh police officer plans to “have every television in the house on” when her son, Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Scott, 31, a 1999 North Hills High School graduate, marches in Monday's parade on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington after President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden take their oaths in front of as many as 800,000 people crowding the National Mall.
“I will be watching him very proudly, with tears for our president and my country,” Gaugler Scott of Beechview said of her son, an adjunct professor at Gettysburg College who is working toward a doctorate in music.
As a clarinetist in the Army Band “Pershing's Own,” he'll be part of the military escort carrying on a tradition begun with George Washington in 1789 in New York City.
“To be able to participate ... is something that I will remember for the rest of my life,” Scott said from his Virginia base after his last practice before the parade. A Pittsburgher at heart, he joked about hiding a Terrible Towel beneath his uniform.
Even in difficult economic times, Americans love the hoopla of Inauguration Day.
Because the date set by the Constitution fell on Sunday, Obama took the 35-word oath in private at the White House on Sunday and will repeat it publicly on Monday on the Capitol's West Front. The National Weather Service forecast a high temperature of 39 degrees, with a 30 percent chance of snow.
“We don't have tickets, but we have friends who live about one mile away, and we're going to stay with them,” said Ginnie Leiner, 58, of Greensburg, who volunteered at Obama's campaign office. “It's a chance to experience history.”
Fifty people booked the Allegheny County Democratic Committee's bus trip, and 120 plan to attend a committee-sponsored evening ball in Alexandria, Va.
“I'm going to take a new phone with a pretty good camera,” Chairwoman Nancy Mills said.
The inaugural activities give party officials a chance to talk about what lies ahead, including the 2014 gubernatorial and congressional elections, said Pennsylvania Democratic Committee Chairman Jim Burn, an Allegheny County councilman from Millvale.
“We're going to recharge our batteries for a second-term agenda,” Burn said. “When we come up for air, we're going to be right back down there in the trenches to push this middle-class agenda for another four years.”
DeBolt Tours of Homestead, which schedules special-event trips to Washington, nearly filled another 50-seat bus, said company President George DeBolt.
“We did this four years ago, and it was a lot of fun,” said DeBolt, who set a 5 a.m. departure. “We tell people to sleep on the bus, and when they wake up, we'll be in Maryland.”
DeBolt's $89 package includes a Metro ticket to get them close to the National Mall and buffet dinner on the way home. “We try to make it as easy and convenient as possible,” he said.
About 1,300 Pennsylvania National Guard members will be among the 6,000 assisting D.C. personnel and U.S. Park Police with security, crisis response, traffic and crowd control.
“It is an honor,” said Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, Pennsylvania adjutant general.
The parade follows lunch at the Capitol. Later, Obama and Biden will honor members of the armed forces and their families at the Commander-in-Chief's Ball; it and the official Inaugural Ball are at the Washington Convention Center.
A national prayer service on Tuesday in Washington National Cathedral will be webcast live at www.nationalcathedral.org.
As with many of Obama's events, where stars help attract voters, the inauguration will draw celebrities: pop superstar Beyonce leading the national anthem, Kelly Clarkson performing “My Country 'Tis of Thee” and James Taylor singing “America the Beautiful.”
The festivities showcase “the beauty of America and her strength” and give people a chance to “respect the decision of the election” no matter whom they supported, said U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills.
“That has been our great tradition,” said Doyle, who will be among dignitaries seated behind the president during his speech.
Presidents typically pitch unity in inaugural addresses, experts say.
University of Pittsburgh professor Gerald Shuster, an expert in presidential rhetoric, predicts Obama will promise to solve problems.
“It will be somewhat idealistic, as these speeches typically are, and laced with hope and desire to have more cooperation on all levels of government,” Shuster said.
Pitt's “Presidential Inauguration Watch” will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday in the William Pitt Union in Oakland as part of six days of events celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Monday is the federal holiday marking the slain civil rights leader's birthday.
Melanie Girovsky, 15, a South Allegheny High School sophomore, is among students from across the country attending the High School Presidential Inaugural Conference in Washington through Wednesday. She began taking part in leadership conferences in fifth grade and was eligible to attend as an alumna of the National Young Leaders Conference, said her mother, Jodi Girovsky of Liberty.
“She's been waiting for this. When she got her letter that she got to go, she said, ‘ Ooh, I get to go!'” Jodi Girovsky said.
A teacher nominated Melanie to be a youth leader. The experience has led to lasting friendships and intensified her interest in current events, her mother said.
“She originally said she'd like to be the first woman president, but now she says, ‘I'll leave that go — I'll be a congresswoman,'” she laughed. “But she also has an interest in becoming a physician's assistant, so we'll see.”
Staff writer Bob Bauder contributed to this report. Salena Zito is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com.