If you wait until Monday to turn on your TV to watch all the pomp and ceremony of Inauguration Day – and there will be plenty to see – you will have already missed the actual, constitutionally ordained moment that President Obama is sworn in for a second term in office.
But fear not, you can see that too.
Thanks to a quirk of the calendar, the day mandated by the Constitution for one presidential term to expire and another to begin, Jan. 20, falls this year on a Sunday, the one day of the week Washington doesn’t do inaugurals.
So Mr. Obama, as well as Vice President Biden, will take their respective official oaths of office in private swearing-in ceremonies on Sunday, Mr. Biden at 8:55 in the morning at the Naval Observatory and Obama in the White House Blue Room at 11:55. (The last president to have such a private swearing-in was Ronald Reagan in 1985.)
But “private” is a relative term, and mostly means no bands, no singing, no speeches, and no cast-of-thousands hoopla. That’s Monday.
On Sunday, however, TV cameras will also be there, so you can watch live as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath to Obama on all the major broadcast and cable networks. In the earlier ceremony, Biden will be sworn in by Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Both justices will be pressed back into duty on Monday for the bigger show, which will feature, as its centerpiece, Obama's Inaugural Address.
As to Monday’s more public festivities, TV coverage begins in the morning, with morning news shows segueing into exclusive inaugural coverage, the precise times varying by network, and ends in mid-afternoon. It’ll be hard to miss.
The main spectacle, of course, is the public swearing-in ceremony that begins on the western steps of the US Capitol at 11:30 a.m. This will be followed at 1 p.m. by an inaugural luncheon hosted by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and at 2:30 by the Inaugural Parade.
Among the musical highlights of the inaugural ceremonies are performances by the United States Marine Band, PS 22 of Staten Island, N.Y., the Lee University Festival Choir from Cleveland, Tenn., and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.
James Taylor will offer a rendition of “America the Beautiful” after Biden takes the oath of office.
The president then takes the oath of office (Obama’s fourth if you count the famous re-do in 2009) after which he delivers his Inaugural Address, the content of which is still secret.
After Obama concludes, pop rock singer Kelly Clarkson, of “American Idol” fame, will sing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”
She is followed by Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco, and Rev. Luis Leon of St. John's Church, pastor of the Episcopal church known as “the church of the presidents,” who will offer a benediction.
The ceremony winds up with a performance by the day’s biggest musical name, Beyoncé, a prominent supporter of Obama’s during his reelection campaign, who will sing the national anthem.
If, instead of watching all this from the comfort of your home, you are planning to be among the estimated 800,000 Washington visitors and residents expected to fill the Mall and line the route for the Inaugural Parade, dress warmly.
Early morning temperatures on the mostly cloudy day are expected to be in the 20s, climbing to the mid-30s by noon. A passing flurry is possible in the afternoon.