Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony

[Photo: A day after Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States,
carpenters started building a reviewing stand in front of the White House for the inaugural parade.
Credit: Paul J. Richards / AFP-Getty Images]

Source: Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times

Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony: How to get inauguration tickets

How do you get tickets to the Jan. 20, 2009, inauguration of Barack Obama

and Joe Biden?

It's the thought popping into many people's mind as they mull grabbing a flight

(maybe you already have booked one) to Washington, D.C., for a front-row seat

to history. But how do you get that front-row seat, or any seat for that matter,

to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States?

Let's just say it's probably easier to get a bill through Congress —

but that doesn't mean you can't try.

The theme of the 2009 inauguration will be "A New Birth of Freedom," and for the first time,

a woman and a Californian — Sen. Dianne Feinstein — heads the committee overseeing

some of the festivities, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

So, let's start with the basics.

The events: There are many — the parade, the swearing-in ceremony, the balls, etc. —

and different committees (some of which haven't even been formed yet) plan different aspects of

the inauguration and issue and distribute tickets differently. Confusing enough for you yet?

The tickets: Let me just say this emphatically for those who still have money to burn

despite the recession: Anyone selling a ticket to, say, the swearing-in ceremony,

simply doesn't have the goods.

The 240,000 tickets that have been printed for this event "are in a secure location,"

according to the committee.

"Any website or ticket broker claiming that they have inaugural tickets is simply

not telling the truth," Howard Gantman, staff director for the committee,

said in a release. "Tickets for the swearing-in of President-elect are all provided

through members of Congress, and the President-elect and Vice President-elect

through the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

We urge the public to view any offers of tickets for sale with great skepticism."

The truth: Tickets to the swearing-in ceremony are free —

but you have to request them from your U.S. representative or senator.

Best to call his or her Washington office if you haven't already.

(I called the office of my congresswoman, Jane Harman, and got a staff person who didn't yet

have much information but helped me navigate to the "request a tour" form

on Harman's website so I could get a virtual place in line.)

Demand will be high, and there's no guarantee you'll get tickets if they run out.

The loophole: It's not illegal to resell your ticket,

but it is, well, discouraged.

"We can't stop people from turning around and selling those tickets,

but it goes against the spirit of an open public inauguration,"

said media spokeswoman Carole Florman.

But constituents won't be able to pick up their tickets until the day before the event —

leaving little time for an EBay bidding war.

The weather: After all that, even if you are one of the lucky 240,000 who gets a ticket

held on the west front of the Capitol building,

you may get shut out if the weather tanks. Inclement weather could force

the ceremony inside (as it did in 1985 when President Reagan's inauguration was held

inside the Rotunda), dropping the number of spectators

from hundreds of thousands to a few hundred.

Everything else: The parade and balls are organized by the Presidential Inaugural

Committee, which is just being formed. This committee determines the type of inaugural events

to hold, raises private money to fund them and decides how to distribute the tickets.

More on that when I get hold of those folks…

Source: Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
Procurement Consultant
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