All eyes on Washington

“So help me God.”

On April 30, 1789, four simple words were said to have left George Washington’s lips when he kissed the Bible after taking his oath as the first American president, the beginning of a tradition.

In 1861, African-Americans were first allowed to attend the inaugural ceremony. Protected by heavy security in a time of war, Abraham Lincoln swore in as president upon what the Los Angeles Times described as “a shield of gold wash over white metal with the words “Holy Bible.” It is upon these words that Barack Obama has chosen to place his left hand and raise his right at the inaugural address of the 44th President of the United States of America.

President-Elect Barack Obama has chosen “Renewing America’s Promise” as his inaugural theme.

“This inauguration isn’t about me. It’s about all of us. At this defining moment in our history it serves as our opportunity to come together in common purpose, united in our resolve to renew the promise of this nation and meet the challenges of our time,” President-Elect Barack Obama said in a YouTube address.

The Bible itself has a story as to how it has made it’s way into almost every swearing in, but some are quick to point out that not every president has made it their choice.

President John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce used books of law and Teddy Roosevelt used nothing at all. However, Richard Nixon swore in on two heirloom Bibles.

Regardless, the most memorable moments in the eyes of the crowd are usually found in the words and the appearance of the speaker.

William Henry Harrison, winner by a landslide in 1840, refused to wear a coat, gloves or hat in the 48-degree weather, saying he wanted “to look his finest.” Far from Washington’s 135-word address, Harrison’s 8,844 words lasted almost two hours in the cold. He later died in office of pneumonia only one month later.

As the first Catholic to become President of the United States, few could forget President John F, Kennedy’s famous “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” speech. It was also the first time a poet participated in the inaugural program.

Considering the stories and the history of the presidential inauguration, one wonders, what will be remembered about this one, and who will be lending their eyes and ears.

“I will be watching. I think it is a good time for the minorities; it shows there are no limits in this country, and that the minority can rise to the highest level. Personally as an African-American it feels good,” Sam Houston State University student, Marcelo Pendleton said. “As far as the struggle we have in our economy, I don’t think it will stop with Obama, but I think he will move us into the right direction.”

On the other hand, some say they won’t be watching.

“I’m not planning on watching it because he doesn’t stand for the same things I do and I don’t see him making any progress in our country,” SHSU student Ashley Trembley said.

This year’s events will include performers such as Mary J. Blige, Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Herbie Hancock, Denzel Washington and Aretha Franklin and many more. There will be luncheons and inaugural balls, including a youth ball with appearances by Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and Bow Wow.

One student encourages attending the inaugural ceremony.

“I’ve been. I think it is a very festive event and an experience everyone should have once in their lifetime,” SHSU student Chris Chumbley said.

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