EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 18, 2009

Obama's inauguration attracts unprecedented attention

Obama's inauguration attracts unprecedented attention

At 93 years old, James Doherty has seen his share of presidents enter and exit the Oval Office.

The former Andover town moderator said he can remember as far back as Franklin Roosevelt's victory in 1932; he was 17 then. But he's never been too impressed with the inaugurations themselves.

"I'm sure it was exciting for the individual being inaugurated," Doherty said with a chuckle. "But from where I was sitting, it wasn't too exciting."

Doherty does plan to stay home from work on Tuesday to watch Barack Obama take the oath of office as the country's 44th president, because, "Well, this one should be pretty good."

While inaugurations have typically warranted nothing more than brief notice by the general public, Tuesday will be different. Millions of people are expected to watch not only the swearing in and inaugural address, but the parade and string of star-filled galas that begin this weekend. As many as 2 million people are expected to descend on Washington, D.C., — a record.

And while the significance of an inauguration is typically not appreciated until years later — more an event for the history books than for the moment — people are already labeling Obama's ceremony as one of the most important in American history.

"The numbers speak for themselves," said Harry Wessel, a Merrimack College political science professor. "Everyone is expecting lines to go down in the history book."

It is being compared to John F. Kennedy's inauguration because people suspect that like Kennedy, the former Illinois senator is ushering in a new period in history. Others liken it to Roosevelt's swearing in, because both men are coming in during a difficult economic time for the country — Roosevelt with the Great Depression, Obama with a recession and two inherited wars in the Middle East.

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