Clinton Inaugural Events Will Celebrate Reunion and Renewal
WASHINGTON (AP) _ If President-elect Clinton’s inauguration ends up as billed, it will draw the biggest crowds in inaugural history but still have the cozy feel of a folksy family reunion.
The inaugural planning process got seriously under way Thursday, as Clinton named his Presidential Inaugural Committee and workers at the Capitol began hammering away at platforms for his Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony.
Meanwhile, Clinton’s headquarters in Little Rock, Ark., began fielding call after call about tickets for inaugural events, as well as the first requests from performers to participate in the ceremonies.
Martin Thomas of Kansas City, Mo., drove his five sons to Little Rock on Thursday to try to audition for a part in the celebrations. They sang the national anthem outside Clinton’s first post-election news conference and then showed up to sing at Clinton headquarters.
″We didn’t encourage them. We’re not at all prepared,″ a Clinton aide said, ″but it was really sweet.″
Clinton has said in the past he’d like his to be ″a people’s inaugural,″ modeled on the turn-of-the-century inaugural of Theodore Roosevelt, who shook thousands of hands on his inauguration day.
And Sen. Wendell Ford, D-Ky., chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said he expects about 100,000 more guests at Clinton’s swearing-in than at President Bush’s inauguration in 1989.
America is ready to celebrate, Ford said at a news conference outside the state Capitol.
″I think it’s been 12 years of anxiety, and the people want to come out to see their new president,″ Ford said.
Clinton’s inaugural committee, which was to hold its first meeting today, will be chaired by Democratic National Committee Chairman Ronald H. Brown.
Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, who are television producers and close Clinton friends, have the title of general chairman and chairwoman, although it’s not clear what their specific duties will be.
Bloodworth-Thomason, who produced the Clinton video shown at the Democratic National Convention, said the president-elect wants the inaugural theme to be ″reunion and renewal.″ But that’s as far as the planning has gone, she said.
Bev Lindsey, a close Clinton friend from Little Rock who will serve on the committee, said she doesn’t know what the style of the festivities will be.
″I don’t have a clue, other than I know Bill Clinton’s style, which is folksy and people-oriented,″ she said.
But for the average citizen, coming to see the president take his oath of office won’t be easy. The best shot is to call the Capitol, where each representative will be given about 100 tickets and each senator will get 200, Ford said.
He said 250,000 tickets will be issued in all to the ceremony at the West Front of the Capitol on Jan. 20. There will 37,000 seats for the luckiest guests, though even many of those closest to the platforms will have to stand. About 75,000 to 80,000 of the tickets will be for standing room on the Mall.
In keeping with the down-to-earth style of the new administration - and the environmental activism of Vice President-elect Gore - invitations to the Capitol ceremony will be printed on 60 percent recycled paper.
Congress has appropriated $906,000 for the Capitol ceremony, up from $746,000 spent by the committee for Bush’s inauguration. But Ford said he hopes to spend less than the allotment.
He said more money was allotted because more people are expected. Bush’s inauguration drew about 150,000.
Clinton’s campaign finance director, Rahm Emanuel, and Little Rock native Mel French, who worked in the campaign’s administration office, will serve as the committee’s co-directors and general managers.