More than 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln placed his hand on a small Bible and became the 16th president of the United States during a turbulent time in American history.
This weekend, the same Bible used by Lincoln will be present during another historic moment: President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
“It’s nowhere near the same degree [as during the Civil War], but the degree of polarization in this country and the divisions that we face have been increasing over the last four years,” said David Peterson, professor of political science at Iowa State.
Obama’s views on the political climate will be expressed during his inaugural address.
“The inaugurations stand out for their inaugural address. This is an opportunity for presidents to leave their mark, and there have been some quite famous ones over the years,” Peterson said.
Obama will take the Oath of Office during the public swearing-in ceremony on the Capitol steps on Monday, Jan. 21. He will be sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts using the Lincoln Bible as well as one that was owned by Martin Luther King Jr.
Vice President Joe Biden will be sworn in by Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor.
Performers lined up for the event currently include Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor.
The actual inauguration, however central to the flurry of activities set to take place in Washington, D.C. this weekend, is certainly not the only event.
Included is the National Day of Service on Jan. 19 and a National Prayer Service on Jan. 22 at the National Cathedral.
On Jan. 20, the president and vice president will take their oath during their private swearing-in ceremony. The ceremony is private because their term starts on a Sunday.
Following the public swearing-in ceremony on Monday will be two major events: the Presidential Inaugural Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and the Inaugural Balls.
The number of official balls — two — is the lowest in recent history. Obama announced the cutback was to dissuade government spending.
“The inauguration of a second term for a president is always less exciting than the first. Particularly than four years ago," Peterson said. "There was a lot of optimism in the air when Obama was inaugurated the first time, and this time it’s going to be a toned down affair. He’s toned it down some intentionally, and it’s never quite as exciting.”
Despite the cut in events, however, local businesses are bracing for the visitors that will spend the week in Washington, D.C., even though crowds are predicted to be much smaller than four years ago.
“We prepare a long time in advance. A lot of hotels go under renovation and things like that to make sure that the product is up to par,” said Alexandra Byrne, director of sales and marketing at the Fairfax at Embassy Row Hotel.
Byrne listed museums, transportation, and high-end shops that often set up in hotels as things in high demand during that time.
“An inauguration is differen. ... Everything is different, and you just need to make sure that you’re going to adapt and be flexible,” Byrne said.
Despite cuts in the festivities and smaller attendance numbers, the celebrations will be as significant as the history already woven into them.