Responding to predictions of record crowds and following up on pledges to make the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama one of the most open ever, his inaugural committee announced today that, for the first time, the entire length of the National Mall will be open to the public.
The goal is for more people than ever before to see the swearing-in within viewing distance of the Capitol. Big screens will be set up so they can see the ceremony closer-up. There are some predictions that up to 5 million spectators will show up to see the nation's first black president sworn in -- a number that would far surpass the current mark of about 1.2 million for Lyndon B. Johnson's inauguration in 1965.
The committee said it has worked with the District of Columbia government, the National Park Service, and others to open the mall, which is usually used as the inaugural parade staging area.
"We're grateful to local, federal, and military officials for their efforts to open up the National Mall to Americans who want to participate in this historic occasion," the Presidential Inaugural Committee's executive director, Emmett S. Beliveau, said in a statement. "These arrangements represent our committee's continuing commitment to make next year's historic inauguration as accessible as possible to citizens in Washington, D.C., and across the country."
"This will be an inauguration for all Americans," Washington Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said in a statement. "And so we are dedicated to opening it up so that people from across the country can gather together in America's front yard. We remain hard at work to ensure the day's festivities are safe and accessible for visitors, residents, and businesses alike."
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.