And the widow of a murdered Mississippi civil rights leader will help open the inaugural ceremony today. President Obama selected activist Myrlie Evers-Williams to deliver the invocation. She's the first woman and the first layperson to have the honor.
NPR's Debbie Elliott has this profile.
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Evers-Williams' prominent role in President Obama's second inauguration comes in the 50th year since NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers was shot to death outside his family's home in Jackson, Mississippi.
After the first Obama inauguration, everybody talked about three things: the historic moment, the Arctic weather — and Aretha Franklin's hat.
If it is possible for a piece of millinery to steal the thunder of one of the most-watched moments in recent memory, the Queen of Soul's hat managed to do it. Her gray felt cloche was topped with a giant, matching bow, outlined in rhinestones that flashed in the chill sunlight as she sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee."
George Saunders has been writing short stories for decades.
Saunders, a professor at Syracuse University, was once a geological engineer who traveled the world; he now crafts stories that combine the absurd and fantastic with the mundane realities of everyday life. One story about a professional caveman inspired those Geico commercials.
One of the chief expectations of those who voted for President Obama is that he moves assertively to pass climate change legislation, whatever the political climate in Washington.
"We have a bipartisan common interest in moving away from fossil fuels towards clean energy," says Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club. "The sooner that members of both parties in Congress realize that and develop solutions, the better off we'll all be."
For years, British environmental activist Mark Lynas destroyed genetically modified food (GMO) crops in what he calls a successful campaign to force the business of agriculture to be more holistic and ecological in its practices.
His targets were companies like Monsanto and Syngenta — leaders in developing genetically modified crops.
Earlier this month he went in front of the world to reverse his position on GMOs.
As Washington, D.C., gears up for the 57th presidential inauguration, political parties are in full swing. We're not talking about run-of-the-mill partisan bickering. We're talking about inaugural celebrations: balls, galas and cocktail parties. Emphasis on the cocktail.
The Round Robin Bar in the Willard Hotel is just a stone's throw from the White House. Bartender Jim Hewes has been serving up drinks there for nearly 30 years.
"Contact with nature is not some magical elixir but the natural world is the substrate on which we must build our existence," writes Stephen Kellert in his new book Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World.
In it, he tells stories of the environment's effect on us, and ours on it. His writing builds on the traditions of Thoreau, John Muir and Rachel Carson. Modern society, he argues, has become adversarial in its relationship to nature, having greatly undervalued the natural world beyond its narrow utility.
A recently-published menu for Abraham Lincoln's lavish second inaugural ball in 1865 provides an interesting look at how different the nation celebrated its new president just seven score and eight years ago.
Smoked tongue en geleé and blancmange (a firm custard) shared room on the buffet table with roast turkey and burnt almond ice cream.
As Yale food historian Paul Freedman told Smithsonian Magazine writer Megan Gambino, the cuisine could best be described as "French via England, with some American ingredients."
Sean Lennon, son of John and Yoko, is drawn to musical collaboration and repelled by hydraulic fracturing.
The 37-year-old just released two albums: the improvisational project Mystical Weapons and the score to the independent film Alter Egos.
Writing For Film
Lennon only appears in Alter Egos for a few seconds; the majority of his efforts went into writing the music, which he had to do twice. He describes the film as a "kitsch comedy about superheroes," and his first attempt at the music took a similar vibe.
Originally published on Sun January 20, 2013 11:15 am
More bodies have been reported found at the gas plant in Algeria where a four-day standoff with Islamist militants came to a bloody end on Saturday. An Algerian security official tells the AP that the state of the bodies makes it difficult to tell whether the dead are hostages or attackers.
President Obama is officially sworn in Sunday by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Blue Room of the White House. Next to Obama are first lady Michelle Obama, holding the Robinson Family Bible, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha.
Credit Larry Downing / AP
President Obama is officially sworn-in Sunday by Chief Justice John Roberts, as first lady Michelle Obama holds the Robinson family Bible.
Originally published on Sun January 20, 2013 11:04 am
President Obama's second term officially begins Sunday: He took the oath of office in an intimate ceremony at the White House, fulfilling the constitutional requirement to take the oath before noon on Jan. 20.
NPR's Ari Shaprio reported on the swearing-in for our Newscast unit. Here's what he said:
"Family and a few close friends gathered in the Blue Room of the White House. The president placed his hand on a family Bible and recited the oath with Chief Justice John Roberts.
Originally published on Mon January 21, 2013 11:28 am
Sarah Manguso's latest book is called The Guardians.
I like autobiographies that approach their subjects insidiously. My favorite ones begin as a study of someone or something else. Then, partway through, the author realizes he's the subject. And my very favorite autobiographies are the ones, in all their particularity, that might as well be about me — or you, or anyone.
Originally published on Tue January 22, 2013 10:28 am
1) Why Monday?
Inaugural events are sprinkled over three days, with the most important one actually taking place out of the public eye on Sunday. That's when the official oath of office will be administered at the White House, on the date and time (noon on Jan. 20) specified by the Constitution. But because the 20th falls on a Sunday this year, the public festivities, including another oath taking, all happen Monday.
Originally published on Mon January 21, 2013 1:56 pm
Every president gets sworn in once, but it's a smaller club of presidents who manage to get there twice. Here's a look at some recent presidents who served two terms. See who changed the most (or the least) in four years.
Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
The office of the president offers a lot of responsibilities and privileges. Your actions drive the world's most powerful military, billions of dollars worth of domestic policy and, perhaps most importantly, the way the country speaks.
That's what linguist and writer Paul Dickson contends in his new book, Words From the White House. It's a look back through history at the words and phrases popularized by our presidents — including the ones they don't get credit for anymore.
Host Rachel Martin speaks with NPR correspondents Ari Shapiro, Scott Horsley and Michele Kelemen about President Obama's likely second-term agenda, from handling debt and the deficit to gun control and next steps in the country's relationship with Iran.
Among the sentiments of love of country and national unity, presidential inaugurations also have a religious element. Host Rachel Martin talks with Stephen Prothero, professor of American religion at Boston University, about how the role of faith in inauguration ceremonies has changed over the years.
Standing near the Remington Arms factory, Beth Neale, deputy mayor of Ilion, N.Y., says she's watched a lot of large manufacturers leave the region. She's not sure Ilion would easily recover from losing Remington.
Credit Mike Groll / AP
Workers from Remington Arms Company in Ilion, N.Y., talk with Assemblyman Marc Butler and Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney about gun legislation at the Capitol on Jan. 14 in Albany, N.Y.
After the Newtown shootings, some suggested that schools look to local volunteers to beef up security. One national organization has been doing that for years. It's called Watch D.O.G.S., and it organizes fathers to volunteer in their children's schools. After Sandy Hook, the group's strategy didn't changed. Some Watchdogs say they've just become even more vigilant. NPR's Sam Sanders has this report.
SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Like school principals all over the country, Michelle Wise sprung into action after Sandy Hook.
The way that Israelis vote and the policies that motivate those decisions will be watched closely from this country as well.
For more on what this election and events in the Middle East mean for the United States, I'm joined by Aaron David Miller. He's a vice president and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. He's also a former Middle East negotiator. He joins us now.
The plummeting mercury in Alaska this time of year doesn't keep bikers inside. More and more of them are heading to recreational trails and to the office on "fat bikes." They look like mountain bikes on steroids, with tires wider than most people's arms.
Kevin Breitenbach runs the bike shop at Beaver Sports in Alaska's second-largest city. Aboard a fat bike, he makes his way down a trail that winds through a forest as wet, quarter-sized snowflakes drop from the sky. Visibility is low, and the snow hides the roughest spots on the trail.
Chicagoan Janice Trice was an Obama volunteer in 2008 and 2012. Her husband died on Election Day in 2008, before he could celebrate Barack Obama's victory, or even find out that he won. She says this pilgrimage is a way for her to honor his memory.
Israelis are going to the polls this week in national elections. And yes, the big issues that are always part of Israeli politics are still there: the conflict with the Palestinians, the threat from Iran. But it's not just security that's on the minds of voters in Israel, especially young people. Last week in Tel Aviv, a bunch of 20-something Israelis gathered in a warehouse on the city's waterfront to talk politics.
The young musicians of Seguro Que Si will perform in this weekend's Inaugural Parade. Left to right: Daniel Chico (bass), Kevin Arguelles (piano), Maxwell Frost (timbales), Christopher Muriel (congas), Niyah Lowell (bongos), Annette Rodriguez (vocal), Sean Fernandez (trumpet), Robby Cruz (trumpet).
In the Inaugural Parade following the president's swearing-in on Monday, regimental and high school marching bands will appear alongside groups showcasing the nation's diversity. These include a float representing South Carolina and Georgia's Gullah-Geechee culture, plus Native American groups and a mariachi band from Texas. Bringing the salsa is Seguro Que Si, a high school band from Kissimmee, Fla.
President Obama takes the oath of office for a second term on Sunday and Monday. By the time he is through Monday, he and President Franklin D. Roosevelt will be the only two presidents to have taken the presidential oath four times — Roosevelt because he was elected four times, and Obama because he will have taken the oath twice the first time and twice the second.
Obama took the oath twice in 2009 because he and Chief Justice John Roberts messed it up a bit the first time and redid it a second time in private to quell any questions about Obama being president.
First lady Michelle Obama waves after addressing the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4.
Credit Chris Jackson / AFP/Getty Images
Diplomacy with style: The Obamas pose with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace ahead of a state banquet on May 24, 2011. Michelle's gown was designed by American fashion designer Tom Ford.
Credit Charles Dharapak / AP
In the garden: Michelle holds up broccoli as she participates in the White House Kitchen Garden Fall Harvest with students on the South Lawn of the White House on Oct. 20, 2010.
Credit Charles Dharapak / AP
Typical American: Michelle leaves a Target department store in Alexandria, Va., after doing some shopping on Sept. 29, 2011. Her style choices range from expensive, high-end designers to discount stores like Target.
Credit Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP
Let's move: Michelle and a group of children try to break the Guinness World Record for the most people doing jumping jacks in a 24-hour period, at the White House on Oct. 11, 2011. Michelle's anti-obesity campaign, Let's Move, focuses on teaching children good nutrition and regular exercise.
Credit Alex Brandon / AP
Aww: Obama sneaks an extra smooch after kissing Michelle for the "Kiss Cam" at the basketball game between U.S. and Brazil, on July 16, 2012, in Washington, D.C.
Credit Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
First family: Obama walks on stage with his family to deliver his victory speech on election night on Nov. 6, 2012, in Chicago.
Credit Jae C. Hong / AP
First lady: Michelle Obama waves after addressing the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4, 2012.
Credit Alan diaz / AP
On the campaign trail: Michelle greets supporters at Broward College in Davie, Fla., on Oct. 22, 2012, where she rallied grass-root supporters and spoke of what's at stake in the election for Floridians. Michelle was seen as an asset on the campaign trail, where she often drew large crowds.
Credit Mark Wilson / Getty Images
First dance: Newly sworn in President Obama and the first lady dance during the inaugural ball on Jan. 20, 2009, in Washington, D.C.
Credit Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty Images
First lady Michelle Obama paints a bookshelf at Burrville Elementary School in Washington, D.C., as part of the National Day of Service on Saturday.
Originally published on Tue January 22, 2013 10:28 am
Ask yourself this question: How weird would it be if you changed your hair and it was on the news?
No, seriously. Pull back from everything you know about celebrity and pretend it's about you. You change your hair. You decide, "Hey, you know what? It's been long for a while; what if I went a little shorter?" And so you go a little shorter. And then it is on the news.
On-air challenge: You will be given the first names of two famous people, past or present. The first person's last name, when you drop the initial letter, becomes the second person's last name. For example, given "Harold" and "Kingsley," the answer would be "Harold Ramis" and "Kingsley Amis."
Last week's challenge: Think of two familiar, unhyphenated, eight-letter words that contain the letters A, B, C, D, E and F, plus two others, in any order. What words are these?