Inauguration Will Mix Tradition with Typical Trump Unorthodoxy
Incoming president will keep some time-honored customs while striking a more populist tone
The inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump Friday will offer the nation a unique opportunity to celebrate rich and long-held traditions surrounding the peaceful transition of power — but in a hyper-charged partisan climate and with a non-conventional leader set to take the oath of office, there will also be deviations from the usual pomp and circumstance.
The media has given massive attention to reports of celebrities refusing to perform for Trump’s inaugural celebrations, while a handful of Democratic politicians have announced they will shun the events entirely. The president-elect himself has also made some waves by nixing several traditions or tailoring them differently. But there are key traditions Trump will be honoring.
“For Trump, the presidency is not about reaching the highest social status in the land, it is about going to work for the American people.”
“Inauguration Day is turning out to be even bigger than expected. January 20th, Washington D.C. Have fun!” Trump tweeted Saturday.
The president-elect plans to kick off the official celebrations by attending the customary wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington Cemetery with Vice President-Elect Mike Pence. On the eve of his inauguration, Trump will spend the night at the Blair House — a tradition that began when Jimmy Carter awaited his inauguration there back in 1977.
Trump also plans to attend St. John’s Episcopal Church for a morning service on Jan. 20 with Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, before joining the first couple for either tea or coffee with his wife, Melania. After that, the Trumps and the Obamas will ride together to the U.S. Capitol to attend the swearing-in ceremony.
Although Trump plans to keep most of Inauguration Day’s revered elements, the president-elect has opted to make a few alterations and ditch other traditions.
One of the most notable changes concerns who will be announcing the inauguration parade. Eighty-nine-year-old Charles Brotman has announced every single parade since Dwight D. Eisenhower’s in 1957. But Trump announced last week that he would be starting something new when he selected freelance announcer Steve Ray to replace Brotman.
Other customary, though not traditional, inaugural elements were denied to Trump.
The president-elect’s big day will be relatively unencumbered — lacking the star power of liberal performers who attended President Obama’s inaugural.
At least one marching band from a D.C. public school always participates in the festivities; this time around, there are no takers.
But Trump and his team don’t seem particularly bothered with the few absences.
“What we’ve done instead of trying to surround him with what people consider A-listers is we are going to surround him with the soft sensuality of the place,” Tom Barrack, the head of Trump’s inaugural committee, told reporters at Trump Tower last week. “It’s a much more poetic cadence than having a circus-like celebration that’s a coronation … That’s the way this president-elect wanted it. I think it will be contributive. It will be beautiful. The cadence of it is going to be, ‘Let me get back to work.'”
Instead of an A-lister, Trump will have former “America’s Got Talent” contestant Jackie Evancho sing for his inauguration. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, The Rockettes, and the marching band from the historically black Talladega College are also set to perform during the festivities.
Some big-name acts have also agreed to perform for celebrations the day before Trump’s inauguration: Toby Keith, Lee Greenwood, 3 Doors Down, The Piano Guys, and The Frontmen of Country are slated to perform.
“Other traditions that are being broken, Trump is not breaking by choice,” Eddie Zipperer, assistant professor for Political Science at Georgia Military College, told LifeZette in an email. “Many of the breaks — no D.C. school bands, fewer performers — are being forced on him by the mass tantrum being thrown by the Left.”
There will be some minor differences between Trump’s inauguration and those of previous presidents, as well. Trump currently has “no plans” to order special plates for his vehicle motorcade that will carry him from the U.S. Capitol to the White House after his swearing-in ceremony, inaugural committee spokesman Boris Epshteyn told The Wall Street Journal. In years past, the newly inaugurated president’s D.C. license plate was designated by a No. 1, with the vice president’s as No. 2.
Although the newly sworn-in president has attended as many as 14 inaugural balls in years past, Trump plans to only attend three on Jan. 20. His inaugural parade will last approximately 1.5 hours shorter than previous parades. In addition, Legal Sea Foods, the traditional supplier of New England clam chowder for inaugural celebrations, says that it has not been contacted for catering this year.
But even with a relatively unconventional president soon to be at the helm of the country, the American people needn’t fear that Trump won’t honor the country’s heritage while preparing to serve in the Oval Office.
“Seems to me that Trump is breaking with traditions that are pretentious and frivolous. For example, attending 20 balls. Basically, anything President Snow from the Hunger Games would demand, Trump is getting rid of,” Zipperer said. “For Trump, the presidency is not about reaching the highest social status in the land, it is about going to work for the American people.”