Like Lincoln, Obama Will Ride the Rails To D.C.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Barack Obama has evoked Abraham Lincoln ever since launching his campaign at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill.
Now he plans to arrive in Washington the same way that Lincoln did in 1861, with a train trip that will include stops, speeches and crowds along the way.
On Jan. 17, Obama and his family will start the day with an appearance in Philadelphia, where they will board a chartered Amtrak train. The train will stop in Wilmington, Del., where the Obamas will be joined by Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Then comes a stop in Baltimore before the group's arrival that evening in Washington.
"He's replicating the last leg of Lincoln's inaugural journey to Washington," said historian Harold Holzer, author of "Lincoln President Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861." "This guy's reverence for Lincoln has no bounds."
Lincoln had left his home in Springfield on Feb. 11, 1861, for a 12-day journey east to Washington, during which he made 101 speeches. Philadelphia and Baltimore were his last stops before the nation's capital.
Obama's plans, announced by his Presidential Inaugural Committee, set the tone for the many activities leading to the swearing-in at noon Jan. 20 at the Capitol. The official Washington events are scheduled to begin Jan. 18, most likely with a large-scale event on the Mall in which Obama makes an appearance.
Details about the Washington events, as well as those in other cities, have not been made public. Even as they scrambled for information, officials in the other locations celebrated the news.
"The mayor is elated," said Ian Brennan, a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon. "It presents a tremendous opportunity . . . considering that there are people who can't make it down to D.C. on the day" of the inauguration.
M&T Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards would be ideal for mass gatherings, as would Fort McHenry, where the city honored Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps in October, Brennan said, later adding that law enforcement officials are expecting "upwards of 150,000" to turn out.
Baltimore's hotels already were heavily booked because of the city's proximity to the District, where record crowds are projected for Inauguration Day. Baltimore's law enforcement officers and emergency responders were told awhile back that all must work Jan. 20.
Now, the city has another challenge. "We're going to need the police, traffic control staff -- the whole nine yards," Brennan said.
Wilmington officials expressed their excitement, too. During the campaign, Biden frequently noted that he commuted daily from his home in Delaware to his Senate job in Washington via Amtrak. But on this trip, he will hardly be an average Joe.