Choice Words Could Let Writers View History

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 1, 2009

It's the great inauguration sweepstakes!

Free plane tickets for you and a guest, free hotel, plus tickets to the swearing-in ceremony for Barack Obama, the parade and one of the official balls!

All you have to do is write an online essay, any length, about what the inauguration means to you.

You can also make a donation to the inauguration, but that's not required, according to the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which is making the offer: "No purchase necessary."

Ten winners will be selected, but act now. The filing deadline is 11:59 p.m. Jan. 8, the committee said in a posting on its Web site.

The offer is part of the committee's effort to raise money to pay for the inauguration.

"Unlike past inaugurations, this one won't be funded by lobbyists or corporations," the posting said. "Barack is counting on grassroots supporters like you to make this the most open and accessible inauguration in history." Applicants can donate any amount, up to $50,000, the inauguration's self-imposed limit, committee spokesman Kevin Griffis said. The committee will judge the essays, he said.

But a donation won't help you win, the committee said. "Contributing to Presidential Inaugural Committee 2009 will not improve your chances of winning," the posting said.

Griffis said the offer is also aimed at giving a few people who could not afford to attend the inauguration a chance to do so.

You must be 18 to enter, and you can enter the contest as many times as you like, the committee said. Contestants can enter at

Winners will be selected by Jan. 15 "by the strength of their essay," the posting said, and will be notified by e-mail on or before Jan. 16.

One more thing: The contest is, of course, "void where prohibited by law."

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