Obama to be sworn in today

  • Today President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president, becoming the first black president
  • New social media allows unique ways for people to view and participate in the inauguration process
  • The inaugural festivities are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.
  • Obama's inauguration is the most expensive ever, with costs expected to reach more than $150 million

Today millions worldwide will watch history when President-elect Barack Obama officially becomes the nation's 44th president. People will tune in with televisions, computers and even cellular telephones to see the first black president sworn into the office.

The inaugural festivities are set to begin at 9 a.m. These will include musical selections, the vice president and president's oath of office, Obama's inaugural address, George W. Bush's departure ceremony, a parade and inaugural balls.

McGee Young, assistant professor of political science, said Obama's speech will probably touch on broad themes in terms of policy and priorities because he has already detailed his policy initiatives. Young said he expects an uplifting and motivating speech with calls to service and encouragement of the American public to make sacrifices to improve the economy. He said Obama's inaugural address will be his first defining moment and will most likely emulate previous addresses such as those from John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln.

Young said the inauguration will attract a large audience because of the Bush administration's historically low approval rating, noting that Bush is competing with Richard Nixon for the lowest of all time. Obama, on the other hand, has an unparalleled positive approval rating coming into office, Young said.

He said new social media technology democratizes the inauguration process by providing new ways for people to participate and voice their concerns.

Gee Ekachai, a social media professor, said the new media technology attached to the inauguration adds to its historic element.

She said Obama's inauguration is also historic because it's the most expensive ever, with costs expected to reach more than $150 million. But the cost has come with criticism due to the nation's current economic state.

Obama's inauguration could attract the widest and largest audience in inauguration history, Ekachai said.

People can now watch and participate in new ways that were not available four years ago, giving them the sense that they are a part of the history, she said. She cited new personal media examples like Twitter, CNN's Facebook application and an iPhone application.

But most viewers will probably stick to television. Janet Boles, professor of political science, said she is attending an organization's potluck to view the inauguration.

Boles said she expects a scintillating speech.

"(Obama) has a lot to live up to in terms of his reputation as a great speaker," Boles said. "Everyone knows that there needs to be an enormous change in economic policy, so it's not just the normal turnover of a new president or even changing parties."

She said the public's general sense of crisis also makes Obama's inaugural address unique, and she expects him to push service, hope, faith and responsibility.

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