• U.S.

THE INAUGURAL: JIMMY’S JUMBO JAMBOREE

6 minute read
TIME

Warren Earl Burger was understandably miffed when the mail brought his invitation to Jimmy Carter’s Inauguration this week as the 39th President of the U.S. It asked a fee of $25 for a hard, wooden bleacher seat to watch the 2-hr. Inaugural parade. “If I have to pay $25,” joked the Chief Justice of the U.S., “I’ll charge Carter $50 to swear him in.”

Was the billing of Burger the epitome of egalitarianism, a felonious breach of etiquette or a simple gaffe? Most probably a gaffe, and as such it typified the confusion of what may turn out to be the most chaotic Inaugural since Andy Jackson’s admirers tracked mud all over the White House in a frenzy to shake his hand.

A committee representing numerous ethnic groups was upset about the Inauguration Eve concert in Kennedy Center. The stars include Actors John Wayne and Paul Newman, Actresses Bette Davis and Shirley MacLaine, Comics Elaine May, Mike Nichols and Redd Foxx, Athletes Muhammad Ali and Hank Aaron, Satirist Chevy Chase, Soprano Beverly Sills, Conductor Leonard Bernstein. Yet the Ethnic Cultural Inaugural Committee complained that the cast “doesn’t reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of America.” Most of the carping, however, centered on invitations and tickets. Some 300,000 “general invitations” on soft eggshell paper and colorful 16-page guides to the festivities were dispatched from computerized lists. They were meant mainly as souvenirs and included a warning in small type that they were good only for viewing the oath-taking and parade. Somehow one went to an inmate at a Texas state penitentiary, another went to a child who, having been elected president of her grade-school class, had written Carter on how to win the presidency.

The more valuable invitations went to 32,000 people and allowed each to buy two tickets at $25 apiece to attend one of the six inaugural parties. A more elite group of 19,500 could also reserve bleacher parade seats at $25, and 11,400 could attend one of two receptions for Vice President Walter Mondale. Yet no one made sure that the more exclusive list included the Carter delegates and alternates whose votes gave him the nomination at the Democratic National Convention, nor was there a specific mailing to the electors who formally put him in office. The Democratic National Committee was disgruntled at having only 500 tickets to distribute. John Fishwick, president of the Norfolk and Western Railway, had graciously agreed to serve as host for one of the six postInaugural parties. He was astonished when he failed to get an invitation to the swearing-in, parade or receptions.

The Inaugural planners, working out of an aging, two-story World War II building, professed confidence that the capital would not be overrun by huge crowds, although the six Inauguration Night parties would, as usual, offer little room for dancing. Nonetheless, major hotels are requiring four-day minimum stays at the standard $50 to $60 per day for two people. Those wanting limousines can get them for up to $250 a day but have to rent them for a minimum of five days. For the less affluent, there are free tourmobiles and shuttle buses.

Carter expects to attend most of the major events, beginning with the Kennedy Center concert on Wednesday night. A 35-min. interfaith religious service is to be conducted at 8 a.m. Thursday from the east steps of the Lincoln Memorial by the Reverend Bruce Edwards, Carter’s pastor in Plains. The service will include a short sermon by the Reverend Martin Luther King Sr.—at the same site from which his son delivered his famed “I Have a Dream” peroration in 1963. Asked whether he will attend, Carter replied: “Daddy King won’t like it if I don’t.”

After the 11:30 a.m. swearing-in, Carter will lunch at the Capitol. At 1:30 p.m., the 1¾-mile, 2-hr, parade down Pennsylvania Avenue will begin, featuring some 150 floats. Georgia is sending a 40-ft.-long peanut-shaped balloon, tethered by about 50 former campaign workers who will throw bags of peanuts to the crowd. Carter and Mondale will watch the parade in front of the White House from a 60-ft. by 40-ft. solar-heated reviewing stand. The stand, containing 60 seats, will be decorated with a 150-lb. presidential seal carved in mahogany by Atlanta Sculptor Charles Mitchell. The viewing site will be protected by sheets of inch-thick bulletproof glass.

Jimmy’s big day will be a long one, ending with parties running into the early morning hours. On Friday and Saturday, he and Rosalynn will hold an exhausting series of White House receptions: for some 800 citizens in whose homes Carter stayed during his two-year campaign; the nation’s Governors; D.N.C., labor and business leaders; friends from Georgia; members of Congress; the diplomatic corps; and representatives of the Armed Forces (including 58 enlisted men invited by former Navy Officer Carter).

For visitors, there need be little idle time. There will be some 200 musical events, featuring jazz groups, bluegrass bands and an all-night soul festival. A giant square dance for 10,000 people will take place at the cavernous National Visitor Center (the old Union Station). There will be puppet shows for children at the Kennedy Center, readings of literature by Georgia’s James Dickey at Folger Shakespeare Library, an Inaugural flower show at the Botanic Garden. For emergencies there will also be 17 first-aid stations, four cardiac units, three lost-children centers and six “warming stations” (it was below zero at Dulles International Airport a couple of mornings last week).

Some imaginative private citizens plan to keep things warm with unofficial bashes. Agribusinessman Elmer Carlson of Audubon, Iowa, has rented part of a Washington hotel for a three-day mass party for 600 lowans. He said he is doing it to thank “Jimmy and Rosalynn for the work they had to do to get elected, coming from a boondocks like Plains.” About 300 Plains folks are coming, too, aboard the Peanut Special, the first passenger train to leave that tiny town in some 25 years.

As for the subject of all the celebration, he spent much of last week honing an Inaugural speech that he hopes to keep brief. On reading a volume of all past Inaugural Addresses, Carter especially admired the tight, 1,500-word speech by John F. Kennedy and Woodrow Wilson’s esteemed first Inaugural Address. Carter asked his top appointees and various staffers, as well as Mondale, for suggestions. Then, working in his study in Plains, he jotted his ideas on small pieces of paper, arranging them in speech sequence. Speechwriter Patrick Anderson provided a working draft, which Carter revised and polished, reading the results into a tape recorder to master his delivery. When he presents the speech this Thursday, a presidency that seemed to materialize out of nowhere will begin its unpredictable journey into an uncertain future.

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