Obama to Follow Lincoln Journey to Inauguration

President-elect Barack Obama will kick off his inaugural celebration on Jan. 17 -- the weekend before his swearing in as the country's 44th president -- by traveling on a train to the nation's capital.

Obama is retracing the journey of his political idol, Abraham Lincoln, who also rode to his swearing-in on a train from Philadelphia, making stops along the way.

Obama and his family will start their daylong journey with an event in Philadelphia before boarding the train and picking up Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his family in Wilmington, Del. The president-elect and his group then will make a stop in Baltimore before making their way to Washington.

Obama will take office Jan. 20.

"We hope to include as many Americans as possible who wish to participate, but can't be in Washington," Emmett Beliveau, the executive director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said in a statement. "These events will allow us to do that while honoring the rich history and tradition of previous inaugural journeys."

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon said Monday that Obama would give a speech there, and officials expect up to 150,000 people to attend. No location has been selected, but options include M& T Bank Stadium, home to the Baltimore Ravens.

A triumphant address before a massive crowd would offer an extreme contrast to Lincoln's experiences in Baltimore in February 1861, when he was smuggled under cover of darkness from one train station to another to avoid a feared assassination attempt. At the time, the maneuver was denounced in newspaper accounts as cowardly, said Courtney B. Wilson, executive director of the B& O Railroad Museum.

To some extent, Lincoln's caution was validated two months later, when Union troops traveling between the two stations clashed with Confederate sympathizers in the "Baltimore Riots," which became known as the first bloodshed of the Civil War.

Obama aides said Philadelphia and Baltimore were chosen because of the roles they played at pivotal moments in U.S. history and because they fit in with the inauguration's theme, "Renewing America's Promise."

The committee has said the theme was chosen to underscore Obama's "commitment to restoring opportunity and possibility for all and re-establishing America's standing as a beacon of hope around the world."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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