Presidential inauguration celebration receives mixed reviews

Today President George W. Bush will make his second oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, concluding a week of concerts, fireworks, parades and candlelight dinners. Elsewhere, a war is raging and tsunami-ravaged countries are burying their dead. For some, this is why the extravagant celebration should have a different tone.

“A presidential inauguration is a testament to the power of democracy, a symbol of our confidence in the popular will and a sign of hope for freedom-loving people everywhere,” Bush said while addressing supporters at an event this week.

“Historically we couldn’t suspend it because of a war,” said USF political science professor Festus Ohaegbulam. “It would have been proper to tone things down.”

The ceremony, Ohaegbulam said, is what is important.

“All the parties are superfluous,” he said. “What the people need to examine is is this celebrating necessary?”

As reported on, the inauguration events will cost about $40 million. The Web site said the money was private funds collected largely from corporations.

Political science major Harry Vanden agrees.

“I think it suggests the extravagance (on the part of) of this administration,” Vanden said. “It’s a celebration by the wealthy for the wealthy.”

But, like Ohaegbulam, he said Bush supporters have every right to celebrate.

“They have a right to celebrate this,” he said. “Frankly, one shouldn’t take this away from them.”

Harry Costello, executive vice president and general manager for Hill & Knowlton Public Relations and a 1978 USF graduate, looked at the celebrations as part of our history.

“Compare it to other inaugurations,” he said. “People shouldn’t negate (this event) based on what is happening in other issues.”

Comparing the cost of the inauguration to the funds pledged to tsunami relief is unfair, Costello said.

“You shouldn’t measure that against the massive outpouring of support for tsunami victims,” he said.

People tend to forget what has happened in the past, Costello said. The concerts and events of this inauguration are comparable to past ceremonies.

Criticizing the event is like criticizing U.S. history, he said.

“It’s a contradiction.”

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.