Uncovering the Inauguration

ASPR was proud to support client 360 Live Media in sharing its views about how to update the Inauguration. The following op-ed by 360 Live Media CEO Don Neal recently appeared in The Washington Post.


In an election cycle that saw all the old rules broken, why should the staid, traditional inauguration ceremony be left out of the fun?

That’s the question my colleagues and I at 360 Live Media asked ourselves. We took on an exercise of building a different kind of experience for the presidential inauguration. We started by wondering if standing outside in January staring up at a podium or distantly watching the ceremony on TV was really the way we would design an inauguration for the 21st century. 

While the ceremony may seem steeped in tradition, it has evolved a bit through the years. For instance, the location was changed in 1980 from the eastern front to the western front of the Capitol for Ronald Reagan’s 1981 ceremony. That change stuck.

First, organizers should engage the public early. Get people excited, connected and ready to participate. The inaugural committee should unite the country on what we must do as a nation. Certainly, we understand any change has to fit into the constitutional requirements for the handover of power. But even within those parameters, there is room for creativity.

In that spirit, let’s have people look over a list of issues. They then could vote on their smartphones with the result being a shared national priorities list.

We need to give the American people a role in the experience, a job. This job could include reading the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the president-elect’s platform or agenda for the first 100 days or participating in a community-service project.

There should be more attention paid as one president and family leave the White House and the new residents move in; this should be televised and include the handing over of keys, moving in of household items, etc. This would include a brief ceremony, lighthearted and amusing, that would highlight the ease of the transition.

We should make a game of understanding of what our founders set forth for us. That would mean creating an online game that would test participants about, say, the amendments to the Constitution. Players with the most points would be competing for a tour of the Oval Office, a behind-the-scenes look at the Gettysburg Address narrated by a renowned historian or for a chance to play a role in the actual inauguration ceremony.

Instead of having only exclusive galas attended by the rich and famous in the District, how about every VFW, civic arena, convention center, hotel ballroom and high school gym hosts a national party celebrating democracy, the new administration and our national unity?

We should launch a tribute to our military personnel who aren’t in the United States and celebrate a new inaugural day of national unity.

At the main inaugural ball, Cabinet nominees should be seated with relevant congressional committee chairs and ranking minority-party members. We strongly believe that the best way to encourage effective actions is to have face-to-face meetings and social interactions.

Jan. 20 is one part Fourth of July, one part New Year’s Eve, one part Super Bowl Sunday and one part something new, something that doesn’t exist, something that celebrates what is good, honorable and noble about our democracy. It’s the hope of a new president and the healing of a divided nation.

America is home to disruption and reinvention. And 2021 is just around the corner.