Public Prepares to Greet New President

Allowing easy access weighed against security concerns as Inauguration nears.

ByABC News
January 11, 2009, 6:12 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2008 -- At the inauguration rehearsal today there was a stand-in for the president-elect with his hand on the Bible.

Nine days from now, when Barack Obama takes the oath of office, he will use Abraham Lincoln's Bible, a potent symbol of how far the nation has come in the 200 years since Lincoln was born.

"Barack Obama has changed America by just getting elected," said Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

The American people apparently agree. According to a new ABC News poll, 58 percent of Americans think Obama's presidency will improve race relations. That number is up 16 percent from last summer.

There are estimates that as many as 2 million people may come to the nation's capital for this historic inauguration, which would be the biggest crowd ever in Washington, D.C.

That would be bigger than President Johnson's inauguration in 1965, which drew 1.2 million people, and the Million Man March in 1995, when 800,000 people showed up.

There will be a record effort by the city to keep the millions of spectators at this year's inauguration safe. At least 28 agencies will provide security and 8,000 Washington police will be on duty backed by 10,000 National Guardsmen from around the country.

For the first time during an inauguration, all the major bridges between Virginia and Washington, D.C., will be shut to regular traffic.

"It's a vulnerable event, simply because you bring together an incoming president, an outgoing president, Congress, the courts, the Cabinet and that's an attractive target," said U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

But some say tightened security must be balanced with access.

"The idea is not to keep people out of the Mall or to keep people away from the inauguration," says Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia. "This after all is their president, their Mall, it's their inauguration."

Around the corner from the White House, Steve Blum has worked the door at the famous Willard Hotel for more than 20 years. He said he's excited about the new president.