*Aretha Franklin has been chosen to sing at the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20, according to a full itinerary released Wednesday by his inaugural committee.
Also, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Gabriela Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill will perform a new work composed by John Williams, who also provided music for Obama's election night rally in Chicago's Grant Park.
Others on the schedule represent a nod to Obama's election as the country's first black president. The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King, Jr., was scheduled to offer the event's benediction. Yale University professor Elizabeth Alexander will read an original poem for the Inauguration. The 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist centers her poems and essays on race relations and social movements.
The Tuskegee Airmen, who made history during World War II as the country's first black military pilots only to return home to discrimination and exclusion from victory parades, have also been invited to Obama's inauguration.
Additionally, the itinerary will feature the U.S. Marine and Navy bands; and the San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said the day would be "an event of historic proportion. It is appropriate that the program will include some of the world's most gifted artists from a wide range of backgrounds and genres."
Gay-rights groups are protesting Obama's choice of prominent evangelical minister Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inauguration. While the decision was made as a conciliatory gesture toward social conservatives who opposed him in November, it is drawing fierce criticism among gay activists, mainly due to Warren's support of California's constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. [See related story in today's EUR.]
Warren, whose "Purpose Driven Life" books and lectures have made his church among the largest in the country, remained publicly neutral during the presidential campaign. He invited both Obama and his Republican rival John McCain to his Saddleback Church in Orange County for a forum on faith and public service.
Meanwhile, four million visitors are expected to visit the National Mall as Obama takes the noontime oath from Chief Justice John Roberts on the steps of the Capitol. Vice President-elect Joe Biden will take his oath from Justice John Paul Stevens.
Some 4,000 local police, 4,000 police from around the country and security detail from other government agencies will be on hand – all taking direction from the Secret Service. About 7,500 active duty military and 4,000 National Guard troops will also participate, including a contingent on alert to respond to a chemical attack.