Alumna Plays Key Role in Inauguration

As staff director of the congressional inaugural committee, Jean Bordewich, M.B.A. ’82, led President Obama’s escort party to the ceremony.

January 23, 2013

Monday Jean Bordewich was among a select group of leaders and members of the military who walked with President Obama to the grounds of the Capitol moments before he took the oath of office.

It’s an event she’s long anticipated.

The day after the last presidential inauguration in 2009, Ms. Bordewich was named staff director of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. In that role, she has helped lead the organization of the inauguration ceremony, serving as staff representative for Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who chairs the committee. She is also staff director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

What were her favorite memories from inauguration?

History came alive at the White House breakfast reception before the ceremony, she said. “I was looking out the window of the Blue Room, seeing the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial, when the president and first lady walked into the room to join the vice president and his wife,” she said. “The sense of American history, the striving of each generation of Americans and their elected leaders to advance the ideals and principles on which our nation was founded was very real.”

Leading the escort party for President Obama was “exhilarating,” Ms. Bordewich said. “We walked slowly through the Capitol, across the crypt, down two flights of stairs to the west front of the Capitol and then out into the open, where we saw almost a million people gathered and cheering on the National Mall between the Capitol and Lincoln Monument.”

At the conclusion of the swearing-in ceremonies, Ms. Bordewich escorted the Biden family off the platform. “President Obama stood next to me, and we took one last look at the spectacular view of the Mall and all the Americans who had gathered there for this historic event,” she said.

Organizing inauguration requires thousands of people in dozens of agencies throughout the metro region to work together, she said. In addition to the ceremony at the Capitol organized by Ms. Bordewich’s committee, inauguration includes the parade, balls, a national day of service and a prayer service at the National Cathedral. The Presidential Inaugural Committee oversees many of these events.

Ms. Bordewich’s committee also works closely with the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region, the umbrella organization for the military services involved in the inauguration; with the Secret Service; and with many law enforcement and security agencies.

While planning the inauguration ceremony is a “massive organizational challenge,” Ms. Bordewich was motivated by her love of American history.

“I have especially enjoyed learning about previous inaugurations and integrating the theme for this year’s inauguration—‘Faith in America’s Future’—into the celebration,” she said.

She said this year’s inauguration holds special significance since 2013 marks the sesquicentennial of the completion of the Capitol dome and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“It’s a tremendous reminder that generation after generation, Americans have persisted and struggled to achieve greater freedom, equality, opportunity and justice,” she said.