Inaugural Leader


Emmett Beliveau '99 manages the details

By Ruth Jacobs

Emmett Beliveai '99It takes a person with a calm and collected demeanor to manage the logistics of a presidential inauguration. How calm? Emmett Beliveau ’99, executive director and chief executive officer of the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), juggled organizing Obama’s Grant Park victory celebration with the birth of his first child—and lived to tell the story.

Beliveau, then director of advance for the Obama campaign, was putting the finishing touches on Obama’s Nov. 4 event when he got the call. His wife was going into labor 10 days early. “We executed the backup plan and my deputy stepped in to take over coordination for election-night planning,” he said.

Talk about a balancing act.

But Beliveau shares the credit (“Thankfully both of our moms made it there,” he said), as he does in his role heading the PIC. “There really is just a phenomenal level of coordination and planning,” he said, speaking about the other committees working on the inauguration—the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee and the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

The committees have distinct roles. “We’re essentially the voice of the Obamas and the Bidens in this process,” said Beliveau.

Early on, Obama voiced his desire to make this one of the most open, accessible inaugurations in American history. “At the President-elect’s direction, the first thing we did was work for about two weeks with the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee to come up with an alternate staging area for the participants of the parade,” Beliveau said. “For the first time ever, the entire length of the National Mall, from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, will be open to the public.”

"[Beliveau] not only has a prodigious grasp of the details of the process but he has a very open and gentle manner about him that allows him to get along with others. And he was that way when he was at Colby."
-Dana Professor of Government Anthony Corrado

Beliveau leads a staff of more than 400 as they plan everything from the opening ceremony on Sunday (managed by Jean-Michel Picher ’96) and all 10 official inaugural balls to the national prayer service and the national day of service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday—one of many efforts to extend the celebration beyond ticketholders to people across the country.

Each of these elements includes a level of detail that Dana Professor of Government Anthony Corrado, who has worked on presidential campaigns, calls “numbing.” It means, he said, thinking about every possible scenario (the early arrival of a baby, for example) and coming up with backup plans. “When you're arranging these events there are a lot of logistical, practical, and political components of each event that you have to think about,” Corrado said.

And the pressure is intense. “The end product is going to be covered by the national press corps, so that if there's a mistake, it's going to be on the evening news,” said Corrado.

Beliveau’s demeanor suits him well for this type of work, said Corrado, who taught him at Colby. “It’s a very rare combination—someone who can work with diverse people under enormous time pressure trying to put together lots of logistical details,” he said. “He not only has a prodigious grasp of the details of the process but he has a very open and gentle manner about him that allows him to get along with others. And he was that way when he was at Colby."

After graduating from Colby with a degree in government, Beliveau worked for two presidential campaigns—Al Gore's and John Kerry's—and between the two earned a law degree from Georgetown University. He had not planned to work on another campaign. Then he met Obama.

“I was wildly impressed with him and liked him a great deal and thought that he was the type of individual that could truly change the country,” Beliveau said. “It’s very humbling to be in a position of responsibility that is connected to this day.”

A page-one Wall Street Journal article highlights Beliveau's work.

A Lewiston Sun-Journal profile details Beliveau’s path to politics.

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  • On January 23, 2009, Paul E. Cote wrote:
    As a former Colby Chaplain (1978-1986) and having known Emmett since his birth, I was pleased with the article. His political career actually got a boost when President Jimmy Carter stayed with Emmett's maternal grandparents in Bangor at the time of a Presidential Town Meeting. Emmett was pictured in the national press shaking hands with the President who was seated on the couch in the Murray living room. He may have been less than two years old at the time. We who witnessed the event are not surprised by his current position in the White House.