With emotions running high, a record-setting crowd bearing witness and an unprecedented number of former presidents – Carter, Bush, Clinton and Bush – looking on together on the Capitol Steps, Barack Obama placed his right hand on Abraham Lincoln’s Bible on Tuesday and stirringly affirmed: “I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will execute the office President of the United States faithfully.”
Even Mother Nature seemed under Obama’s spell. By the start of the ceremony, the skies over Washington, D.C., were clear but for the thinnest wisps of cloud, as a blinding sun kept winter temperatures tolerable. As one Obama aide put it, “if Barack Obama can deliver 70 degrees and sunny in Chicago for Election Day in November, we never had any doubt the sun would shine on his inauguration.”
In his much-anticipated inaugural address, Obama thanked his predecessor “for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition,” then quickly got down to the business at hand.
“That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood,” he said. “Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”
Challenges Are Real
Referring to the nation’s problems, especially those in housing and health care, the new commander-in-chief noted “that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met.
“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.”
In conclusion, Obama quoted George Washington on the challenge of starting anew, and said, “With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”
Bush’s Note of Welcome
Continuing a White House ritual started by Ronald Reagan, President Bush left a note in the Oval Office for his successor, wishing him well as he takes the reins of the executive branch.
“I won’t provide any details, but the theme is similar to what he’s said since election night about the fabulous new chapter President-elect Obama is about to start, and that he wishes him the very best,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.
Earlier in the day, after attending the traditional pre-inauguration church service for about an hour, the Obamas paid a call on the Bushes at the White House, with Mrs. Obama, wearing a sparkling gold sheath dress with matching long coat, presenting Laura Bush with a gift.
The former first lady’s office said it was a pen and a journal for Mrs. Bush to write her upcoming memoir.
• With reporting by SANDRA SOBIERAJ WESTFALL