Image: Barack Obama, Joe Biden
J. Scott Applewhite  /  AP
Vice President Joe Biden looks on as President Barack Obama speaks Wednesday to their senior staff to assert expectations on ethics and conduct.
updated 1/21/2009 8:39:43 PM ET 2009-01-22T01:39:43

The walls in the West Wing are oddly bare, the Oval Office still looks like it did during the Bush years, and the advisers to the president are just trying to get their e-mail working. But let there be no doubt: This is now Barack Obama's White House.

His young daughters, Malia and Sasha, got to take the day off from school Wednesday after an exhilarating late-night scamper around their new home.

His wife, Michelle, walked out of the Oval Office side-by-side with him — hardly a common image for that territory.

And then there was Obama himself, lightly rested after a late night of inaugural balls, but ready to get started on his new job.

First day on the job
Here's his first day as president:

Pray for the nation. Jump into Middle East diplomacy. Sign a batch of executive orders on ethics and open government. Hash over the twin crises of war and recession with top advisers. Open up the White House to greet some joyously overwhelmed visitors.

Oh, and take the oath of office again (Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the opening lines on Tuesday, and he and Obama went through the drill again out of what White House counsel Greg Craig called "an abundance of caution.")

What the public did not see was Obama, standing alone with his thoughts in the Oval Office. He did that for about 10 minutes at the start of the day.

"He wanted to absorb the moment that he was in, to think about the people who have served before him, and also to think about the work that he is now undertaking," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Obama also privately read a note left by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Gibbs said he didn't ask Obama about that one: "I knew he wasn't going to tell me anyway."

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Moving into a new place can always be tricky. Try doing it while trying to move the country.

So some details will just have to wait, like whether to overhaul the Oval Office.

Made calls to foreign leaders
Obama made his first presidential phone calls to foreign leaders from the same desk used by Bush and others before him. The office's signature rug, bursting with rays like sunshine, is the one that Bush and his wife picked.

Meanwhile, some of the people chosen to get out Obama's message had trouble just getting cleared into the building.

Those that did found some glitches in signing onto their computers or getting their e-mail. Calls to the first lady's office or the communications director rolled into voice mail — for the people who held those jobs under Bush.

The West Wing walls, normally covered with giant photos of the president, were blank and waiting for replacements.

Obama, purposeful as ever, was ready to go.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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