WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 — Barack Hussein Obama, 47, made his first journey to the White House as the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday afternoon, leading the inaugural parade after promising a new era of “hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.”
The president lining the parade route twice when he and his wife, Michelle, got out of their limousine, first in front of the U.S. Navy Memorial early along the route and again closer to the White House, where they were joined by Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill. Wearing broad smiles, they waved to the throng, which chanted “Obama! Obama!”
It was Americans’ first glimpse of their new president, who officially assumed power at noon ET, even though he had not formally been sworn in because the inaugural ceremonies were running behind schedule.
After signing documents affirming his nominations to lead the Cabinet departments, Obama had lunch with members of Congress in Statuary Hall inside the U.S. Capitol. The occasion was a somber one, as Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who is suffering from brain cancer, was after having been stricken with what colleagues described as a seizure.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a close friend of the senator’s, told MSNBC that Obama went over to comfort Kennedy, whom he hailed as one of his mentors and a seminal figure in the struggle for civil rights. The seizure was blamed on simple fatigue, and Kennedy was expected to be released from Washington Hospital Center on Wednesday morning.
The Obamas then went outside to review a parade of military units before embarking on the public parade down Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest to the White House, where, in the space of just a few hours, the White House staff completed the clockwork task of .
Still to come were an — 10 in all, each of which Obama said he planned to attend.
In the meantime, Bush and his wife, Laura, for Andrews Air Fierce Base in suburban Maryland, where the newly former Air Force One awaited to fly them home to Midland, Texas.
A little glitch in the oathUsing his full name — including “Hussein,” which some opponents used against him during his presidential campaign — the new president took the oath of office at 12:05 p.m. ET from Chief Justice John Roberts, whose nomination to the court he opposed in 2005 as the junior Democratic senator from Illinois.
Roberts, who used no notes, stumbled at one point, appearing to forget the opening words. Obama, a former constitutional law professor, paused until Roberts got back on track with “I will faithfully execute the office of president to the United States.”
Then, clasping hands with his wife, Obama smiled and waved to a crowd estimated at 1 million to 2 million who jammed the National Mall.
The president thanked his predecessor, George W. Bush, and said he was “humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.”
Obama acknowledged that “we are in the midst of crisis.”
“Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred,” he said. “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.
“Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered,” Obama said. “Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.”
Recalling a verse from the 1st Book of Corinthians, Obama said, “The time has come to set aside childish things,” and he declared: “Today, I say to you 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.”
New president vows to remake AmericaIn an that he rehearsed repeatedly as late as Tuesday morning, Obama balanced a serious and somber tone with hope and optimism, the themes of his precedent-breaking campaign for president.
While asserting that the United States remained “the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth,” the president warned that “everywhere we look, there is work to be done.”
“Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America,” Obama said.
The Obama administration will try to do that by building roads and bridges, expanding the nation’s electric grids and bolstering the digital infrastructure.
He promised to “restore science to its rightful place,” addressing a complaint by critics who said Bush choked off scientific innovation for political purposes. And he said he would “transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.”
Only then did Obama, who is inheriting two wars from Bush, turn to foreign affairs. In what appeared to be an oblique criticism of his predecessor, Obama said America’s ideals “still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.”
Following a Bush administration whose policies strained relations with numerous foreign governments, Obama pointedly addressed “all other peoples and governments who are watching today,” telling them, “America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.”
“We are ready to lead once more,” he declared.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the White House announced one of the new president’s first decisions, an order that all federal agencies until his administration can review them.
Biden sworn in as vice presidentThe inaugural ceremony began with Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens swearing in Biden as vice president at 11:57 a.m.
Obama and Bush arrived together at the Capitol, riding in a motorcade from the White House, where Bush and his wife, Laura, hosted the Obamas and the Bidens.
, thanks to a pulled muscle he suffered Monday, the White House said.
The invocation was delivered by the Rev. Rick Warren, the pastor of the evangelical Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.
Warren’s selection created controversy among some of Obama’s supporters because of his opposition to homosexuality, but he delivered a sober, nonsectarian message saying all Americans were “united, not by race or religion or by blood.”
Reflecting Obama’s achievement in winning the nation’s highest office as a black man, the benediction was delivered by the Rev. Joseph Lowery, founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an engine of the civil rights movement.
Lowery pulled laughter from the crowd with a rhyme familiar in many of America’s black churches:
“We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right,” Lowery, 87, prayed. “That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.”
The crowd thundered back, “Amen!”
Unprecedented securityAn crowd estimated at 1.8 million gathered on the National Mall for the ceremonies. Tens of thousands more lined the parade route to the White House.
Security was unprecedented as Washington endured logistical headaches with major streets and bridges into the capital closed. , and a woman was hospitalized after she fell onto the tracks inside a crowded Metro subway station.
But that did not dim the excitement as a party atmosphere took hold on the Mall.
“Everyone’s got an American flag,” said Shawn Butcher of Marietta, Ga. “Everyone’s happy. Everyone’s smiling.”
Large crowds gathered in public spaces across the country, too, to watch the historic moment. In San Francisco, Bush Street was engulfed in a sea of Obama signs, while in Austin, capital of Bush’s home state, Texas, tickets sold for upward of $50 just to watch on television in bars and restaurants.
Back on the Mall, James Jones, 73, a retired schoolteacher and police officer in Philadelphia, said the moment had a special resonance. In August 1963, he boarded a bus for Washington, and “I heard a gentleman say, ‘I have a dream,’” Jones said.
“We were way, way back,” he said. “We could see the Washington Monument but not Martin Luther King. ... But just being there was important. It was electrifying.”