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Familiar Transfer of Power Ushers in a Different Kind of President

Americans will watch a familiar ritual usher in an unfamiliar style of leadership and governing on Friday when Donald Trump is inaugurated Friday.
Image: Donald Trump, Melania Trump
President-elect Donald Trump, left, and his wife Melania Trump arrive to the "Make America Great Again Welcome Concert" at the Lincoln Memorial, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Evan Vucci / AP
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Americans watched a familiar ritual of U.S. democracy usher in an unfamiliar style of leadership and governing on Friday when Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.

The first day of Trump’s presidency has been predictably filled with the pomp and circumstance that has accompanied the inaugurations of all modern presidents. He and his family attended a morning service near the White House at St. John’s Church before then visiting his soon-to-be home to have tea with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

The two couples briefly posed for photos as Trump arrived and Melania Trump presented the outgoing first lady with a gift. They met for more than an hour before heading to the U.S. Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony.

There, Trump took the oath of office at the Constitutionally-prescribed noon hour and delivered his inaugural address. The new president then attended a luncheon with lawmakers and will soon after take a celebratory trip back to the White House to view the inaugural parade before attending the inaugural balls Friday night.

“Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you the people,” Trump said in his inauguration address.

What happens after the ceremonies and celebrating are over is less certain for a man who defied political norms and beat long odds to go from brash billionaire businessman and television celebrity, to become President of the United States.

He promised throughout his run to "bring our jobs back" and "strengthen our borders," declaring, "we're going to do things that haven't been done for our country for many, many decades. It's going to change. I promise you, it's going to change."

Trump’s inaugural address was heavy with many of the themes he harped on during his campaign. He pledged to put “America first” while railing against Washington insiders who have “forgotten” large swaths of the country.

Those were the promises that swept Trump into office. He pledged to build a wall on the southern border paid for by Mexico, repeal the Affordable Care Act, destroy ISIS, and roll back trade deals he feels hurt American workers and sent jobs overseas. The message demolished Hillary Clinton’s “blue wall” by propelling Trump to victories in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and beyond, ultimately paving his road to the White House.

A Different Approach

In the more than two months since the election, Trump has done little to curb the unorthodox and unpredictable tendencies he displayed as a candidate. He has feuded with U.S. intelligence leaders over their findings that Russia was involved in efforts to influence November's election, only acknowledging that probability last week.

PHOTOS: Scenes from the Inauguration

He has startled traditional U.S. allies with his favorable talk toward Russia while at times questioning western alliances like NATO. He has sent mixed messages to Capitol Hill about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and his cabinet nominees have publicly disagreed with him on several of the above issues.

He has used Twitter to chastise Democratic Rep. John Lewis for saying he doesn’t view Trump as a legitimate president. That prompted nearly 70 Democratic members of Congress to boycott the ceremony.

In addition to Lewis, Trump has used Twitter to respond to actress Meryl Streep's dissent at the Golden Globes and continues to blast the media for what he perceives as unfair coverage. He has sent stocks plunging by calling out companies in 140 character posts.

He even tweeted his former rival Clinton is “guilty as hell” after reports the Justice Department inspector general will review the FBI’s handling of the investigation into the former secretary of state’s email use.

Despite that, Clinton is attending the swearing-in ceremony and was cheered graciously by the crowd of mostly Trump supporters. She is wearing white, the same color she wore on big nights of her campaign as a tribute to the sufferage movement, and joined by her husband, former president Bill Clinton and two other former presidents — Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. The lone surviving president not attending is George H.W. Bush, who was hospitalized this week and wrote the incoming president a note apologizing for his absence.

Related: What to Know About Donald Trump’s Inauguration

Attendance from the former presidents will be a show of bipartisanship as Trump prepares to inherit a segmented nation following a contentious presidential election during which he was accused of fanning the flames of division. Though he earned a commanding victory in the electoral college in November, he did it while earning nearly 2.9 million less votes than Clinton.

Thousands of protesters are expected descend on Washington, D.C. as well, some in an effort to disrupt the ceremony and others to voice opposition to his presidency. Police clashed with some groups of protesters who smashed store windows and destroyed newspaper stands, though none have had a significant impact on the ceremony thus far.

Unpopular But Room To Grow

Trump will be sworn into office with the lowest ever approval ratings for an incoming president, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this week. A majority of Americans, 52 percent, say they disapprove of how he’s handled his transition, and nearly 70 percent of Americans say the president’s use of Twitter is a bad idea.

And the top priority of the incoming administration is to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act at time when the law has never been more popular, according to the poll. Forty-five percent of Americans now say the law was a good idea, the highest percentage since the NBC/WSJ poll began asking the question in April 2009.

But Trump will also enter the White House as the country grows increasingly optimistic about the future. The NBC News/WSJ poll found a plurality of the country thinks it will be better off five years from now and the number of Americans who say the nation is heading in the right direction has gone up.

He claimed a number of victories as president-elect by using tax breaks to entice Carrier to keep some jobs in Indiana it had planned to move to Mexico. He also took credit for Ford’s decision to scrap a plant in Mexico and add jobs in Michigan. Ford’s CEO called the move a “vote of confidence” in Trump but said the company would have made the same decision had he not the White House.

The jockeying with corporate America has helped him build on his image as a populist hero for parts of the country that have felt forgotten. And it’s a theme, aides say, Trump will build on during his inaugural address.

“It’s a movement like we’ve never seen anywhere in the world, they say. There’s never been a movement last this,” Trump said at the inauguration-eve concert at the Lincoln Memorial. “And it’s something very, very special, and we’re going to unify our country.”