WASHINGTON — Barack Hussein Obama ceremonially opened his
second term on Monday with an assertive Inaugural Address that offered a robust
articulation of modern liberalism in America, arguing that “preserving our
individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.”
On a day that echoed with refrains from the civil rights era and tributes to the
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Obama dispensed with the post-partisan
appeals of four years ago to lay out a forceful vision of advancing gay rights,
showing more tolerance toward illegal immigrants, preserving the social welfare
safety net and acting to stop climate change.
At times he used his speech, delivered from the West Front of the Capitol, to
reprise arguments from the fall campaign, rebutting the notion expressed by
conservative opponents that America risks becoming “a nation of takers” and
extolling the value of proactive government in society. Instead of declaring the
end of “petty grievances,” as he did taking the oath as the 44th president in
2009, he challenged Republicans to step back from their staunch opposition to
“Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-old debates about the role of
government for all time — but it does require us to act in our time,” he said in
the 18-minute address. “For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford
delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for
politics or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act.”
Mr. Obama used Abraham Lincoln’s Bible, as he did four years ago, but this time
added Dr. King’s Bible as well to mark the holiday honoring the civil rights
leader. He became the first president ever to mention the word “gay” in an
Inaugural Address as he equated the drive for same-sex marriage to the quests
for racial and gender equality.
The festivities at the Capitol came a day after Mr. Obama officially took the
oath in a quiet ceremony with his family at the White House on the date set by
the Constitution. With Inauguration Day falling on a Sunday, the swearing-in was
then repeated for an energized mass audience a day later, accompanied by the
pomp and parade that typically surround the quadrennial tradition.
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered on a brisk but bright day, a huge crowd
by any measure, though far less than the record turnout four years ago. If the
day felt restrained compared with the historic mood the last time, it reflected
a more restrained moment in the life of the country. The hopes and expectations
that loomed so large with Mr. Obama’s taking the office in 2009, even amid
economic crisis, have long since faded into a starker sense of the limits of his
Now 51 and noticeably grayer, Mr. Obama appeared alternately upbeat and
reflective. When he re-entered the Capitol at the conclusion of the ceremony, he
stopped his entourage to turn back toward the cheering crowds on the National
“I want to take a look, one more time,” he said. “I’m not going to see this
If the president was wistful, his message was firm. He largely eschewed foreign
policy except to recommend engagement over war, and instead focused on
addressing poverty and injustice at home. He did little to adopt the language of
the opposition, as he has done at moments in the past, and instead directly
confronted conservative philosophy.
“The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare and Medicaid and
Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us,”
he said. “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks
that make this country great.”
The phrase, “nation of takers,” was a direct rebuke to Republicans like
Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, last year’s vice-presidential nominee,
and several opposition lawmakers took umbrage at the president’s tone.
“I would have liked to see a little more on outreach and working together,” said
Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican who lost to Mr. Obama four years
ago. “There was not, as I’ve seen in other inaugural speeches, ‘I want to work
with my colleagues.’ ”
Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, a member of the Republican leadership,
said that from the opening prayer to the closing benediction, “It was apparent
our country’s in chaos and what our great president has brought us is upheaval.”
He added, “We’re now managing America’s demise, not America’s great future.”
Mr. Obama struck a more conciliatory note during an unscripted toast during
lunch with Congressional leaders in Statuary Hall after the ceremony.
“Regardless of our political persuasions and perspectives, I know that all of us
serve because we believe that we can make America for future generations,” he
For the nation’s 57th presidential inauguration, a broad section of downtown
Washington was off limits to vehicles and a major bridge across the Potomac
River was closed to regular traffic as military Humvees were stationed at
strategic locations around the city.
Joining the president through the long day were the first lady, Michelle Obama,
and their daughters, Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11. The young girls were playful.
Malia at one point sneaked up behind her father and cried out, “Boo!” Sasha used
a smartphone to take a picture of her parents kissing in the reviewing stand,
then made them do it again. Both girls bounced with the martial music at the
Mr. Obama’s day began with a service at St. John’s Episcopal Church, across
Lafayette Square from the White House, where the Rev. Andy Stanley told him to
“leverage that power for the benefit of other people in the room.” At the
Capitol, Myrlie Evers-Williams, the civil rights leader, delivered the
invocation and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir performed the “Battle Hymn of the
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was sworn in at 11:46 a.m. by Justice Sonia
Sotomayor. The singer James Taylor then performed “America the Beautiful.”
At 11:50 a.m., Mr. Obama was sworn in again by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
After the two mangled the 35-word oath four years ago, necessitating a
just-in-case do-over the next day, the president and chief justice this time
carefully recited the words in tandem without error, although Mr. Obama did
swallow the word “states.”
Mr. Obama was more specific in discussing policy than presidents typically are
in an Inaugural Address. Particularly noticeable was his recommitment to
fighting climate change. “We will respond to the threat of climate change,
knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future
generations,” he said.
He referred only implicitly to terrorism, the issue that has so consumed the
nation for the past decade, but offered a more inward-looking approach to
foreign policy, saying that “enduring security and lasting peace do not require
perpetual war.” He also talked of overhauling immigration rules so “bright young
students and engineers are enlisted in our work force, rather than expelled from
For a president who opposed same-sex marriage as recently as nine months ago,
the speech was a clear call for gay rights, as he noted the journey “through
Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall,” symbolically linking seminal moments in
the struggles for equal rights for women, blacks and gay men and lesbians.
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like
anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the
love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” he said.
The expanse between the Capitol and the Washington Monument was filled with
supporters, many of them African-Americans attending only the second
inauguration of a black president. As large TV screens flickered in and out and
the audio often warbled, the ceremony was difficult to follow for many braving
the Washington chill.
The speech was followed by song, poem and benediction from Kelly Clarkson,
Richard Blanco, the Rev. Luis Leon and Beyoncé. The president and first lady got
out of their motorcade twice to walk stretches along Pennsylvania Avenue. Mr.
Biden and Jill Biden did as well, and the vice president greeted bystanders with
The two families then settled into the specially built bulletproof reviewing
stand to watch the parade. Mr. Obama, who often uses Nicorette to tame an old
smoking habit, was spotted chewing as the bands marched past.
In the evening, the Obamas attended two official inaugural balls, down from 10
four years ago. The president, in tuxedo with white tie, danced at each of them
with the first lady, in a custom Jason Wu ruby chiffon and velvet gown, to Al
Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” performed by Jennifer Hudson. The Obamas were
back at the White House by 10:15 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the
United States on Tuesday and promised to “begin again the work of remaking
America” on a day of celebration that climaxed a once-inconceivable journey for
the man and his country.
Mr. Obama, the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas,
inherited a White House built partly by slaves and a nation in crisis at home
and abroad. The moment captured the imagination of much of the world as more
than a million flag-waving people bore witness while Mr. Obama recited the oath
with his hand on the same Bible that Abraham Lincoln used at his inauguration
148 years ago.
Beyond the politics of the occasion, the sight of a black man climbing the
highest peak electrified people across racial, generational and partisan lines.
Mr. Obama largely left it to others to mark the history explicitly, making only
passing reference to his own barrier-breaking role in his 18-minute Inaugural
Address, noting how improbable it might seem that “a man whose father less than
60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand
before you to take a most sacred oath.”
But confronted by the worst economic situation in decades, two overseas wars and
the continuing threat of Islamic terrorism, Mr. Obama sobered the celebration
with a grim assessment of the state of a nation rocked by home foreclosures,
shuttered businesses, lost jobs, costly health care, failing schools, energy
dependence and the threat of climate change. Signaling a sharp and immediate
break with the presidency of George W. Bush, he vowed to usher in a “new era of
responsibility” and restore tarnished American ideals.
“Today, I say to you that the challenges we face are real,” Mr. Obama said in
the address, delivered from the west front of the Capitol. “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.”
The vast crowd that thronged the Mall on a frigid but bright winter day was the
largest to attend an inauguration in decades, if not ever. Many then lined
Pennsylvania Avenue for a parade that continued well past nightfall on a day
that was not expected to end for Mr. Obama until late in the night with the last
of 10 inaugural balls.
Mr. Bush left the national stage quietly, doing nothing to upstage his
successor. After hosting the Obamas for coffee at the White House and attending
the ceremony at the Capitol, Mr. Bush hugged Mr. Obama, then left through the
Rotunda to head back to Texas. “Come on, Laura, we’re going home,” he was
overheard telling Mrs. Bush.
The inauguration coincided with more bad news from Wall Street, with the Dow
Jones industrial average down more than 300 points on indications of further
trouble for banks.
The spirit of the day was also marred by the hospitalization of Senator Edward
M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, whose endorsement helped propel Mr. Obama
to the Democratic nomination last year. Mr. Kennedy, who has been fighting a
malignant brain tumor, suffered a seizure at a Capitol luncheon after the
ceremony and was wheeled out on a stretcher.
The pageantry included some serious business. Shortly after he and Vice
President Joseph R. Biden Jr. were sworn in, Mr. Obama ordered all pending Bush
regulations frozen for a legal and policy review. He also signed formal
nomination papers for his cabinet, and the Senate quickly confirmed seven
nominees: the secretaries of homeland security, energy, agriculture, interior,
education and veterans’ affairs and the director of the Office of Management and
When he arrives in the Oval Office on Wednesday, aides said, Mr. Obama will get
to work on some of his priorities. He plans to convene his national security
team and senior military commanders to discuss his plans to pull combat troops
out of Iraq and bolster those in Afghanistan. He also plans to sign executive
orders to start closing the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and could
reverse Mr. Bush’s restrictions on financing for groups that promote or provide
information about abortion.
Delays in the confirmation process have left both the State Department and the
Treasury Department in the hands of caretakers. But Hillary Rodham Clinton was
expected to win Senate confirmation as secretary of state on Wednesday, and the
Pentagon remains under the control of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was
kept on from the Bush administration and did not attend the inauguration so
someone in the line of succession would survive in case of terrorist attack.
In his address, Mr. Obama praised Mr. Bush “for his service to our nation as
well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.”
But he also offered implicit criticism, condemning what he called “our
collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”
He went on to assure the rest of the world that change had come. “To all other
peoples and governments who are watching today,” Mr. Obama said, “from the
grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born, know that
America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a
future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.”
Some of Mr. Obama’s supporters booed and taunted Mr. Bush when he emerged from
the Capitol to take his place on stage, at one point singing, “Nah, nah, nah,
nah, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.” By day’s end, Mr. Bush had landed in Texas, where
he defended his presidency and declared that he was “coming home with my head
The departing vice president, Dick Cheney, appeared at the ceremony in a
wheelchair after suffering a back injury moving the day before and was also
The nation’s 56th inauguration drew waves of people from all corners and filled
the expanse between the Capitol and the Washington Monument. For the first
transition in power since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, much of the capital was
under exceptionally tight security, with a two-square-mile swath under the
strictest control. Bridges from Virginia were closed to regular traffic and more
than 35,000 civilian and military personnel were on duty.
Mr. Obama secured at least part of his legacy the moment he walked into the
White House on Tuesday, 146 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, 108 years
after the first black man dined in the mansion with a president and 46 years
after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. declared his dream of equality.
Mr. Obama, just 47 years old and four years out of the Illinois State Senate,
arrived at this moment on the unlikeliest of paths, vaulted to the forefront of
national politics on the strength of stirring speeches, early opposition to the
Iraq war and public disenchantment with the Bush era. His scant record of
achievement at the national level proved less important to voters than his
embodiment of change.
His foreign-sounding name, his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia and his skin
color made him a unique figure in the annals of presidential campaigns, yet he
toppled two of the best brand names in American politics — Mrs. Clinton in the
primaries and Senator John McCain in the general election.
Mr. Obama himself is descended on his mother’s side from ancestors who owned
slaves and he can trace his family tree to Jefferson Davis, the president of the
Confederacy. The power of the moment was lost on no one as the Rev. Joseph E.
Lowery, one of the towering figures of the civil rights movement, gave the
benediction and called for “inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not
The Rev. Rick Warren, a conservative minister selected by Mr. Obama to give the
invocation despite protests from liberals, told the crowd, “We know today that
Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.”
For all that, Mr. Obama used the occasion to address “this winter of our
hardship” and promote his plan for vast federal spending accompanied by tax cuts
to stimulate the economy and begin addressing energy, environmental and
“Now there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that
our system cannot tolerate too many big plans,” he said. “Their memories are
short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men
and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity
He also essentially renounced the curtailment of liberties in the name of
security, saying he would “reject as false the choice between our safety and our
ideals.” He struck a stiff note on terrorism, saying Americans “will not
apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense.”
“For those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering
innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken,”
he said. “You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”
But Mr. Obama also added a message to Islamic nations, a first from the
inaugural lectern. “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on
mutual interest and mutual respect,” Mr. Obama said. “To those who cling to
power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you
are on the wrong side of history — but that we will extend a hand if you are
willing to unclench your fist.”
Mr. Obama’s public day started at 8:45 a.m. when he and his wife, Michelle, left
Blair House for a service at St. John’s Church, then joined the Bushes, Cheneys
and Bidens for coffee at the White House.
The Obamas’ daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, joined them at the Capitol, as
did Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain, as well as former Presidents Bill Clinton,
Jimmy Carter and the elder George Bush.
While emotional for many, the ceremony did not go entirely according to plan.
Mr. Biden was sworn in by Justice John Paul Stevens behind schedule at 11:57
a.m., and Mr. Obama did not take the oath until 12:05 p.m., five minutes past
the constitutionally proscribed transfer of power.
Moreover, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stumbled over the 35-word oath,
causing Mr. Obama to repeat it out of the constitutional order. Instead of
swearing that he “will faithfully execute the office of president of the United
States,” Mr. Obama swore that he “will execute the office of president of the
United States faithfully.”
Following time-honored rituals, the Obamas attended lunch with lawmakers in
Statuary Hall at the Capitol, then rode and walked to the White House, where
they watched the parade from a bulletproof reviewing stand. They planned to
attend all 10 official inaugural balls before spending their first night in the
In his Inaugural Address, Mr. Obama seemed at times to be having a virtual
dialogue with his predecessors. “What is required of us now is a new era of
responsibility,” he said, “a recognition on the part of every American that we
have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not
grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly.” Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton likewise
called for responsibility at their inaugurations, but Mr. Obama offered little
sense of what exactly he wanted Americans to do.
Mr. Obama also seemed to take issue with Ronald Reagan, who declared when he
took office in 1981 that “government is not the solution to our problem;
government is the problem.” Mr. Clinton rebutted that in 1997, saying,
“government is not the problem and government is not the solution.”
Mr. Obama offered a new formulation: “The question we ask today is not whether
our government is too big or too small but whether it works, whether it helps
families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is
dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer
is no, programs will end.”
Mr. Clinton, at least, applauded the message. In a brief interview afterward, he
said Mr. Obama’s installation could change the way America was viewed.
“It’s obviously historic because President Obama is the first African-American
president, but it’s more than that,” Mr. Clinton said. “This is a time when
we’re clearly making a new beginning. It’s a country of repeated second-chances
and new beginnings.”
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Theodore Roosevelt loved a parade and on March 4, 1905,
Washington gave him one as spirited as the man himself.
Roosevelt became president in September 1901 with the assassination of William
McKinley. Now, an election victory behind him, he would serve in his own right.
An estimated 30,000 marched, among them Roosevelt's beloved Rough Riders from
the Spanish-American War, in an exuberant inaugural procession that placed the
beaming president up front.
The Associated Press has been going back into history to finds its stories on
some of the most notable inauguration days. Here is an excerpt from AP's story
on the parade, as it appeared on the front page of The Racine (Wis.) Daily
Journal that day:
WASHINGTON, March 4 -- President Roosevelt led his inaugural parade in quick
marching time from the capitol to the White House. No president in recent years
has been as prompt in moving from one end of the avenue to the other. The troops
marched in ideal weather, the sky being clear, the sun warm, and a fair breeze
blowing. The president lost no time in formalities. He descended the steps which
were put in place in front of the inaugural stand and took his carriage without
re-entering the capitol. The inaugural march began at 1:20 o'clock and as the
president's carriage, followed by that of Vice President Fairbanks and those of
the members of the cabinet, proceeded through the capitol grounds, the vast
throng hastily placed itself on either side of the line of march and cheered
PRESIDENT KEPT BUSY BOWING
The procession moved slowly and Mr. Roosevelt in acknowledging the salutes from
either side rose to his feet repeatedly and with his silk hat in his hand bowed
to right and left. The buildings facing the capitol grounds through which the
procession passed, were occupied to their full capacity with cheering people,
who waved flags and handkerchiefs. No incident marred in the slightest degree
the inaugural procession as it left the scene of the inaugural address and
proceeded down past the peace monument and took its way toward the White House
on the broad avenue.
The procession formed immediately behind the carriages of the presidential party
and in the order previously arranged, marched from the capitol. Many times along
the line of march the president arose in his carriage and lifted his hat. A
broad smile lit up his face and it was easy to see the cheers of the admiring
throngs greatly pleased him.
The military grand divisions of the procession came after the rough riders.
WEST POINTERS AND ''MIDDIES''
Major General James F. Wade was chief marshal and with a splendidly uniformed
staff representing each staff corps of the army led the division. Foremost in
the line were the pets of the army and navy, the West Point cadets and the
''middies'' from Annapolis with the District of Columbia national guard, which
has come to be looked upon as almost a part of the regular army organization.
The cadets headed by Brigadier General Frederick Grant and under their own
superintendent, Brigadier General Mills, acquitted themselves splendidly. There
was a diversity about their organization which made it very attractive, for it
represented infantry, field artillery, new mountain battery platoons and the
cavalry which makes West Point famous throughout the world.
MARCHED LIKE CLOCK WORK
The boys marched like veterans and although many of them had friends and
relatives and sweethearts along the line of march, they never turned their eyes
to the right or left, but marched like clockwork.
The midshipmen surprised everybody. Sailors are not supposed to be good foot
soldiers, yet beyond question the two battalions from Annapolis, 700 strong,
gave the West Pointers the hardest contest they had ever had for first place in
a parade. The boys ... marched with a precision that was wonderful and were
cheered at almost every step. ...
Also on the front page in Racine: Roosevelt is given a ring containing a lock of
Abraham Lincoln's hair, cut after he was shot and before he died. The government
anticipates a $28.5 million surplus. Two special trains from Cleveland that were
''making a good run'' to Washington collide the night before, killing seven
AP Corporate Archives Director Valerie Komor contributed
to this report from New