Before a jubilant crowd of more than a million, Barack Hussein Obama claimed his place in history as America's first black president, summoning a dispirited nation to unite in hope against the "gathering clouds and raging storms" of war and economic woe.
The inauguration of Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois as the 44th President of the United States Tuesday is an historic occasion in ways subtle and obvious. As the first African-American to hold the highest national office, he personifies a particularly important milestone.
Race relations have been very challenging throughout American history. Abolition of slavery ultimately involved the Civil War, the most costly-armed conflict by far for Americans, with over 600,000 deaths.
As inspiring as our new president's inaugural address was, both to a nation shaken by the shattering of economic institutions and to a world anguished by suffering intentionally inflicted upon humans by other humans, Barack Obama's eloquent words were merely the day's second most meaningful message.
Facing the largest and happiest crowd in national-capital history, Barack Obama opened his presidency with an eloquent and inspiring inaugural address in which he acknowledged he was taking the oath of office "amidst gathering clouds and raging storms."
With the markets falling even as he spoke, Obama showed the confidence and optimism that Americans expect of their presidents. The challenges we face are real and difficult, he said, but "they will be met."
Stepping into history, Barack Hussein Obama grasped the reins of power as America's first black president on Tuesday, saying the nation must choose "hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord" to overcome the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Text of President Barack Obama's inaugural address on Tuesday, as prepared for delivery and released by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
OBAMA: My fellow citizens:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Stepping into history, Barack Hussein Obama grasps the reins of power as America's first black president in a high-noon inauguration amid grave economic worries and high expectations.
Braving icy temperatures and possible snow flurries, hundreds of thousands of people descended on the heavily guarded capital city Tuesday for the first change of administrations since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The capital city, a quick starter on even the most ordinary of days, took on the kind of frenetic predawn life rarely seen. The streets were becoming populated well before daybreak, and competition for space on the Metro subway system was fierce. Several suburban parking lots for subway riders were filled to capacity well before 6 a.m.
Crowds streamed into the nation's capital Tuesday, packing mass transit before dawn as out-of-towners and area residents alike headed for Pennsylvania Avenue and the National Mall for the swearing in of President-elect Barack Obama.
"This is the culmination of two years of work," said Obama activist Akin Salawu, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who helped the candidate as a community organizer and Web producer. "We got on board when Obama was the little engine who could. He's like a child you've held onto. Now he's going out into the world."
By 4 a.m. EST Tuesday, lines of riders formed in suburban parking lots for the Metro transit system, which put on extra trains for the expected rush.
Trains were crowded, and riders seemed to be in a jubilant mood, despite the early hour. World history teacher Calvin Adams of Arlington, Va., said he got up extra early so he could witness history being made first-hand and teach it to his classes.
A relaxed and upbeat Barack Obama invoked the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. and lavished praise on two prominent Republicans in calling for a new spirit of bipartisanship.
After visiting wounded veterans and helping volunteers paint a dorm for homeless teens in Washington, Obama dashed to three black-tie dinners Monday night. One honored Sen. John McCain, the Republican he defeated in November, and another honored Colin Powell, who was secretary of state for President George W. Bush.
Rarely in the history of our republic has a president taken office with higher expectations and more daunting challenges.
Polls on the eve of his inauguration showed that by wide margins most Americans believe that within the year under Barack Obama, the economy would improve, unemployment would drop and their own personal financial situation would get better.
Millions believe that our first African-American president will ease if not eliminate altogether race as a divisive force in our society.