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.
Fresh off a rollicking celebration in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln, President-elect Barack Obama is shaping the final day of his pre-presidential life around another giant figure, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Obama is taking part in a community renovation project in the Washington area to honor King, the civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1968. Monday is the federal holiday commemorating the birthday of King, who advocated peaceful resistance and equality among all races. He blazed a trail for Obama, soon to be the nation's first black president.
Security in downtown D.C. was high Sunday, as President-elect Barack Obama attended church, visited Arlington Cemetery and joined tens of thousands of people at the Lincoln Memorial for a special pre-inauguration concert.
There were no major incidents as of late afternoon.
Protocol is a tough taskmaster. Thus, almost every Presidential Inauguration proceeds according to tradition and the clock.
Early on the morning of Jan. 20, a butler will climb the stairs to the main guest suite at Blair House, across the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and tap gently on the door of the blue, white and raspberry-chintz-covered bedroom. President-Elect Barack Obama undoubtedly will already have risen from the king-sized, canopied four-poster bed he slept in for five nights.
The economic crisis that will dominate Barack Obama's first 100 days as president, and beyond, will give him a rare chance to enact big portions of his agenda that otherwise might have languished for months or years.
Not since Franklin D. Roosevelt has a new president been poised to pack so many ambitious, costly — and, under more normal circumstances, highly contentious — projects into one fast-moving bill. As in 1933, a frightening economic collapse makes the quick political work possible, choking off longer debates and possible opposition that many of the initiatives would have faced in better times.
Barack Obama and his congressional allies are gambling that the largest public spending program since World War II and a new round of tax cuts will pry the economy from the recession's iron grip and avert another Depression.
But what if they're wrong?
Some conservative economists say that additional stimulus may only prolong the grief at best, triggering runaway inflation down the road and resulting in an even more bloated federal bureaucracy.
"I think the economy will recover regardless of what Washington does. But the long-term effect here will be to reduce the standard of living of the next generation because they will be saddled with all this debt," said Chris Edwards of the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute.
President-elect Barack Obama is preparing to prohibit the use of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques by ordering the CIA to follow military rules for questioning prisoners, according to two U.S. officials familiar with drafts of the plans. Still under debate is whether to include a loophole that would allow exceptions in extraordinary cases.