Obama Steps Into History as First Black President

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) --

Braving temperatures in the teens, hundreds of thousands of excited people descended on the heavily guarded capital city Tuesday for the first change of administrations since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They packed the National Mall from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol for a glimpse of the proceedings and, in the words of many, simply "to be here."

Two years after beginning his improbable quest as a little-known, first-term Illinois senator with a foreign-sounding name, Obama moves into the Oval Office as the nation's fourth youngest president, at 47, and the first African-American, a barrier-breaking achievement believed impossible by generations of minorities.

Around the world, Obama's election electrified millions with the hope that America will be more embracing, more open to change.

The dawn of the new Democratic era - with Obama allies in charge of both houses of Congress - ends eight years of Republican control of the White House by George W. Bush. He leaves Washington as one of the nation's most unpopular and divisive presidents, the architect of two unfinished wars and the man in charge at a time of economic calamity that swept away many Americans' jobs, savings and homes.

Bush - following tradition - left a note for Obama in the top drawer of his desk in the Oval Office.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said the theme of the message - which Bush wrote on Monday - was similar to what he has said since election night: that Obama is about to begin a "fabulous new chapter" in the United States, and that he wishes him well.

The unfinished business of the Bush administration thrusts an enormous burden onto the new administration, though polls show Americans are confident Obama is on track to succeed. He has cautioned that improvements will take time and that things will get worse before they get better.

Culminating four days of celebration, the nation's 56th inauguration day began for Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden with a traditional morning worship service at St. John's Episcopal Church, across Lafayette Park from the White House. Bells pealed from the historic church's tower as Obama and his wife, Michelle, arrived.

The festivities won't end until well after midnight, with dancing and partying at 10 inaugural balls.

By custom, Obama and his wife were invited to the White House for coffee with Bush and his wife, Laura, followed by a shared ride in a sleek, heavily armored Cadillac limousine to the U.S. Capitol for the transfer of power, an event flashed around the world in television and radio broadcasts, podcasts and Internet streaming. On Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney pulled a muscle in his back, leaving him in a wheelchair for the inauguration.

Just before noon, Obama steps forward on the West Front of the Capitol to lay his left hand on the same Bible that President Abraham Lincoln used at his first inauguration in 1861. The 35-word oath of office, administered by Chief Justice John Roberts, has been uttered by every president since George Washington. Obama was one of 22 Democratic senators to vote against Roberts' confirmation to the Supreme Court in 2005.

The son of a Kansas-born mother and Kenya-born father, Obama decided to use his full name in the swearing-in ceremony.

The Constitution says the clock - not the pomp, ceremony and oaths - signals the transfer of the office from the old president to the new one.

The 20th Amendment to the Constitution specifies that the terms of office of the president and vice president "shall end at noon on the 20th day of January ... and the terms of their successors shall then begin."

To the dismay of liberals, Obama invited conservative evangelical pastor Rick Warren - an opponent of gay rights - to give the inaugural invocation.

About a dozen members of Obama's Cabinet and top appointees - including Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton - were ready for Senate confirmation Tuesday, provided no objections were raised.

More than 10,000 people from all 50 states - including bands and military units - were assembled to follow Obama and Biden from the Capitol on the 1.5-mile inaugural parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue, concluding at a bulletproof reviewing stand in front of the White House. Security was unprecedented. Most bridges into Washington and about 3.5 square miles of downtown were closed.

Obama's inauguration represents a time of renewal and optimism for a nation gripped by fear and anxiety. Stark numbers tell the story of an economic debacle unrivaled since the 1930s:

-Eleven million people have lost their jobs, pushing the unemployment rate to 7.2 percent, a 16-year high.

-One in 10 U.S. homeowners is delinquent on mortgage payments or in arrears.

-The Dow Jones industrial average fell by 33.8 percent in 2008, the worst decline since 1931, and stocks lost $10 trillion in value between October 2007 and November 2008.

Obama and congressional Democrats are working on an $825 billion economic recovery bill that would provide an enormous infusion of public spending and tax cuts. Obama also will have at his disposal the remaining $350 billion in the federal financial bailout fund. His goal is to save or create 3 million jobs and put banks back in the job of lending to customers.

In an appeal for bipartisanship, Obama honored defeated Republican presidential rival John McCain at a dinner Monday night. "There are few Americans who understand this need for common purpose and common effort better than John McCain," Obama said.

Young and untested, Obama is a man of enormous confidence and electrifying oratorical skills. Hopes for Obama are extremely high, suggesting that Americans are willing to give him a long honeymoon to strengthen the economy and lift the financial gloom.

On Wednesday, his first working day in office, Obama is expected to redeem his campaign promise to begin the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq under a 16-month timetable. Aides said he would summon the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Oval Office and order that the pullout commence.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by dummy Location: Ga on Jan 21, 2009 at 04:29 PM
    would someone please explain how you raise a child white? when a child is not raised white, how is it raised? what is the difference between a child raised white and a child not raised white?
  • by GV Location: Ga on Jan 21, 2009 at 03:24 PM
    I agree with gus,william,your comment was very painful to read and makes absolutly no sense.Are you a third grader or something?I know your not a grownup.I have no idea what kind of nonsense your talking about.You on the wrong blog or something?Maybe high or drunk?
  • by Anonymous on Jan 21, 2009 at 02:49 PM
    Posted by: Captain Crunch Location: Presidential Ball on Jan 20, 2009 at 07:12 PM obama can start the health care program by getting that dip of snuff out of michelle obama's bottom lip. LOOKS like she has 2 dips she may be a redneck--- where is my check, MR OBAMA,i'm waiting for you to paid my truck off for me...
  • by leg on Jan 21, 2009 at 02:42 PM
    Posted by: Tina on Jan 21, 2009 at 09:37 AM How long will it be before the black community wants to give him back stating he is not a real black. When the mortgage payment and car payment is not paid? RIGHT then these people will be calling him a UNCLE TOM
  • by gus Location: tally on Jan 21, 2009 at 01:53 PM
    Wow...William...a bunch of longs words that makes absolutely no sense, whatsoever. You need to put the dictionary or thesaurus down and take a basic english class, it would surely help your cause. You're right, change is coming...its called larger gov't, more taxes, and communism!
  • by why Location: tallahassee,fl on Jan 21, 2009 at 01:30 PM
    For everyone that has posted a comment its your own opinion rather good or bad. Many has stated that President Obama is not a citizen if you did your homework while in school you would have known that Hiawii is a part of the United States territory. Also we talk about what his race really is when we fill out an application its does not include bi-racial its african-american, white, hispanic and so-on. We all who post comments are hopefully over the age of 18 stop following everybody else opinion and form our own about our new presidentObama!!!!!
  • by Tra Location: Tally on Jan 21, 2009 at 01:19 PM
    I wish Obama well and will pray for him and our nation during these troubling times. I did not vote for him, but I will support and pray for him to make the right decisions. THe only thing is, how do you think his mother feels saying he is Africian American when he is bi-racial. Considering she raised him, I would think she would have been more comfortable showing or that all is ancestor info was stated correctly
  • by GV Location: Ga on Jan 21, 2009 at 12:58 PM
    to obama supporter,you say your location is in cairo,thats as much south Georgia and as redneck as anywhere in Ga.If everybody is equal,why ya'll insist on being different.The blacks are the ones who insist on being different.Ya'll are the ones who give your own race a bad name.Ya'll are the ones who holler racism when you don't get your way or get free handouts.Ya'll are the ones who insist on being called africans.Why not just be Americans if your equal?Its racist on ya'lls part.
  • by Pandy Location: Perry on Jan 21, 2009 at 12:51 PM
    A Republic is government by the rule of law. The foundation of that law in America is our Constitution and it is our Supreme Law. A Democracy is government by the rule of the majority, or the mob. Whatever the majority decides to be acceptable becomes the law no matter how the minority may complain, or how many rights the law may trample on." To me, that is exactly what has been happening. We are a Republic and the Constitution is our, Supreme Law. The only problem there is that Obama has punctured the invincibility of that law, and even worse, our Supreme Court refuses to acknowledge that any damage has been done. I see it as the setting of a precedent now where any part of the Constitution can be ignored without danger of retaliation or punishment in that the almighty messiah, the current POTUS has set that standard. So the Constitution, as a controlling instrument of law, has been made into nothing more than a liberal joke. As of yesterday, we are a democracy run by the mob.
  • by William Location: San Diego on Jan 21, 2009 at 12:36 PM
    It's amazing how some people that doesn't have a functional life,generated one by being an enigma belie'inculcate challenge individual.A fact of life,sand and water create Mud,sand,water mix with a heavy concentration of incoherent garbage turn into a Rock,sand alone with the Sun beating down on it everyday would be Dispel by the Wind.People don't waste your Intellect on Decrepited gesture,it's a terrible thing to Waste.Jan 20,2009 mark a new day for the Genius of the World to Shine on,not to be Dismal by the Delirium Challenge.Set your course for the next Quasar.T'Town will one day see the light as other did,but it a slow process and these are not the light at the stadium.Hope for one another,courage and faith for the quaint at Heart.Belief one day will Conquer the Soul,are We ready,because Change is going to Come.
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