Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Today, the official ceremony ushering in Barack H. Obama II as the new president of the United States took place at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.. A 21-gun salute, as well as the playing of four ruffles and flourishes and “Hail to the Chief”, marked the moment he assumed power from his predecessor, George W. Bush.
Bush’s second term as President of the United States, which began on January 20, 2005, expired with the swearing-in of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, at noon EST (UTC-5), under the provisions of the Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Bush performed his final official act this morning, welcoming Barack Obama and Michelle to the White House for coffee before the swearing-in, shortly before 10am EST, and then accompanied them there by motorcade to attend the ceremony. Last week, Bush had made his farewells to the nation in a televised address, saying that the inauguration turns a page in race relations. “Obama’s story — his black father was from Kenya, his white mother from Kansas — represents “the enduring promise of our land,” said Bush.
Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday called on Obama to seek “understanding, co-operation and peace” among nations. “I offer cordial good wishes, together with the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you unfailing wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high responsibilities,” the Pontiff said.
The National Mall gates at the inaugural ceremony opened early, with official introductions beginning around 11:30am EST. On the west front lawn of the U.S. Capitol, Senator Dianne Feinstein provided the call to order and welcoming remarks, shortly after followed by invocation by the Rev. Rick Warren and a musical performance by Aretha Franklin.
Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr., a Democrat, who was elected Vice President in the 2008 presidential election, took his oath of office, succeeding Dick Cheney. Biden took his oath at 11:57am EST from Associate Justice John Paul Stevens.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Glover Roberts, Jr. then administered the oath of office to Obama, under Article II, Section 1, Clause 8. “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. So help me God,” Obama swore, using the 1861 President Lincoln Inaugural Bible.
First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama and daughters Malia Ann and Sasha, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi were among the record-setting crowd of over 2 million people, including more than a million people that filled the National Mall. Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in a wheelchair, having pulled a muscle in his back while moving, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
Obama has decided to follow tradition and use his full name, including his middle name Hussein, regardless of its past and present use by detractors as an effort to slander his image. The advanced scheduled program stated that the inaugural address was to be delivered by “the President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama.”
The President delivered his inaugural address in front of Capitol Hill with the theme “A New Birth of Freedom,” commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, said Feinstein.
Obama focused on the restoration of public confidence and personal “responsibility,” reassuring recession-weary Americans they can rebound from hard times. He conveyed to the world his desire to fix a battered U.S. image overseas. He asked the nation to reject the “culture of anything goes” and to restore a national value system that honors responsibility and accountability. Elizabeth Alexander recited a poem, followed by the benediction by Rev. Joseph E. Lowery. The National Anthem was thereafter played by The United States Navy Band “Sea Chanters.”
Over 200 million viewers worldwide had watched inauguration videos and live streams provided online by a number of news organizations and online video broadcasting companies over the internet. The event was also available live to select iPhone users.
Following his speech, President Obama escorted former President George W. Bush at 12:53pm EST as they left for a departure ceremony. Bush lifted off, ending his 8 years as president, with Obama waving goodbye from the courtyard of the US Capitol.
At 2:35pm EST in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, at the inaugural luncheon attended by Obama, it is reported that Ted Kennedy had a stroke. Paramedics arrived and took the senator to a hospital.
A parade extended for over two hours in the afternoon. It included 15,000 people, 240 horses, dozens of marching bands, two drum and bugle corps, and one mariachi band from Espanola, New Mexico.
Just after 4pm EST, Obama and his wife joined the celebrating crowds on Pennsylvania Avenue. After a short time waving to the masses, they returned to the Presidential Limousine, a 2009 Cadillac, which transported them to the White House. The First Limo has replaced President Bush’s Cadillac DTS Presidential Limousine that rolled out in 2004.
Mr and Mrs Obama plan to attend a total of ten official inaugural balls, including the Neighbourhood Ball, the Obama Home States (Illinois and Hawaii) Ball, the Biden Home States (Pennsylvania and Delaware) Ball and the Youth Ball. American R&B singer-songwriter Beyoncé has been planned to perform the first dance song. The Obamas will return to the White House, their new home, following the last ball.