CROWLEY – President Barack Obama took the oath of office today to become the 44th President of the United States. In a scene that can best be described as surreal, millions of people gathered on the grounds of the National Mall to witness history as Obama became the nation’s first African-American president.
The day began with Obama meeting for coffee with exiting President George W. Bush following a private service at St. John’s Episcopal Church, which has become a tradition for those about to become president. The family of Vice President Joe Biden also attended.
Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr., of Los Angeles, drew murmurs and chuckles when he blessed the Obamas and asked that “they may finish these two terms of office stronger than they are now.” Obama, of course, would have to win re-election in 2012 to serve a second term.
The story at the beginning of the day had to be the immense crowd - estimated by some to be between 2 - 3 million braving the freezing cold, fighting for position to see Obama take the oath of office.
“This is utter chaos now,” said one security official. “But I must admit it is amazing to be here. This is definitely a day for the history books.”
Tuesday’s ceremony culminated an incredible ascent for the 47-year-old Democrat who moved into the Oval Office as the nation’s fourth youngest president. In less than five years, he rose from a little known Illinois state lawmaker to the nation’s highest office, persuading Americans that despite his relative inexperience, he could turn around the economy and end the Iraq war.
By the time Obama walked up to the stage, what seemed like an ocean of people stretching stood mesmerized watching from Jumbotrons or, it they were lucky enough, the naked eye to see the inauguration.
Obama took the stage shortly after 11 a.m. Central Time to take his oath of office. He was sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and used the same Bible that Abraham Lincoln used for his inauguration.
He then gave his inaugural address.
“Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed,” Obama said. “Starting to day we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin the work of remaking America”
“To the Muslim world,” Obama said, ”we seek a new way forward based on mutual respect and interest.
Still he bluntly warned, “To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West - know that you are on the wrong side of history, know that your people will judge you based on what you can build, not what you can destroy.”
The day was marred when Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital. Kennedy has been battling a brain tumor. As of press time, his condition was unknown.
President Obama understands that he must hit the ground running. With the economy in shambles and two wars going on the length of his honeymoon period will surely be tested.