“But,” he continued, “it does require us to act in our time.”
“My fellow Americans,” he added, “we are made for this moment and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together.”
Obama, 51, took the oath at 11:50 a.m., on a gray and chilly day in Washington. In 2009, he was the first African American to be sworn in as president; on Monday he became the first to do it twice.
A few hours later, Obama and First Lady Michelle thrilled the gathered crowds with a hand-in-hand stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue at the head of the inaugural parade. Onlookers waved and chanted “Obama!” and “Four more years!” along the street, while others cheered from several rooftops along Pennsylvania. Scores of bands, infantry regiments and custom-made floats followed. The parade ended shortly after 6:30 p.m., about the same time guests started showing up at the Washington Convention Center for the official Inaugural Ball.
The public inauguration had less of the stoic reserve that marked Obama’s first inauguration four years ago, held as the country sank deeper into recession. This ceremony featured two performances by pop stars: Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee,” and Beyonce sang the National Anthem. Though the crowd was smaller than four years ago, Obama’s inaugural call to broaden equality in the country carried a special significance for many in the crowd since it came on the day set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Obama’s address also seemed more optimistic than his 2009 speech, in which he warned a recession-wracked country about a trying winter ahead. It also revealed a president who doesn’t have to face another election: Obama’s words on gay rights, and on climate change, reflected a more aggressive tone than he showed in parts of his first term.
But the ceremony was also weighted with references to American history — both its triumphs and its bloody tragedies. The ceremony was held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A choir sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” an anthem of the Union cause in the Civil War. And Obama swore his oath on a battered Bible used by Abraham Lincoln.
The invocation was given by another icon of the Civil Rights era: Myrlie Evers-Williams, whose husband Medgar Evers was slain in Mississippi in 1963.
Evers-Williams spoke of “witnesses — unseen by the naked eye, but all around us — thankful that their living was not in vain.”