Attending Obama’s inauguration on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he said, “is the culmination to the dream. If we’re ever going to get close to the dream, this is as close as we’re going to get.”
Like the Robinsons, Katherine Ward, a Navy officer, was attending an inauguration for the first time. Ward, who is also African American, said she was serving in Iraq when Obama first took office.
“Now I’m here to cheer him on,” she said. “Everything Martin Luther King marched for and spoke on has come true.”
Up on the grand inaugural stage, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor administered the oath of office to Biden at 11:47 a.m. Obama took the oath, administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., at 11:50 a.m.
Earlier, Obama and his family had attended services at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square. Later, they drove in a long, slow motorcade down Pennsylvania Avenue, arriving at the Capitol.
“I miss this place,” Obama told reporters when he arrived. He served four years as a senator from Illinois before becoming president.
Members of Congress and other VIPs took their seats on the inaugural stage — senators stage left, and representatives, stage right — and did what mere mortals for blocks around were doing as well: taking photos of themselves. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), an avid photographer, snapped pictures of his colleague, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) at the presidential lectern. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) captured a few images of the crowd and his colleagues.
In one row, from left to right, sat former president Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, former president Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter.
On the Mall, there was Iris Murdock, 62, a retired school teacher from Baltimore, who began the journey to her first presidential inauguration well before dawn, driving to her daughter’s home in Hyattsville. There, the two women boarded a Green Line train.
They emerged at Federal Center before 7 a.m., when it was still dark. White lights twinkled on nearby trees as the gathering crowd bundled up against the cold.
“This was on my bucket list,” said Murdock, snug in a long coat and mittens. “You live in Baltimore, and it’s a hop, skip and a jump away.”
Murdock supports Obama, but she sees the inauguration as bigger than that. “It doesn’t matter what political party you are, it’s part of being an American,” she said. “You stand in line to vote. You have to see what the rest of it is like, too.”
As she talked, a group of middle-schoolers trooped past her, carrying souvenir-size flags and composition books. A smile spread across her face.
“I’m a retired educator,” she said, beaming. “Look at them.”
As the parade was winding down and crowds began to leave, Symone Brown and Brittany Gamble, both 18 and both from Baltimore, swept trash from Pershing Park. They were dressed in orange vests.
Brown and Brittany, who had signed up to work for a temp agency, arrived at 6 a.m.
Earlier in the day they helped people find their seat. Now they were filling blue bags with bottles, cigarette butts , discarded hand warmers
The money -- $8 an hour -- was nice, but this was more than a job.
“I feel like I’m part of history,” Gamble said, “me being 18 years old, just the thought of seeing Obama’s face.”
They both caught a glimpse through his limo window. They both voted for him in November, their first election.
Gamble said that getting up early Monday morning to take the bus down from Baltimore was tough. “The money was a motivator, but to be honest it was more to be there with Obama.”