Along the White House colonnade, the president's senior advisers also crowded together to watch.
Obama, who campaigned intensively against Trump, attempted to remain positive and upbeat, talking about the importance of a peaceful and orderly transfer of power that is required by the American democratic system. He pledged that his administration would work with Trump's transition team to ensure it.
Some staffers appeared to be crying and others patted each other on the backs. Obama said he told his team “to keep their heads up” and cited their unheralded work to make the government more efficient and customer friendly.
Obama noted that he had previously lost an election — an unsuccessful bid for a congressional seat from Chicago — but then joked that Biden, a seven-term member of the Senate before winning two White House campaigns with Obama, had never lost. Biden, a practicing Catholic, smiled and made the sign of the cross over his heart.
But Biden actually had run twice before for the presidency, and he was perhaps quietly ruing his decision not to run against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the primary this year. He, too, appeared to be reckoning with what a Trump presidency will mean to the Obama legacy.
After the president concluded his remarks, he and Biden turned and left, Obama draping his arm around Biden's back. In the Rose Garden, the staff members gave them extended applause that lasted more than a minute and continued well after they had disappeared into the Oval Office. Then they quietly left the Rose Garden and went back to work.