Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States on Tuesday. The 47-year-old Obama assumed power over a country longing for change. He shattered American racial barriers to become the first black leader in the White House.
USA’s 56th inauguration day began for president Obama and vice-president Joe Biden with a traditional morning worship service at St. John’s Episcopal Church, across Lafayette Park from the White House.
After the 45-minute service, the Obama couple was welcomed to the White House for coffee. Bush and first lady Laura Bush greeted them at the North Portico, according to custom.
The National Mall was jammed with hundreds of thousands of spectators; perhaps well above two million, who came from across America and the world to witness the historic transfer of power. Most could only see the new President on giant television screens placed among the huge crowd.
In his inaugural speech as the new President of USA, Obama recalled the words of George Washington, America’s first President, enjoining Americans against faint-heartedness “in this winter of our hardship.” He said that the nation must choose “hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord” to overcome the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Excerpts from Obama’s inaugural address:
“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.”
“With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”
“We will not apologise for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defence, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”
“To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
“We’re a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers.”
“We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”
“This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.”