History at noon: Obama is US president (Lead)

January 21st, 2009 - 12:23 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 20 (IANS) Barack Obama made his tryst with destiny as the first black president of the United States at noon Tuesday, an epochal event that was unthinkable in his own country even two years ago and which was watched with fascination and admiration around the world. As the clock struck 12, Obama stood on a flag-bedecked wooden special inaugural platform on the West Front of the Capitol overlooking the national monuments to take the oath of office as the 44th president of the world’s oldest democracy.

With his left hand raised, he placed his right hand on the burgundy red velvet covered Bible with golden trim that Abraham Lincoln, his idol, used at his first inauguration in 1861, held by wife Michelle to repeat the oath after Chief Justice John Roberts.

“I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God,” he said.

The vast sea of humanity, numbering over two million, an overwhelming number of them blacks, packing the national mall from the Capitol to the national monument and beyond burst into an applause. In just 30 seconds, presidential power had passed from George Bush to Obama in the most powerful nation on earth.

The ceremony, watched by millions across the world, had as it inaugural theme “A New Birth of Freedom”, a phrase used by Lincoln, the man who saved the American union in the civil war and freed black slaves.

Thereafter Obama, who had been reading Lincoln in preparation for his big day, stood up to give his inaugural address with the multitude of people braving biting cold hanging on to his every word.

Biden was also sworn into office by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens to take the baton from Bush’s controversial vice president Dick Cheney.

The inaugural festivities started at 10 a.m. (8.30 p.m. IST) with the United States Marine Band playing musical selections. The San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus followed.

California senator Dianne Feinstein then stood up to give a call to order and welcome the incoming and outgoing presidents.

Then came an invocation by the Rev. Rick Warren followed by a musical selection of Aretha Franklin before Biden was sworn in.

Another musical interlude came with musical selection of John Williams, composer/arranger with Itzhak Perlman (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Gabriela Montero (piano) and Anthony McGill (clarinet).

Then came Obama’s moment the world had been waiting for. After Obama spoke, Elizabeth Alexander rendered a poem.

Benediction by Rev. Joseph E. Lowery followed with the the National Anthem by the United States Navy Band “Sea Chanters” capping the ceremony.

Obama then escorted Bush to a departure ceremony on the other side of the Capitol, where a helicopter waited to take the former commander-in-chief to his home in Texas.

Following the swearing-in ceremony, Obama was set to sign his cabinet nominations and join invited guests in Statuary Hall in the US Capitol for the Congressional luncheon. The menu draws on historic ties to the Lincoln presidency.

The 56th Inaugural Parade will then make its way down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, leading a procession of ceremonial military regiments, citizens’ groups, marching bands, and floats.

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