Obama: Challenges real, but ‘they will be met’ – WASHINGTON (CNN)

January 20th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

Barack Obama delivered a sobering assessment of where America stands and a hopeful vision of what it can become as he gave his inaugural address as the nation’s 44th president.

(more…)

Barack Obama delivered a sobering assessment of where America stands and a hopeful vision of what it can become as he gave his inaugural address as the nation’s 44th president.

“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,” Obama told hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in front of the Capitol.

“But know this, America — they will be met,” he said.

He also vowed to end the divisiveness and partisanship he said was rampant through Washington.

“We come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics,” he said. VideoWatch Obama say Americans chose hope »

In another allusion to Washington’s shortcomings, Obama promised to hold accountable anyone who handles taxpayer dollars.

“And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”

The new president, who hugged civil rights stalwart Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, on the inaugural stage Tuesday, also hailed the civil rights movement.

“This is the meaning of [America's] 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 60 years ago, might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath,” Obama said. VideoWatch Sen. Dianne Feinstein open the swearing-in ceremony »

The address touched on other themes, including a warning to terrorists.

“With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, 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,” the president stated.

Wearing a navy suit and red tie, Obama was sworn in using the same Bible that was used in President Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration.

The jubilant crowd became quiet as Obama began his address, with only an occasional “That’s right” or “Amen” and scattered applause from the hundreds of thousands in front of him.

Saddleback Church founder Rick Warren delivered the invocation, applauding what he called “a hinge-point in history.” Civil rights veteran the Rev. Joseph Lowery gave the benediction.

Aretha Franklin sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” before Joe Biden was sworn in as vice president. VideoWatch Obama’s grand entrance »

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall — dancing, singing and vigorously shaking flags — before Tuesday’s swearing-in.

“This is America happening,” said Evadey Minott of Brooklyn, New York. “It was prophesized by King that we would have a day when everyone would come together. This is that day. I am excited. I am joyful. It brings tears to my eyes.”

Minott was at Lafayette Square near the White House, where Obama and his wife, Michelle, had coffee with President Bush and first lady Laura Bush before heading to Capitol Hill.

The Obamas attended a prayer service earlier at St. John’s Episcopal Church to kick off the day of events surrounding Obama’s inauguration. VideoWatch the Bushes greet the Obamas »

As many as 2 million people were expected to crowd into the area between the Capitol, the White House and the Lincoln Memorial.

Gerrard Coles of Norwalk, Connecticut, had staked out a position in front of St. John’s.

“Everyone’s down here — hopefully to catch a glimpse of Barack, just for a split second,” he said. “I think this was a beautiful thing. It’s something I always wanted to do. It’s not every day that you get to be a part of history. Rather than just watch it on TV, you actually get to partake in it and you have a story to tell your kids.”

Nine-year-old Laura Bruggerman also hoped to catch a glimpse of the soon-to-be president. She waited with her mother, Wendy, and father, Jeff, of Bethesda, Maryland, amid an affable crowd that tried to let shorter onlookers and children to the front for better views.

“I want to see Obama. I think that would be really cool. I could tell all of my friends that I got to see him,” the youngster said.

Some spectators were more than a mile from the swearing-in ceremony, watching on giant TV screens erected along the National Mall.

The historic event has drawn myriad celebrities and politicians, including actors Dustin Hoffman and Denzel Washington, director Steven Spielberg and former vice presidents Dan Quayle, Al Gore and Walter Mondale.

Former Presidents Clinton, Carter and George H.W. Bush also were in attendance. Clinton and Bush shared an embrace.

Oprah Winfrey and actor Samuel L. Jackson sat on the same row. Winfrey hugged Senate hopeful Caroline Kennedy and later said of the inauguration, “It’s behind the dream. We’re just here feeling it with the throngs of people. It’s amazing grace personified.”

After a formal farewell to President Bush and lunch with congressional leaders, Obama will head up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, where he and his family will watch the inauguration parade from a reviewing stand. The parade begins at 3:45 p.m. ET. VideoWatch the final preparations for Inauguration Day »

Organizers have said about 280,000 people can fit into the secure zones around the Capitol and roughly 300,000 into the area around the parade. A mere 28,000 seats are available on Capitol grounds.

The new president and first lady will close the night by attending 10 official inaugural balls.

While Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said Monday there was “no credible threat” to the inauguration events, a security cordon has been put in place around the city’s core, turning much of downtown Washington into a pedestrian-only zone.

In addition to Secret Service, the security effort will involve 8,000 police officers from the District of Columbia and other jurisdictions, 10,000 National Guard troops, about 1,000 FBI personnel, and hundreds of others from the Department of Homeland Security, the National Park Service and U.S. Capitol Police.

Comments are closed.