Barack Hussein Obama launched his second term as the nation’s 44th president Monday in a festive outdoor ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Obama, 51, was sworn into office just before noon on a crisp, sunny day steeped in the tradition and pageantry that marks America’s quadrennial transition of power. He was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters, Sasha, 11, and Malia, 14.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administered the 35-word oath -- the same one recited by every American president since George Washington.-- on the West Front of the Capitol draped with red, white and blue bunting.
Obama placed his hand on two bibles -- the burgundy velvet covered Lincoln Bible and Martin Luther King’s traveling bible. Obama used the Lincoln Bible four years ago, the first to do so since it was used by Abraham Lincoln himself.
Singers Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor performed. Richard Blanco, the youngest ever inaugural poet and the first Hispanic or gay person to recite a poem at the swearing-in ceremony, recited his own work. Civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams deliver the invocation.
Minutes earlier, Vice President Joe Biden was sworn in by Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic and fourth female judge to administer the oath.
A sea of spectators, from across the city and across the globe, packed the National Mall to watch the first Democrat in seven decades to twice majority of the popular vote inaugurated.
Noticeably grayer than when he first took office, Obama officially started his second term 24 hours earlier after a brief private ceremony Sunday at the White House. The Monday ceremony followed the tradition of delaying the public inauguration a day when the official date prescribed by the Constitution fell on a Sunday.
The nation’s 57th inauguration consisted of five days of patriotic parades and fancy balls, solemn prayers and countless for receptions for donors and supporters.
Monday’s events were jubilant, but did not have the same level of excitement as four years ago when a young senator promising hope and change became the nation’s first black president at a moment of economic peril.
Officials estimated that between 600,000 and 800,000 people turned out for the festivities, far short of the nearly two million in 2009 but an above-average audience for a second-term inauguration. The Washington subway system reported Monday morning that ridership into town was less than half what it was in 2009 at the same time.
Still, the crowds led to a maze of street closures, clogged subways, heightened security, the National Mall filled with 1,500 portable toilets and five Jumbotrons and 6,000 members of the National Guard in town assisting with crowd control.
In his second term, Obama faces a political climate that seems to growing more polarizing everyday that will no doubt mean an array of domestic and foreign policy challenges and goals will be difficult to accomplish.
He face a series of fiscal issues -- tax reform and spending cuts -- and pressing international obligations -- stopping Iran’s nuclear program; navigating an end to the war in Afghanistan and avoiding tensions with China over the administration’s “pivot” to Asia. And he has has his own lofty ambitions -- rewriting immigration laws, tightening gun regulations and combating global warming.
Recent polls, though, show Obama starts his second term with a higher job approval than much of the last for years while Republican leaders and Congress itself are viewed unfavorably and mocked as the least productive in six decades.
Afterward, Obama and Biden were headed to the Capitol’s Statuary Hall to dine on steamed lobster and hickory grilled bison at a luncheon attended by 200 including Supreme Court justices and congressional leaders. The tradition dates back to President William McKinley in 1897.
Later, the Obamas were to lead an inaugural parade featuring eight official floats, 59 groups, 9,000 people, 1,500 service members and 200 animals the 1.7 miles from the Capitol down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. They will sit in a reviewing stand adorned with bulletproof glass and the presidential seal in front of the White House.
They will attend two official inaugural balls -- one for members of the military and another for the public. About 40,000 ticketholders were expected to fill the Washington Convention Center to hear Alicia Keys, Usher and Soundgarden and, hopefully, catch a glimpse of the first couple.
The Obamas and Bidens started their day with a prayer service at St. John’s Episcopal Church, a few blocks from the White House, where every president since James Madison has worshiped.