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Obama inaugurated as 44th president

Jenn Metz | Wednesday, January 21, 2009

WASHINGTON – The millions of those who poured in from across the country, braved the cold and waited in hours of disorganized lines to witness history, rejoiced in celebration shortly after noon on Tuesday as Barack H. Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.

His inaugural address, delivered before a crowd perhaps unlike anything our nation’s capital city has ever seen before gathered on the National Mall, once again enumerated the challenges to come but also called for an America that returns to the ideals set forth by its forefathers, an America that is “ready to lead once more.”

Those in attendance, forming an indistinguishable sea of waving American flags, listened almost in reverence to the words of the first black president of the United States, who expressed his humility at being able to go down in the history books as the 44th man to take the oath of office.

“I stand here today humbled by the task before us,” he said, ” grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.”

Obama, just after taking the oath of office on the same Bible Abraham Lincoln used in his 1861 inauguration, spoke for almost 20 minutes, assuring his fellow Americans that the problems that face our nation will eventually be overcome.

“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many,” he said. “They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.”

Among these challenges: A faltering economy, that is “badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age,” he said.

Michelle Obama held the Bible for her husband, a “man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant,” as he said in his speech.

His words not were not only addressed to the American people, but “all other peoples and governments” who watched the ceremony on television all over the world, “from the grandest capitals to the small village where [Obama’s] father was born.”

Marking Tuesday as a new era in the history of the nation, Obama called all citizens to work toward a better tomorrow.

“We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America,” he said.

The response from the crowd at several moments during Obama’s speech was ear shattering – all were clapping, some cheering loudly and others still weeping from happiness.

Obama, who arrived at the Capitol Tuesday morning with President George W. Bush, repudiated some of the policies put in place by his predecessor, calling for change where change is needed.

“The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified,” he said. “Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.”

At the close of his address, the new president called upon the nation to “remember these timeless words:

“With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what stores 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,” he said. “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.”


The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Obama inaugurated as 44th president

Kaitlynn Riely | Wednesday, January 21, 2009

WASHINGTON – Yearning to be a part of history, more than a million people thronged around the U.S. Capitol Tuesday to witness the swearing-in of the 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

Thousands arrived in the District before dawn broke, cramming onto Metro trains or walking into the city only to stand in queues that stretched around buildings and under bridges, past museums and between barricades.

Those who had tickets to the viewing areas closest to the Capitol were scarcely better off than those who did not, as lines for the largest ticketed area, the silver zone, stretched on for over a mile.

When the hour of the noon swearing-in drew near, those in line at Independence and 3rd St. to get into one of the ticketed areas began chanting, “Let us in,” and waved their silver viewing tickets to security.

About 20 minutes before the ceremony began, their chants were answered as thousands more were allowed onto the National Mall behind the Reflecting Pool. Stepping over collapsed net fencing, beside a row of hundreds of portable toilets, those who had waited in line for hours took their place, shoulder to shoulder, to watch the peaceful transition of power, as President George W. Bush became the former president, and Obama became America’s first black president.

On the Mall and along the parade route, Notre Dame students, professors and alumni witnessed the historic event. Approximately 50 members of the Africana Club and members of the College Democrats of Notre Dame arrived in Washington Tuesday morning on separate buses.

Juniors Chris Luken, Matt Howard and Cate McGillivray, all members of the Washington Program, had tickets to the viewing area on the Mall. They left their apartments in north Washington at 7:30 a.m. to make it to the ceremony.

“A lot of people in the program didn’t support Obama,” Howard said, “But everyone came today.”

Louis Pignatelli, a graduate student at Notre Dame, has been a supporter of Obama since his entrance into Illinois politics. When he met Obama in Illinois several years ago, he said he thought he was bound for bigger things.

Pignatelli said he has high hopes for the Obama presidency.

“In the longer term, I think what we are going to see is a second coming of [Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s] promise for America,” he said.

The highlight of Inauguration Day, 1968 Notre Dame graduate Richard DiLorenzo said, was listening to Obama’s speech. DiLorenzo, 62, and wearing a hat from his alma mater, arrived in Baltimore from Ohio with his wife Tuesday morning in time to see the ceremony.

Thousands waved flags. Many wore Obama gear. All were dressed warmly to withstand the winter temperatures, which hovered around 30 degrees.

Julia Jett, 75, drove from Birmingham, Ala. with several members of her family to see the inauguration. The trip took 13 hours.

“It was worth it,” she said.

Jett’s granddaughter, Laketha Robinson, 32, brought her daughter Ariyuna, 6, to the inauguration, waking up at 2 a.m. to make it to the city in time to stand in line at an entrance gate.

“I want her to remember the crowd,” Robinson said. “The importance of being here.”

The crowd stretched the length of the National Mall, from the Capitol building to the Lincoln Memorial and flooded out to the side streets off the grassy expanse.

“It’s crowded, but everybody’s friendly,” Robinson said. “You step on a person’s toe, and it’s OK.”

People in attendance at the inauguration came from around the country, and some from distant parts of the world.

Three days ago, Faosat Idowu, 62, took an 18-hour flight from Nigeria to be present when Obama took the oath of office.

“It’s a new beginning. It’s a new dawn for us,” she said. “We believe he is going to bring a change economically, financially, all the works.”

Idowu was wearing traditional Nigerian garb – a hand-woven shawl and a headdress – decorated with Obama’s image. The rest of her family was watching the inauguration from Nigeria.

Inauguration Day, Idowu said, is “something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

The trip to the inauguration was much shorter for Sarah Robinson, 52. Robinson, who has lived in Washington, D.C. since she was 11, brought several members of her extended family with her to the Capitol grounds. She was standing hundreds of yards away from the Capitol, still waving an American flag after Obama had left the platform to drive to a lunch and then participate in the parade.

“It’s just a blessing to see how far we came as a people, from the riots, to the discrimination, to today, with Obama as our president,” said Robinson, who is black. “I didn’t care how far away I was, I just wanted to be on the ground, because it’s truly a blessing from God.”