Jubilant crowd sees Obama take oath
BY JIM KUHNHENN Associated Press
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
1/21/09 at 3:07 AM
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WASHINGTON — A vast, excited crowd of more than 1 million bore witness Tuesday to a transfer of American power like none before it. The blare of regal trumpets and thunder of cannon were familiar. The transition from Republican to Democrat, and gray hair to dark, had happened before.
But this was white to black, a shattering of racial barriers finally made complete when Barack Obama made it through a bumbled oath-taking, delivered a momentous-by-definition speech and got back to being his unflappable self.
The Democrat who charged onto the national scene saying this was not a nation of red states and blue states, but the United States, became president while wearing a red tie, the Republican color.
Republican George W. Bush, president no more, wore a blue tie, the Democratic color. They embraced at the Capitol and walked out together.
"Everybody is behind him," said Mikki Hill, 26, who traveled from Winston-Salem, N.C., and marveled at the multiracial multitudes. "Everybody's come from as far as the Earth is wide."
So it seemed on a day when change and continuity marched together in a spectacle of pageantry and raw emotion.
A couple of hours after being sworn in, Obama and his wife, Michelle, got out of their armored limousine bearing the license plate USA 1 and strolled together down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, holding hands and waving during the spirited inaugural parade. People along the packed parade route screeched in greeting.
The racial milestone lent a deeply personal dimension for many in the crowds as well as a historical landmark for all.
"I've been real emotional all morning thinking about my grandmother and the heroes whose shoulders we stand on," said Lyshundria Houston, 34, here from Memphis after more than 20 hours of travel. Houston, who is black, said: "They'd be so proud."
Energized by the moment, hordes clogged the scene, enduring below-freezing temperatures. Starting before dawn, they streamed from jammed subway stations and thronged past parked buses, emergency vehicles and street vendors to Pennsylvania Avenue and the National Mall.
Ticket holders approaching the inaugural site filed through security sweeps in lines coiled like cinnamon rolls.
They cheered dignitaries as they came on to the inaugural stand at the Capitol. Obama walked quietly and with the merest stirring of a smile through the halls to his position on the stand and his place in history.
The crowd erupted in jubilation as he strode out.
Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, the latter walking haltingly with a cane, embraced.
Roland Pool, 47, a white social worker from Santa Fe., N.M., sized up the new president as "solid and up-front. He deals with a million people with a smile — and stoicism, too."
Elizabeth Courtman, 24, who recently moved to Washington from southern Alabama and supported Republican John McCain for president, said she came away with something to tell her children and grandchildren some day. "There's no denying the spectacle," said Courtman, who is white. "Our generation has never seen anything like this."
Bush and his wife, Laura, were soon out of town. At Andrews Air Force Base, Md., they boarded a plane — no longer called Air Force One because he is no longer president — waved and took off for Texas.
The White House Web site switched to Obama from Bush before the new president had concluded his inaugural address.
A flea-market atmosphere prevailed on downtown streets, with white tents set up to sell Obama T-shirts and mugs as well as food, bottled water, snacks, scarves and footwarmers.
At a security checkpoint for Obama supporters holding tickets for the swearing-in ceremony, thousands queued before 8 a.m. But the crowd grew frustrated, pushing forward as noon approached, and officials neither admitted anyone nor provided an explanation, said Beth Zollars, an Obama supporter from Leawood, Kan.
"People were waving their purple tickets in the air, saying, 'Please let us in, please let us in,' " said Zollars, who served on a fundraising committee for the Obama campaign in Kansas City, Mo. "It was just a terrible sense of disappointment, because we took a lot of time and money and energy to get here, because you feel like you're missing the historic part of why you came here."
President Barack Obama gives his inaugural address Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol in Washington after taking the oath of office. WIN MCNAMEE/Associated Press
Jossie Redmond of Crawford, Miss., reacts during the inaugural ceremonies on the National Mall on Tuesday before the swearing-in ceremony of President Barack Obama. MATT ROURKE/Associated Press
President Obama's daughters, Sasha (left) and Malia, watch the inaugural parade. JAE HONG/Associated Press
People in Washington celebrate as President Barack Obama takes the oath of office. EVAN VUCCI/Associated Press
President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, walk on Pennsylvania Avenue during his inaugural parade Tuesday. CHARLIE NEIBERGALL/Associated Press
Bundled people pack the National Mall for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. CAROLYN KASTER/Associated Press
President Barack Obama gives his inaugural address after he was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States and the first African-American to lead the nation. RON EDMONDS/ Associated Press
Obama and former President George W. Bush sing the national anthem during the ceremony.RON EDMONDS/ Associated Press