20 January 2009
Barack Obama is now the President of the United States. Americans from around the country packed Washington on a cold January day to witness the historic swearing-in ceremony.
It was a ceremony steeped in tradition. But the mood was electric and change was in the air.
"...I Barack Hussein Obama do solemnly swear..."
Standing before the U.S. Capitol, Barack Obama became the first African American President of the United States.
"... so help me God!"
In less than one minute, the peaceful transfer of power was complete, and a new chapter in U.S. history had begun.
"I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors," President Obama began.
He looked out at a massive, diverse American crowd, and urged unity.
"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord," Mr. Obama said.
He inherits a nation at war and in the midst of an economic crisis. He said the challenges facing the nation will not be met quickly or easily. But he vowed they will be met.
"What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and our world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly," said the president.
He said that is the price and the promise of citizenship.
"This is the meaning our 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 sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath," Mr. Obama said.
The new president also had a message for the world. He spoke of America's desire for peace, and its determination to seek the common good.
"To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy," said Mr. Obama. "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."
And when the official ceremony was over, George W. Bush left the stage. He shook the hand of his successor, walked to a waiting helicopter, and waved farewell to Washington and the 44th President of the United States.