With singer Jennifer Hudson crooning the ballad "Let's Stay Together,"
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle took the spotlight
at two inaugural balls in Washington Monday evening.
Michelle Obama, wearing a red Jason Wu gown designed especially for the
night, sang in her husband's ear as they danced.
The balls, an inaugural day traditions, cap off two days of official
ceremonies as President Obama begins his second term.
Earlier, flag-waving crowds of hundreds of thousands of people turned
out for inauguration ceremonies and celebrations of President Barack
Obama's second term of office.
They and millions more Americans who watched and listened to broadcasts
of Monday's events heard the president lay down a strong progressive
agenda in his second inaugural address, demanding moderation from the
conservative political opposition in Congress.
Jubilation and cheers filled Washington's most famous boulevard,
Pennsylvania Avenue, as Obama and his wife, Michelle, stepped out of
their limousine to walk part of the traditional parade route that
follows a Capitol inauguration. The parade was one of the highlights of
the inauguration, with elaborate floats, marching bands from all 50
Just before noon, the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts,
led the president in the oath of office on a ceremonial stage outside
the Capitol, the seat of the U.S. government. Seated nearby were
congressional leaders, family members, celebrities and two former
presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden actually had been officially
sworn into office on Sunday, since the U.S. Constitution mandates
January 20 for the swearing in. So Monday was above all a day for public
celebration and uplifting speeches. By coincidence it also was the
annual U.S. holiday commemorating the renowned civil rights leader Dr.
Martin Luther King Junior, who was assassinated in 1968, shortly after
his 45th birthday.
As the president was sworn in, he placed his hand on two Bibles - one
that Abraham Lincoln used for his inauguration in 1861 and another that
had been carried by King.
Unlike Obama's first inauguration in 2009, when he and the chief justice
stumbled over the words of the presidential oath, everything went
smoothly this year.
Equality and Opportunity
The president's address that followed stressed some of the main themes
of his 2012 re-election campaign - equality, and making the cherished
national values of "life and liberty" a reality for every American.
“For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a
shrinking few do very well, and a growing many barely make it. We
believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of
a rising middle class," said Obama said in his 19-minute address.
The president looked ahead to a future United States where all
Americans - women as well as men, no matter what their sexual
preferences - are treated equally under the law. He called on fellow
citizens to put aside their political differences and work together to
solve the country’s problems.
“We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for
politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act. We must
act, knowing that our work will be imperfect," he said.
Obama called for a renewed commitment to social programs, education,
technology and alternative energy sources, saying the United States
needs to respond to the threat of climate change.
Implicitly criticizing Republicans and Mitt Romney, his opponent in the
presidential race, Obama offered a robust defense of Medicare and Social
Security, noting those programs "do not make us a nation of takers."
The president said America will remain the anchor of strong alliances
around the world, and will work to help democracy thrive.
“We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the
Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act
on behalf of those who long for freedom,” he said.
Three popular American singers - James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson and
Beyonce - and a choir sang patriotic songs during the ceremony, and a
reading by a Cuban-American poet celebrated the day.
assembled crowd filled most of the National Mall, but still was only a
fraction of the estimated 1.8 million people who jammed into that space
four years ago for the inauguration of the first African-American
The Obama and Biden families began the day by attending a service at a
Christian church near the White House. A pastor offered a blessing and
counseled the president to use his power for the good of the country.
From the church Obama sent a message on Twitter: “I am honored and
grateful that we have a chance to finish what we started. Our work
begins today. Let us go.”
Obama returned to the White House for a brief coffee reception for top
congressional leaders, including the Republican Speaker of the House,
John Boehner, and Senator Mitch McConnell, leader of the Republican
minority in the Senate.