By JULIE PACE, AP White House Correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Declaring “our journey is not complete,” President Barack Obama took the oath of office for his second term before a crowd of hundreds of thousands Monday, urging the nation to set an unwavering course toward prosperity and freedom for all its citizens and protect the social safety net that has sheltered the poor, elderly and needy.
“Our country cannot succeed when shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” Obama said in his relatively brief, 18-minute address.
“We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class,” he added, echoing his calls from the presidential campaign that catapulted him to re-election.
The president declared that a decade of war is ending, as is the economic recession that consumed much of his first term.
He previewed an ambitious second-term agenda, devoting several sentences to the threat of global climate change and saying that failure to confront it “would betray our children and future generations.” Obama’s focus on climate change was notable given that he barely dealt with the issue in his first term.
In an era of looming budget cuts, he said the nation has a commitment to costly programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. “These things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us,” he said.
Sandwiched between the bruising presidential campaign and relentless fiscal fights, Monday’s inaugural celebrations marked a brief respite from the partisan gridlock that has consumed the past two years. Perhaps seeking a fresh start, Obama invited several lawmakers to the White House for coffee before his speech, including the Republican leaders with whom he has frequently been at odds.
Looking to the challenges ahead, Obama implored Congress to find common ground over the next four years. And seeking to build on the public support that catapulted him to the White House twice, the president said the public has “the obligation to shape the debates of our time.”
“Not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals,” Obama said.
Moments earlier, Obama placed his hand on two Bibles– one used by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the other by Abraham Lincoln– and recited the brief oath of office. Michelle Obama held the Bibles, one on top of the other, as daughters Malia and Sasha looked on.
Vice President Joe Biden was sworn in for his second term as the nation’s second in command.
Monday’s oaths were purely ceremonial. The Constitution stipulates that presidents begin their new terms at noon on Jan. 20, and in keeping with that requirement, Obama was sworn in Sunday in a small ceremony at the White House. Because inaugural celebrations are historically not held on Sundays, organizers pushed the public events to Monday, the same day the nation marked the late civil rights leader King’s birthday.
Following his address, Obama headed into the Capitol for a lunch with lawmakers and to sign nominations for several Cabinet members. Then it was off for the traditional inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and two glitzy evening inaugural balls.
After a stunning sunrise, the weather for the swearing-in and parade was chilly –upper 30s rising into the lower 40s –and overcast.
Once the celebrations subside, Obama will be confronted with an array of pressing priorities: an economy still struggling to fully a recover, the fiscal fights with a divided Congress, and new threats of terrorism in North Africa.
The president has also pledged to tackle immigration reform and stricter gun laws in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., _ sweeping domestic reforms that will require help from reluctant lawmakers.
Obama is also facing fresh concerns about terrorism in North Africa. In the midst of the inaugural celebrations, a U.S. official said two more Americans died in Algeria, bringing the U.S. death toll from a four-day siege at a natural gas plant to three. Seven Americans survived, the official said.
The president did not offer any specific prescriptions for addressing the challenges ahead, though he is expected to offer more detail in his Feb. 12 State of the Union address.
Asserting “America’s possibilities are limitless,” he declared at the Capitol:
“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together.”
“We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit,” he said. “But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.”
Obama’s second inaugural lacked the electric enthusiasm of his first, when 1.8 million people crammed onto the National Mall to witness the swearing-in of the nation’s first black president. Far fewer people attended this year’s inauguration– officials estimated up to 700,000 people– but the crowd still stretched from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. And shortly before the president spoke, U.S. Park Police announced that the public viewing areas on the Mall were full.
Security was tight across Washington, with streets closed off for blocks around the White House and Capitol Hill. Military Humvees and city buses were being used to block intersections. Volunteers fanned out near the Mall to help direct the crowds.
David Richardson of Atlanta and his two young children were among the earlygoers who headed to the Mall before sunrise.
“We wanted to see history, I think, and also for the children to witness that anything is possible through hard work,” Richardson said.
Wendy Davis of Rome, Ga., was one of thousands of inaugural attendees who packed Metro trains. Davis came four years ago as well but was among the many ticketholders who couldn’t get in then because of the massive crowds.
“I thought I was early last time, but I obviously wasn’t early enough,” she said.
By 8 a.m. thousands of people were also waiting in security lines that stretched a block to gain access to the spots along the parade route that were accessible to the general public without a special ticket.
The cold weather was easily tolerated by Marie-France Lemaine of Montreal, who received the trip to the inaugural as a birthday present from her husband.
She headed up an Obama advocacy group in Quebec that cheered on the president from north of the border.
“The American president affects the rest of the world,” she said.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. )
By ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Hundreds of thousands of spectators at President
Barack Obama’s second inauguration encountered blocked-off streets, delays at some security checkpoints and a packed National Mall. But authorities reported no major problems before or during Monday’s swearing-in, with a crowd that appeared far smaller than the record-breaking turnout of 2009.
Police officers were stationed inside rail stations and on street corners,
National Guard Humvees blocked some intersections in downtown Washington and spectators were shuffled through security checkpoints to be screened for prohibited items including balloons, glass containers and weapons. Flight restrictions were in place in the skies above Washington and more than 2,000 out-of-town officers were specially sworn in to work security.
Officials had hoped that earlier and more signs, plus additional magnetometers, would ease pedestrian congestion and reduce some of the logistical snafus from four years ago.
But even with smaller crowds this year, there were sporadic reports of slow-moving security lines, including at a checkpoint between Union Station and the U.S. Capitol that came to a halt so a motorcade could pass and barriers could be repositioned. Stuck spectators vented on Twitter that the line did not move for at least a half-hour and that they were redirected to another security gate.
“It was a little tense this morning” at some of the gates, acknowledged D.C.
Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who sent additional officers to deal with crowding at the gates for people with tickets to the ceremony. She said the crowd was larger than she anticipated, and that many people decided to come later. But she said that her department didn’t have to deal with any major problems.
Some repeat inauguration-goers said the experience was easier this year than in 2009, when 1.8 million people packed the Mall and temperatures dropped below freezing.
“It’s a lot easier because there aren’t as many people,” said Anita Sutterlin, of Middlefield, Conn., from her perch on the top row of some aluminum bleachers near the White House. She was attending her third inauguration with her husband, Paul.
“I come down just to soak up what I consider to be very positive national pride,” said Paul Sutterlin, a 6th-grade social studies teacher. “It feeds me. It energizes me.”
Others said they were discouraged by the long walk they faced in simply getting to the Mall.
Cheryl Tate, 52, of Flint, Mich., and her friend, Karen Pugh, 43, decided to turn around and watch the ceremony in a restaurant with a television, if they could find one.
Tate, who attended the inauguration in 2009, blamed the difficulty in getting in this time on where their tour bus had to park, at RFK Stadium, in southeast Washington. Last time, she watched from near the Washington Monument, closer to the bus parking.
“People keep telling us a few more blocks, a few more blocks,” Tate said.
Officials were expecting a crowd of between 500,000 and 700,000, far smaller than the crowd for Obama’s first swearing-in. About 308,000 train riders had entered the District of Columbia subway system as of 11 a.m. Monday, about 60 percent of the number of passengers by the same time in 2009, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.
A smattering of protest groups occupied spots along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route, but the demonstrations largely were directed at long-running national and international concerns rather than at policies specific to the Obama administration.
A few dozen protesters with the ANSWER Coalition, a peace and social justice coalition, gathered at Freedom Plaza, near the White House, to honor the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and call for jobs, not war.Brian Becker, director of the antiwar ANSWER Coalition, said the group chose to focus on messages that would resonate with a pro-Obama crowd. In addition to a poster focusing on MLK’s legacy and jobs, protesters had signs saying “Indict Bush Now” and “Drone Strikes (equals) War Crimes.”
Another activist, Malachy Kilbride, said that while he and other protesters with the Arc of Justice Coalition were pleased Obama had broken the race barrier by winning the presidency, “that does not negate the fact that we are very upset with issues like the bailout of the banks, corporate influence in government, big money in politics.”
Associated Press writers Matthew Barakat, David Dishneau and Jessica Gresko contributed to this report.
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(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. )