- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 17, 2009


ABOARD THE 2009 INAUGURAL TRAIN — President-elect Barack Obama Saturday challenged Americans to pursue a “new declaration of independence,” paying tribute to history with his own four-city train tour retracing the path that President Lincoln traveled on the way to his first inauguration in 1861.

Mr. Obama traveled with his wife, Michelle, on her 45th birthday, along with their two daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, in a bright blue Pullman caboose car at the end of a full-size Amtrak train full of Secret Service personnel and three cars of reporters.

As the train made its way from Philadelphia to Wilmington and then on to Baltimore, Mr. Obama and others blew the train’s horn at the clusters of people, some standing in their back yards and others gathered in parking lots and fields who gathered in the freezing temperatures to wave at their next president and snap a quick picture.

In Baltimore, 40,000 people flocked to see Mr. Obama speak in the War Memorial plaza in front of City Hall, and cheered wildly despite the cold when he appeared.

“I love you,” someone in the crowd yelled.

“I love you back,” he said, drawing a loud cheer.

“As I prepare to leave for Washington on a trip that you made possible, I know that I will not be traveling alone. I will be taking you with me,” he said, again drawing loud cheers from an audience that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat and Baltimore native.

In Edgewood, Md, a roar went up from a few thousand people standing behind jersey barriers in a parking lot as the train went by. The train slowed and Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden waved to the crowd from the platform on the back of the train. Mr. Obama, who had not worn a coat earlier in the trip, had by this point donned one, though he still did not have gloves on his hands.

There was a noticeable security presence along the route, with police cars parked at nearly every spot with access to the tracks.

Mr. Obama made speeches at all three stops. Vice President-elect Joseph Biden and his wife, Jill, joined the journey in Wilmington.

“We are here today not simply to pay tribute to our first patriots but to take up the work that they began,” Mr. Obama said in Philadelphia, framed by the hall’s at least 10 American flags and joined by special guests invited by his inaugural committee.

Mr. Obama’s remarks in Wilmington focused much more on lower and middle-income families, and he dropped most of the historical references he made in Philadelphia.

The president-elect spoke of “America at a crossroads,” and used Mr. Biden’s middle-class upbringing to talk about how he will make the government accountable “to the conductors who make our trains run, and to the workers who lay down the rails, to the parents who worry about how they’re going to pay next month’s bills on the commute to work, and to the children who hear the whistle of the train and dream of a better life.”

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