- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Hussein Obama seized his place in history as the nation’s first black president on Tuesday, beckoning his fellow Americans to move beyond divisive politics and a “collective failure to make hard choices” so that the country could conquer the “raging storms” of war and economic turmoil. Now Wednesday, the real work begins.

“We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America,” Mr. Obama declared shortly after placing his hand on a Bible once used by Abraham Lincoln as he uttered the oath of the world’s most powerful office.

Peering out from the steps of the Capitol before a record crowd, estimated as high as 2 million strong, that had engulfed the National Mall, Mr. Obama delivered an unmistakable message of civic duty and personal sacrifice that he hopes will reshape a long-divided American political landscape.

TEXT: Read the full speech here

“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly,” Mr. Obama said after being sworn in at 12:05 p.m. by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who stumbled over the words of the presidential oath as he administered it to Mr. Obama.

Eager to help the new president, the Senate confirmed six of Mr. Obama’s Cabinet secretaries and his budget chief, soon after he officially submitted their nominations. But in one dissonant note, the Senate did not act on the nomination of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to be secretary of state because of the objections of one Republican senator.

The reality of the challenges facing the president hit quickly. Stocks plunged, with the Dow taking its biggest-ever Inauguration Day dive at 332 points, falling below 8,000.

Mr. Obama also was faced with the frail health of key legislative ally Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, who had a seizure at a ceremonial lunch that Mr. Obama was attending at the Capitol.

Looking to take control of the political scene, the new White House wasted little time in changing President Bush’s course. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel issued an executive order halting all pending regulations until the new administration could review them.

Later in the evening, the president and first lady Michelle Obama had their first inauguration-night dance, at the Neighborhood Ball, to Etta James’ “At Last,” sung by pop star Beyonce.

The first couple appeared to be sharing something of an intimate moment amid all the flashbulbs and screams.

“You can tell that’s a black president from the way he was moving,” actor Jamie Foxx said afterward.

It was one of 10 inaugural balls at which Mr. Obama was expected to dance, ending in the early morning hours Wednesday and capping one of the biggest celebrations Washington has ever seen, with millions standing in chilly weather for hours to be witnesses to history.

Mr. Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, was sworn in to wild cheers and even some tears from the crowd, punctuated by a trumpets and a cannon salute.

The 44th president used his 18-minute inaugural address to demand responsibility, criticizing “our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”

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