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“Because we have tasted the bitter swill of Civil War and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace,” the president said.

Icons of black culture were in full force at the Capitol to watch the history unfold.

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey drew squeals as she walked through the crowd beneath the platform, and even the Air Force ushers paused in their work to snap photos of her.

Sean “Diddy” Combs held a camera at arm’s length and appeared to be taking video of himself narrating the event before the swearing-in. And R&B singer Smokey Robinson hugged those around him right after Mr. Obama took the oath.

Mr. Bush, who leaves office with a legacy of questions more than answers, watched Mr. Obama take the oath from the Capitol’s West Front, then the new president saw the former president off from the East Front of the Capitol. Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, boarded a helicopter for a last ride to Andrews Air Force Base, where they flew to their new home in Texas.

Though Mr. Obama was gracious to the former president — thanking him for “the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition” — he was harsh in his own evaluation of the problems Mr. Bush has left, though not laying blame by name.

“Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly. Our schools fail too many. And each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama, whose election was widely cheered around the world, also made a nod toward relations with Muslim nations, which have been frayed by Mr. Bush’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” he said, though he immediately then warned “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.”

The crowd on the Mall was not forgiving of Mr. Bush. Boos could be heard when Mr. Bush was introduced at the Capitol, and some were unwilling to let him go easily.

Twana Adams, from New York, was carrying an “Arrest Bush” sign as she walked near Union Station.

“We can’t go forward — the whole world cannot go forward — until these people get justice,” she said.

The change in administrations was immediately noticeable on www.whitehouse.gov, which debuted a new Web site with a new blog as of 12:01 p.m. The first posting to the blog vowed to remake the relationship between Americans and their government.

Mr. Obama himself signaled the new beginning from the start, right down to the license plates on his presidential limousines. Overnight, the “44” license plate he had been using to signify his place in the presidential order was replaced with one that said “1.”

The capital city was locked down under heavy security for the day, with bridge closings snarling city traffic and a flooded subway system straining to move hundreds of thousands of people.

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