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In spite of the exhilaration of the day, Mr. Obama’s second term promises to be a more difficult slog in some ways than his first. Although Democrats controlled the House and Senate for half of his first term, he now faces a divided Congress as he tries to persuade lawmakers to approve his second-term initiatives.

As he departed the inaugural platform after the ceremony, Mr. Obama lingered for a minute or so inside an arched doorway to the Capitol, gazing back at the crowd and scanning the tableau as if to imprint the scene on his memory.

Crowds along the inaugural parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest were four and five deep. Along with supporters waving American flags and a group that held red, white and blue signs that spelled out “O-B-A-M-A,” there were occasional protest signs, such as “God hates Obama.”

The president and his family began the day by attending services with Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his wife, Jill, at St. John’s Episcopal Church, across Lafayette Park from the White House. Mr. Obama then hosted a coffee reception for congressional leaders at the executive mansion.

David Sands contributed to this report.