On January 20, on a crisp, cold winter day under clear skies and in the presence of innumerable witnesses at the US Capitol’s National Mall, Barack Obama with his family by his side, took the oath of office and became the 44th President of the United States of America. In completing the transfer of power, Obama broke a 220 year-old tradition of Anglo-American presidents as the first African-American to hold the nation’s highest office. With a slight hitch in during the oath administered by the Chief Justice, President Obama quickly regained his composure and completed the pledge to the roaring applause of the crowd.
The throng extended from the Mall to the Lincoln Memorial in the distance, and was a representation of the melting pot America has become, a melange of races and ethnicities standing shoulder to shoulder, estimated at well over a million strong. As the entrance of each distinguished guest was announced, the crowd was exuberant, but was less than gracious as the outgoing president made his entrance. Bush was assailed by a chorus of boos, immediately drowned out by the vigorous rendition of Hail to the Chief. Their long wait was over.
Under the watchful eyes of four former US heads of state, President Obama’s speech, apltly lacking any hubris, echoed themes of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Lincoln, but the principal message was unmistakably his. In addition to calling the nation to unity and to service, the new President addressed leaders around the world, and to the nation’s adversaries, he extended the olive branch of friendship, but with a bold caveat: should their intentions be contentious, America will reciprocate.
On this extraordinary day in American history, despite the gravity of the challenges faced by the nation, the people have cause to rejoice.