Obama poised to become 44th U.S. president
Barack Obama was poised to make history on Tuesday as America`s first black president, riding the optimism of millions of people into power and inheriting a recession and two wars that will test his skills, according to Reuters.
Obama, 47, the son of a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, was set to take the oath of office at midday (12 p.m. EST) on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, his hand placed on a Bible used by Abraham Lincoln at his first inauguration in 1861.
Obama`s inauguration culminates the hopes and dreams of generations of African-Americans who suffered slavery and then racial segregation policies that made them second-class citizens.
He assumes the mantle of power at a moment of great anxiety among Americans who have seen hundreds of thousands of jobs vanish in past months and left them fearful an economic collapse could turn a crisis into a catastrophe.
The "Obama-mania" that helped propel Obama into office was alive on the streets of Washington.
A winter chill failed to dampen the spirits of more than 1 million people who swept into the U.S. capital to witness the pomp and ceremony and revel in the festivities surrounding Obama`s inauguration as the 44th U.S. president.
"Slavery to History, The Obama Inauguration," was the slogan on a handwritten cardboard sign held by a smiling man on a downtown sidewalk.
Thousands of security personnel were in place to maintain order and guard against an attack. Much of the city center was barricaded and shut down to vehicular traffic.
In an eagerly anticipated inauguration address he has been working on for weeks, Obama will rally Americans to an era of responsibility, urging them to join in a spirit of unity to take on difficult issues.
"Government can only do so much," he told participants in a service project honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday. "We`re going to have to take responsibility -- all of us."
Obama in recent days has stressed that Americans should expect even rougher economic times and that his plan to revive the struggling economy will take time to work.
OBAMA HONORS MCCAIN, COLIN POWELL
The president-to-be appeared in a giddy mood on Monday night as he spent the evening at dinners honoring former Republican rival John McCain, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice President-elect Joe Biden.
At the event for McCain, he could not resist referring to the sometimes testy campaign debates in which they took part.
"I`m here tonight to say a few words about an American hero I have come to know very well and admire very much -- Senator John McCain. And then, according to the rules agreed to by both parties, John will have approximately 30 seconds to make a rebuttal," he said.
Crowds of people clapped as Obama`s motorcade sped through the city en route to the various dinners.
Favorable winds were blowing at Obama`s back despite the long to-do list he inherits from President George W. Bush. A realclearpolitics.com average of recent polls showed a remarkable 73 percent of Americans had a favorable view of Obama.
By contrast, Bush leaves with sagging poll numbers, weighed down by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the worst economic problems since the Great Depression. His eight years in power over, Bush is returning home to Texas on Tuesday.
VICE PRESIDENTS MAKE NEWS
Bush`s vice president, Dick Cheney pulled a muscle in his back while moving boxes and will be in a wheelchair for the inauguration ceremony, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
The incoming vice president, Joe Biden, was chagrined to hear his wife, Jill, make news by telling "The Oprah Winfrey Show" that her husband had been offered his choice of two plum jobs, vice president or secretary of state.
Internal deliberations over top-level jobs are usually kept secret. Biden`s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Alexander, later issued a statement saying Obama had offered Biden only the vice presidency.
Obama, who campaigned for the presidency by criticizing Bush, is to spend the morning with him before taking the oath of office. By all accounts, the two men have gotten along well since Obama won, and Bush has repeatedly spoken warmly about him.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, and the Bidens are to attend a church service on Tuesday morning at St. John`s Episcopal Church. Then they will have coffee with the Bushes and the Cheneys at the White House.
The group will proceed to the U.S. Capitol for a time-honored ceremony in which Obama will repeat a short oath, pledging he will "faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."