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Published: Wednesday, 1/21/2009

President Obama issues a nationwide call to duty

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

WASHINGTON Barack Hussein Obama II, sworn in yesterday as the 44th president of the United States and the first black to hold the nation s highest office, told Americans they had chosen hope over fear and said now would begin the task of remaking America.

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, 47, said after taking the Constitutional oath of office on the Bible used by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861.

He took the oath on the West steps of the Capitol on a sunny but cold day with highs in the 20s before a crowd estimated at more than a million people.

President Obama thanked Republican George W. Bush for a graceful transition. After the ceremony, Mr. Bush and his family left for Texas, while Mr. Obama went into the Capitol for a luncheon before the inaugural parade.

In the evening, the festivities were to continue with 10 regional balls. Ohio would be represented in the Midwestern States Ball.

Yesterday morning, Mr. Obama and his family attended a private service at St. John s Episcopal Church, then went to the White House for coffee with outgoing President Bush and his wife.

President Obama set a tone of service in his speech, promising to carry on the nation s dream of freedom and opportunity.

He indicated that the nation s economic recovery would be difficult, that he would pursue it while trying to set aside worn-out dogmas, but would also pursue those issues that got him elected: health care, global warming, and better schools.

A crowd estimated at more than a million, believed to be one of the largest ever in Washington, packs the National Mall. It stretches from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.  A crowd estimated at more than a million, believed to be one of the largest ever in Washington, packs the National Mall. It stretches from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.
LUIS ALVAREZ / AP Enlarge

He promised to reach out to foes, Muslim nations, and people of poor nations, while also warning potential aggressors of America s resolve. In his 18-minute inaugural speech, Mr. Obama said America is as productive and inventive as ever.

But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America, Mr. Obama said.

He summed up the state of the nation in a paragraph:

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. 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.

The new President also laid out the major indicators by which success would be measured:

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end, he said.

Citing the words of Gen. George Washington during the American Revolution, Mr. Obama said, With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come.

He continued, Let it be said by our children s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

President Obama also warned America s enemies.

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you, Mr. Obama said.

He acknowledged his status as the first black to be elected president.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath, he said.

Mr. Obama takes office with the United States at war against insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, and with the economy in a severe recession.

His road to the White House involved primary battles against John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton, the favorite for the nomination, with a combination of a disciplined organization, a charismatic style, and a message of hope and change.

In the general election, he defeated Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, carrying Ohio and Michigan.

Mr. Obama is the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas.

His parents divorced when he was young, and Mr. Obama grew up with his mother and grandparents, mostly in Hawaii but also in Indonesia.

He was elected to the Illinois Senate from Chicago in 1997 and to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

Since his election in November, Mr. Obama has largely stayed out of commenting on international affairs, especially the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

But in recent weeks he sought to set the tone for an economic recovery, working on a proposed $825 billion stimulus package.

Before dawn, people began swarming streets outside the protected National Mall area. Many could not get close enough even to watch the proceedings on the jumbo TV screens, leaving the possibility of a glimpse of the parade as it proceeded from the Capitol to the White House.

Those who stuck to their plan of leaving early were the most successful in getting to the National Mall.

David Young, director of the University of Toledo s Toledo Excel high school scholarship program, said his group was out of its Maryland hotel by 4:30 a.m., and all 44 students and adult chaperones found a place on the mall.

There s some Jumbotrons around us so we ve got a pretty good spot, he said.

Ann Studer, who arrived with her husband, Mike, and three children, reported in a texted message to The Blade, We made it into the Capitol grounds to our spot. What an awesome place to be at this place in time.

Kyle Stanley, 17, of Waterville, who was on the Mall with 46 other students and adults from St. Francis de Sales High School, said being among so many people was definitely inspiring and uplifting.

He said he and some of his classmates were surprised by the booing and singing of good-bye that accompanied Mr. Bush s departure.

I thought there might be some short of display, but I didn t think to the level that was shown, young Stanley said.

At least one Toledoan was in the inaugural parade.

Walter Isom, a chief petty officer in the Coast Guard, led the Coast Guard honor guard, the last of the four military branch honor guards that preceded the motorcade.

This is a big part of American history right now with Obama being the president. It s a great opportunity for myself; it s a great opportunity for America to see history go down, said Mr. Isom, 34, a graduate of Start High School stationed at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Toledoan Bob Moore, 71, who is black, said he had to come to the inauguration because the fact that Barack Obama became President and the campaign was so unbelievable that I figured it was the right time to come down and be a part of history.

It was nice to see. It was something I never thought I d see in my lifetime, said Mr. Moore. He said the wait to get into the ticketed area was like a can of sardines. People were packed so close it kept them warm, but he said they showed camaraderie.

He got downtown about 8:45 a.m., but didn t reach his spot on the Capitol grounds until nearly 11:30 a.m.

VIEW : Commemorative cover


WilliAnn Moore, president of the Toledo branch of the NAACP, who is unrelated to Bob Moore, said the crowd was mad, organized chaos, but there was no cursing or discourtesy.

Everyone was here because they want this world to change, Mrs. Moore said. Being the great-granddaughter of a slave I am truly, truly elated. You don t know the feeling I have at this moment. I am here today to witness a black child that looks like my child and is my child s age accept the presidency of the United States of America.

State Sen. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) said Mr. Obama s speech was inspiring and spoke to people in ways that said we have a lot of challenges and we re going to face those challenges and rebuild America.

I feel as though there s a spirit of the people taking back the country, she said.

U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) said Mr. Obama lived up to his reputation as a great speaker, but said he s concerned about the details of what s to come.

I think that he laid out a broad vision for the country so I think that in the next several weeks we re going to see what the details are, said Mr. Latta, who watched the ceremony with his wife, Marcia.

Contact Tom Troy at:tomtroy@theblade.comor 419-724-6058.



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