WASHINGTON — President Obama began his second term Sunday with a brief private swearing-in 24 hours ahead of his public oath-taking at the U.S. Capitol today.
Chief Justice John Roberts used note cards to administer the 35-word oath. The chief justice flubbed the oath in 2009, and President Obama had to be sworn in a second time the next day.
Sunday, though, the oath was executed perfectly over a family Bible that had been a Mother’s Day gift from Michelle Obama’s father to the First Lady’s grandmother.
Mr. Obama, dressed in a suit, planted himself opposite the chief justice in the Blue Room of the White House. His wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha, rounded out the tableau.
Justice Roberts asked Mr. Obama to raise his right hand and repeat after him.
“I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear,” he began, using the President’s full name. Mr. Obama repeated the oath, with his left hand on the Bible, held by his smiling wife.
“Good job, Dad,” 11-year-old Sasha said.
“I did it,” the President exclaimed.
The ceremony lasted about one minute, after which the President thanked Justice Roberts, kissed his wife, hugged his daughters, and quickly escorted his family out.
The quiet moments were a prelude to today’s public inaugural events when Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will be sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol before a crowd expected to reach into the hundreds of thousands and a television audience counted in the millions.
The trappings were in place — the flag-draped stands outside the Capitol and the tables set inside for a traditional lunch with lawmakers. Across town, a specially made reviewing stand rested outside the White House gates for the President and guests to watch the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
A crowd of perhaps 800,000 was forecast, less than the million-plus that flocked to the nation’s capital four years ago to witness the inauguration of the first black president in American history.
The weather forecast was encouraging to a point: High temperatures were predicted for the lower 40s during the day, with scattered snow showers during the evening, when two inaugural balls close out the official proceedings.
The 44th chief executive is only the 17th to win re-election, and his second-term goals are ambitious for a nation where sharp political differences have produced gridlocked government.
Before the swearing-in, Mr. Obama listened from a second-row pew at the 175-year-old Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, which also hosted preinaugural prayer services for former President Bill Clinton. The Rev. Jonathan V. Newman asked God’s blessing for Mr. Obama and his family. “But also prepare him for battle … because sometimes enemies insist on doing it the hard way,” he said.
Mr. Biden began his second term at 8:21 a.m. Sunday during a separate and slightly lengthier swearing-in at his official residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory.
Historically, when the constitutionally mandated swearing-in day has fallen on a Sunday — when federal offices and courts are closed — public ceremonies have been held the next day.
Mr. Biden was sworn in ahead of the President because Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whom the vice president selected to administer the oath, was to discuss her new memoir, My Beloved World, Sunday afternoon at a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan.
“I want to explain to you what a wonderful honor it was, and how much out of the way the justice had to go,” Mr. Biden said afterward, explaining that Justice Sotomayor had to catch a train to New York.
The vice president was sworn in using a 5-inch-thick Bible that has been in the Biden family since 1893. He used it when he was sworn in as vice president in 2009 and each of six times when he was sworn in as a U.S. senator. His son, Beau, used it when he was sworn in as Delaware’s attorney general.
“It is an incredible honor to have Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor swear me in,” Mr. Biden said in a statement provided by his office. “From the first time I met her, I was impressed by Justice Sotomayor’s commitment to justice and opportunity for all Americans, and she continues to exemplify those values today.”
Hours before he and President Obama were due to be sworn in for their second terms, Mr. Biden told supporters at the Iowa State Society inauguration ball late Saturday: “I’m proud to be president of the United States.”
The audience laughed and then cheered. Beau Biden interrupted his father and told the crowd he had misspoken.
Although Mr. Biden will be a few days short of his 74th birthday on the next Election Day in 2016, he has hinted he is considering a run for president.
About 120 people attended Mr. Biden’s ceremony, including members of the Biden family; Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.); AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka; Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; political strategist David Axelrod; Attorney General Eric Holder; Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and several current or former members of Congress.
While guests enjoyed breakfast, Mr. Biden left to meet President Obama to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Tracie Mauriello is Washington bureau chief for the Post-Gazette.
Contact Tracie Mauriello at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 703-996-9292.