It’s official: Obama sworn in for second term

 

McClatchy Newspapers

President Barack Obama was officially sworn into office for a second term Sunday in a small private ceremony at the White House.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administered the oath to the 44th president as he was surrounded by only a few family members.

Obama will participate in the traditional -- and much more flashy -- public swearing-in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Monday, following the lead of his predecessors whose first day in office, as prescribed by the Constitution, fell on a Sunday. Between 600,000 and 800,000 are expected to attend Monday.

Obama kicks off a second four-year term with ambitions to overhaul the nation’s tax code, rewrite immigration laws, tighten gun regulations and combat global warming.

But he faces a fractured political climate -- in part fueled by a divided Congress and nation -- as he combats an array of domestic and foreign policy challenges and goals from boasting a still lagging economy to winding down the war in Afghanistan.

On Sunday, there was little fanfare -- or acknowledgement of the daunting tasks that lay ahead -- at the brief ceremony.

There were no speeches, no parades, no balls.

Obama, wearing a suit and blue tie, was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, their daughters, Sasha, 11, and Malia, 14, just before noon in the small, oval-shaped Blue Room on the first floor that boasts views of the Washington Monument. Obama’s half-sister and Mrs. Obama’s brother were also in attendance.

“I do solemnly swear that I 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 so help me God,” Obama recited.

As he uttered the words, Obama placed his left hand on a bible held by his wife and used by the first lady’s grandmother, LaVaughn Delores Robinson, the first African-American woman manager of the bookstore at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Afterward, he hugged his wife and children. “I did it,” he said to his youngest daughter.

Obama followed presidential precedent in choosing the chief justice -- a man he did not support for the Supreme Court and who, in 2009, botched the oath requiring a do-over the next day.

A small group of reporters and photographers were present in the room to witness the proceedings following pressure from the media that journalists be allowed to witness history. Millions around the globe watched the event on television or the Internet. It is the seventh time that inauguration day has fallen on a Sunday, and the first since Ronald Reagan’s second term began in 1985.

“Thank you everybody,” he said before walking out of the room.

The First Family worshipped Sunday morning at the historic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, celebrating civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday will be honored Monday across the nation. The crowd lept to its feet with applause when Obama was greeted.

In his sermon, the Rev. Ronald E. Braxton recalled the “forward” theme of Obama’s reelection campaign in telling the story of Moses. He urged Obama to not allow obstacles to interfere “Where forward is the only option.”

Obama did not speak at the event but on Saturday he called the inauguration “an affirmation that we’re all in this together and that we’ve got to look out for each other and work hard on behalf of each other.”

Nearly four hours earlier Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden was sworn in at his official residence, the U.S. Naval Observatory, by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic and fourth female judge to do so. The proceedings were moved up so Sotomayor could travel to New York for a book signing.

“I want to explain to you what a wonderful honor it was, and how much out of her way the justice had to go. She is due in New York. She has to leave right now,” Biden told about invited guests after the swearing-in. “So I apologize: We’re gonna walk out. Her car’s waiting so she can catch a train I hope I haven’t caused her to miss.”

Biden’s wife, Jill, children and grandchildren gathered on a blue stage for the minutes-long ceremony where he recited the oath at 8:21 a.m. About 120 family members and friends were seated in a trio of rooms facing the stage.

The crowd included a smattering of elected officials from states that would be important if Biden decides to run for president in 2016, including Maggie Hassan, the governor of New Hampshire, which hosts the nation’s first presidential primary. Other guests include Reps. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

“I’ve known Joe Biden for over 25 years and to witness his private swearing in with his friends, close friends and family, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, I don’t think it gets any better,” longtime Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said.

Obama and Biden began their day at Arlington National Cemetery, where they placed a large wreath adorned with red, white and blue ribbon in front of the Tomb of the Unknowns. They will end the day at a formal candlelight reception designed to thank high-dollars donors at the tony National Building Museum. It’s one of several star-studded events at the 57th inauguration celebration that serve as a thank you for contributors helping to pick up the multi-million dollars tab of days of festivities.

Email: akumar@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @anitakumar01

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