May 21, 2013
Obama starts second term in low-key White House ceremony
President Barack Obama took the official oath for his second term at the White House in a small, private ceremony that set a more subdued tone compared to the historic start of his presidency four years ago.
Gathered with his family in the Blue Room on the White House's ceremonial main floor, Obama put his hand on a family Bible and recited the 35-word oath that was read out loud by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts.
"I did it," Obama said as he hugged his wife, Michelle, and daughters Sasha and Malia. "Thank you, sweetie," he told Michelle when she congratulated him. "Good job, Dad. You didn't mess up," 11-year-old Sasha Obama told her father.
It was a low-key start to the first African-American U.S. president's second term, which is likely to be dominated - at least at the start - by budget fights with Republicans and attempts to reform gun control and immigration laws.
Obama, 51, will be sworn in publicly on Monday outside the West Front of the Capitol overlooking the National Mall in front of as many as 800,000 people, a much bigger ceremony replete with a major address and a parade.
Downtown Washington was all but locked down with heavy security. Many streets were closed, lined with barricades. Police sirens blared. Outside the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, an elaborate presidential viewing stand encased in bullet-proof glass was set up for Obama and other VIPs to watch the parade.
Sunday's ceremony, shown live on television, was needed because the U.S. Constitution mandates that the president take office on Jan. 20. Planners opted to go with a private ceremony on the actual date and then hold the ceremonial inaugural activities the next day.
By Monday, Obama will have been sworn in four times, two for each term, putting him equal to Franklin Roosevelt, who won four terms. A second Obama swearing-in was deemed necessary in 2009 when Roberts flubbed the first one. On Sunday, Roberts read the oath carefully from a card and there were no mistakes.
Obama, who won a second four years on Nov. 6 by defeating Republican Mitt Romney after a bitter campaign, opens round two facing many of the same problems that dogged his first term: persistently high unemployment, crushing government debt and a deep partisan divide over how to solve the issues.
This has taken some of the euphoria out of his second inauguration, with TV pundits debating how successful he will be and whether he can avoid policy over-reaching that often afflicts two-term presidents.
If the president harbored any doubts himself, there was no sign of it as he attended a rousing service at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Washington where he and Michelle, who is sporting a new hair style featuring bangs, clapped and swayed to gospel music.
"Forward, forward," shouted Reverend Ronald Braxton to his congregation, echoing an Obama election campaign slogan.
Early Sunday morning, Vice President Joe Biden was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, making her the first Hispanic judge to administer an oath of office for one of the nation's two highest offices.
Obama and Biden then joined forces to lay a wreath of flowers at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in a solemn remembrance of those killed in the line of duty.
Biden's family, about 120 guests and a few reporters witnessed the private swearing-in ceremony in the main foyer of his Naval Observatory residence. Biden used a Bible with a Celtic cross on the cover that has been in his family since 1893.
The audience for Monday's ceremony is not expected to be as big as in 2009 when a record 1.8 million people crammed into the National Mall to witness the swearing-in. Turnout is projected at 600,000 to 800,000, with millions more watching on television.