WASHINGTON, D.C. – In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and forever changed the course of American history. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama placed his hand on the same Bible that Lincoln used for his swearing in. American history changed again as Obama took the oath of office as the 44th president of the United States and the first African-American commander in chief.
“I stand here today humbled by the task before, grateful for the trust you’ve bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors,” President Obama said during his Inaugural Address. “Today, we gather because we’ve chosen hope over fear…Starting today we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America…We are ready to lead once more.”
Obama is the first president to use Lincoln’s Bible since it was first used in 1861. He was administered the oath of office by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
Millions braced the cold and lined the National Mall to watch the swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, with many South Floridians in attendance to witness the historic event.
“This is so exciting,” said Freddie Young, a former Miami-Dade elementary school principal. “I was just overwhelmed.”
Young watched the inaugural ceremonies from the ballroom at the Willard Hotel in D.C. Although she did not have tickets, she was excited about attending the parade, she said.
“It was wonderful. It was outstanding,” Trenise Davis of Miami said of Obama’s address.
“We were all overwhelmed.” she said, as she boarded a subway en route to the parade.
Davis, 50, watched the ceremonies on a large screen on the National Mall.
The ceremony included an invocation by Dr. Rick Warren and musical performances by Aretha Franklin, The United States Marine Band, The San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus. African-American poet Elizabeth Alexander, who is also a professor of African-American studies at Yale University, read a poem.
“Praise song for struggle, praise strong for the day,” Alexander said. “In today’s sharp sparkle winter air, anything can be made…on the brink, on the brim, on the cusp. Praise song for walking forward in that light.”
For the first time, the length of the entire National Mall was opened to the public to allow more people than ever before to witness the swearing in of a president. People who did not receive tickets to the swearing-in event were able to watch and listen to the ceremony on large screens provided by the Presidential Inaugural Committee along the Mall.
Following Obama’s Inaugural Address, civil rights icon the Rev. Joseph Lowery delivered the benediction.
“And as we leave this mountain top, let us keep this fellowship with us,” he said.
The ceremonies concluded with the national anthem performed by the United States Navy Band “Sea Chanters.”
The swearing-in ceremony was followed by the inaugural luncheon held at the Capitol and the 2009 Inaugural Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Although the luncheon is not open to the public, the majority of the parade route is free and open to the public for standing-room access.
The celebration continues into the night, and will feature 10 official inaugural balls, including the Southern Inaugural Ball, featuring guests from Florida and other southern states.
Inaugural events will conclude Wednesday with the National Prayer Service held at the Washington National Cathedral, where President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, dignitaries and Americans of diverse faiths will join together for prayer, readings and musical performances. The service is by invitation only and tickets are required.
Even before he took the oath of office, Obama assumed the country’s highest office by mandate of the U.S. Constitution.
The 20th Amendment specifies that the terms of office of the president and vice president “shall end at noon on the 20th day of January … and the terms of their successors shall then begin,” according to The Associated Press.
The transfer of power was complete when the clock struck noon.Obama took the oath of office a few minutes after noon.
Editor’s note: Whitney Sessa and Jenna Farmer are graduate students of journalism at the University of Miami.