Obama Takes Office: Coble Calls It 'History' in Making
In a powerful ceremony that Rep. Howard Coble called "history in the making," Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States Tuesday.
An estimated two million people braved extremely cold temperatures on the day after the country celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to jam the National Mall in Washington and witness the historic inauguration of the nation's first African-American chief executive. Spectators started arriving as early as 4 a.m. Tuesday.
Obama took the oath of office at about 12:05 p.m., using the same Bible that Abraham Lincoln used when he was inaugurated -- symbolic of the racial strides the country has made since that time. He followed the oath with a stirring address, assuring Americans that the hardships the nation has been facing can be overcome.
"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real," he said. "They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America -- they will be met."
Obama also stressed the importance of personal responsibility and everyday citizens taking action.
"For as much as government can do and must do," he said, "it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies."
Obama concluded by reciting a quote from George Washington in the darkest of hours during the American Revolution and challenged the nation to press forward in the same spirit.
"Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end," he said, "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."
About 28,000 people obtained tickets to watch the inauguration ceremony from the west lawn of the Capitol. The rest of the crowd stretched the two-mile length of the Mall, all the way to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Washington's Metro subway system was inundated with passengers early in the morning. Long lines could be seen at many Arlington stations with people jamming into the trains to get into the city.
Despite the frigid temperatures in the hours leading up to the ceremony, the crowd remained upbeat. Red-hatted inauguration committee volunteers high-fived visitors as they spilled onto the Mall. The crowd cheered as Sunday's "We Are One" concert was replayed before the inauguration on the giant screens that peppered the city.
Chants of "Obama! Obama! Obama!" rang out as the president was introduced, and again after he took the oath of office and delivered his inaugural address. Many people exchanged hugs with those around them, while others were crying. Looking down from the mound on which the Washington Monument sits, one saw a sea of small American flags being waved wildly in a show of unity and patriotism.
For others, the celebration was just as much about the end of the controversial Bush administration as it was about the beginning of Obama's. Several attendees wore buttons that said "Bye Bye Bush," while others held up derogatory signs about the former president, including some that called for his impeachment and arrest. When Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney were introduced before the ceremony, the crowd jeered and booed. Some even started an impromptu rendition of "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Them Goodbye" by Steam.
' Terrific Orator'
After the ceremony, Republican Congressman Coble of North Carolina's 6th District, which includes Moore County, reacted to the ceremony via a phone interview with The Pilot. This was the sixth presidential inauguration Coble has attended.
"All of these inaugurations are historic," he said. "But this one is particularly so, because this is the first African-American president."
Coble said that in terms of delivery, Obama's address may be the best of the lot that he's heard in person.
"He is a terrific orator," he said, -- "maybe the most accomplished orator in the six that I've seen."
Coble said it was too early to tell how Obama's presidency would impact Moore County, adding that everyone would have a better sense in a few months. While he conceded that the country is in a "dismal time" right now, he agreed with Obama that the nation will be able to handle whatever challenges come its way.
"We have a pretty good track record for facing and overcoming adversity," he said.
North Carolina's newly installed senator, Sen. Kay Hagan, released a statement shortly after the inauguration.
"I want to congratulate and salute our new president, Barack Obama," said Hagan. "But our work begins in earnest today. With a new president and a new Congress, we have no time to waste. Our country is facing some of its greatest challenges in a generation. They will require bipartisan consensus and leaders working together, across the aisle, to achieve the real solutions we desperately need.
"I pledge to work with all of my colleagues to forge good, solid ideas -- not Democratic or Republican ideas -- to help working families in North Carolina and this country."
The ceremony marked the culmination of a two-year journey for the former junior senator from Illinois. A relative unknown when he announced his candidacy in Springfield, Ill., in early 2007, Obama faced an uphill battle to capture the Democratic nomination. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton held a nearly 20-point advantage over Obama in early primary and caucus polling.
But the Obama campaign quickly turned the tide, launching an unprecedented grassroots movement that registered thousands of new voters.
Victories in Iowa and South Carolina suddenly put Clinton on the defensive and started a protracted primary battle that lasted into early June, when Clinton finally dropped out of the race.
Obama maintained a lead in the polls over Republican presidential nominee John McCain through most of the general campaign, only relinquishing that lead for a few days in late August on the heels of McCain's selection of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee.
Obama emerged from a particularly nasty general campaign relatively unscathed, despite McCain's barrage of questions surrounding his readiness to be president.
After drawn-out elections in 2000 and 2004, election night 2008 ended relatively quickly. Obama captured victories in the crucial swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia, earning him a near landslide victory in the electoral college.
Tuesday's celebration marked the 56th time an American president has been inaugurated. It has been reported that Obama's inauguration cost upward of $150 million.
Coble said that he still marvels at the peaceful transfer of power every time a new president is inaugurated, and this was no exception.
"It's noteworthy that every four years we can have a transition of power and authority without violence," he said. "We sometimes take it for granted."
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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