Singers, musicians, vendors and a veteran parade planner tune up on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, for President Obama's Monday inauguration. (Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune)
President Barack Obama took the official oath for his second term on Sunday 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," 11-year-old Sasha told her father. "You didn't mess up."
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 and lined with barricades. 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 January 20. Planners opted to go with a private ceremony on the actual date and then hold the ceremonial inaugural activities the next day.
At a reception on Sunday night, Obama thanked supporters and joked that he did not want to give too much of a preview of his upcoming address.
"Tonight I'm going to be pretty brief because, you know, there are a limited amount of good lines," he said to laughter.
"What the inauguration reminds us of is the role we have as fellow citizens in promoting a common good," he continued, more seriously. "What we're celebrating is not the election or swearing-in of a president, what we're doing is celebrating each other and celebrating this incredible nation that we call home."
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 November 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, which often afflicts two-term presidents.
"The newness has already worn off. Last time it was the inauguration for our first black president. Now, four years later it is a bit of old news," Mark Hoye, 52, of Sterling, Virginia said at an inauguration ball at a hotel in Washington.
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 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 on 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.
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