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Archive for January, 2009

Obama a President of Hope

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

"I stand here today humbled by the task before us," said Mr Obama as he began his inaugural address.

He thanked outgoing president George W. Bush before pledging to live up to the enormous challenges that lie ahead.

"I say to you that the challenges we face are real. 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," he said.

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord."

More than 2 million well-wishers braved temperatures hovering at  minus-2 degrees Celsius to cram the National Mall and streets leading onto the US capital’s central thoroughfare, clogging the metro system and roads for hours before Mr Obama took the oath of office.

Mr Obama, the son of a black Kenyan father and a white American mother, swore to "preserve, protect and defend" the US constitution as he took the oath in front of the US Capitol building.

"This is the culmination of two years of work," said Obama activist Akin Salawu, who helped the candidate as a community organiser. "We got on board when Obama was the little engine who could. He’s like a child you’ve held onto. Now he’s going out into the world."

Mr Obama, 47, and his wife, Michelle, earlier attended services at St John’s Episcopal Church, across from the White House. Along with Vice-President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, they then had coffee at the executive mansion with Mr Bush, his outgoing deputy, Dick Cheney, and their wives.

The former Illinois senator stepped up to the dais in front of the Capitol early this morning Hong Kong time to assume power from Mr Bush after two terms marked by political division.

Mr Obama is famed for his eloquence, but he stumbled his way through the oath of office, talking over Chief Justice John Roberts.

But this was forgotten as Mr Obama, who inherits an economic crisis, two foreign wars and massive challenges to US authority overseas, delivered a soaring inaugural speech.

"We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began," he said.

"Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

Looking overseas, Mr Obama said America’s multicultural history put it in a unique position of responsibility.

Because of this history "we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace", he said.

The celebrations in Washington had an acute poignancy for many, given the new president’s bi-racial heritage.

Christian Alderson went to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968 in support of the civil rights movement and was there when Martin Luther King was assassinated 40 years ago. "That day was sorrowful," Mr Alderson, 73, said. "This is a dream come true for me."