WASHINGTON — Hailing the nation’s "patchwork heritage,” Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a Kenyan and a Kansan, succeeded George W. Bush in the White House on Tuesday and began a new era in American government. The 44th president, the first black person to hold the office in the nation’s 232-year history, took the oath of office on a cold day in front of more than 1 million people who jammed the National Mall from the U.S. Capitol down to the Lincoln Memorial and frequently burst into chants of "O-bam-a!” Despite the magnitude of the moment — which compelled people of all ages and races to flock to Washington this week — Obama didn’t dwell on his own story, focusing most of his inaugural address on the nation’s challenges at home and abroad. The new president said people gathered in Washington this week "because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.” He asserted his resolve to rebuild the economy and relations with other countries while defending the nation against aggression. And he called for a new era of responsibility. "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America,” Obama said. The 47-year-old Democrat bid farewell to his Republican predecessor, Bush, who left Washington for Texas after eight years in the White House. Obama immediately inherited some challenges, including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and crises in the financial and automotive industries that led to massive corporate bailouts. Obama pledged Tuesday to "begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan.” And, hinting at stronger regulation for Wall Street, he warned that a market without a watchful eye "can spin out of control.” Obama will start his presidency as Bush did — with his party in charge of Congress. Obama has already begun working with Democratic lawmakers on an economic stimulus package that could top $800 billion over two years. Just minutes after taking the oath of office from Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, Obama said it was time to stop arguing about whether government was too big or too small. The question, he said, was whether it works — "whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. "Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”
Oklahomans reactSen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, said he went down to the National Mall on Tuesday morning to talk to people and was struck by the enthusiasm for Obama. "In a way, America kind of needs a change, not that the things he’s talking about changing are things I would endorse,” he said. Inhofe said he thought Obama’s presidency would have "a huge positive effect, not just in this country but around the world. Anything can happen in America. Anything is possible. No other country can do that.” Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat who endorsed Obama last summer during his hard-fought primary battle against Sen. Hillary Clinton, attended the swearing-in ceremony and said it was a day he wouldn’t forget. "As President Obama noted in his inaugural address, our country faces historic challenges, but they are challenges we can and will overcome by putting aside our differences and working together. I think his words of hope and inspiration will help unite America at this very critical time and set the tone for positive change in Washington, D.C.” Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, said, "The president’s emphasis today on personal responsibility and unity was encouraging. "While I am sure many of us will be at odds with some of the new administration’s policies, we can disagree without being disagreeable. I am anxious to see what concrete proposals President Obama brings to Congress to deal with the economic crisis and to assure that America remains safe from foreign threats.” After his inaugural address, Obama had lunch with members of Congress, then rode and walked to the White House ahead of the inaugural parade.
Price of citizenshipIn calling on Americans to serve their nation, he said it was part of the price and promise of citizenship. "This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny,” he said. "This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.”
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Background: The president
Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father who did little to raise his son, and a mother whose family hailed from Kansas, went to some of the nation’s finest colleges before moving to Chicago and working as a lawyer and volunteering in his community. He served in the Illinois Legislature before winning a U.S. Senate seat in 2004. Marking a new page In U.S. history
Commemorate President Barack Obama’s inauguration with a poster or T-shirt featuring today’s front page of The Oklahoman. Go to www.classicheadlines.com/ok.html to buy your page of history. Also, for the "Obama: The Historic Front Pages” book, a photomosaic poster of Obama or Associated Press photos from a featured photo collection, go to www.newsok.com/obama