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PHOTOS, VIDEO: Obama’s inauguration highlights

Tuesday 22 Jan 2013 9:03a.m.

See the photo gallery

PHOTOS, VIDEO: Obama inaugurated

By Calvin Woodward with 3 News online staff

It was altogether a more intimate affair than four years ago. Just a party of untold hundred thousands, chilling in the nation's backyard.

President Barack Obama's inauguration brought out a festive crowd of flag-wavers who filled the National Mall to overflowing, hailed his moment with lusty cheers and spent their down time spotting celebrities amid the bunting.

It was no match for the staggering masses and adrenaline-pumping energy of his first turn as president on the West Front of the Capitol. But a lively second act.

After a roaring rendition of the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ came James Taylor strumming his guitar and singing ‘America the Beautiful’. Then an all-for-show swearing-in, replicating the official one Sunday.

Chief Justice John Roberts got it right this time - but Obama appeared to stumble over the word "states" during his ceremonial swearing in.

In front of hundreds of thousands gathered to watch, Obama stammered briefly over "states" as he repeated back the words "the office of president of the United States."

In 2009, it was Roberts who famously flubbed Obama's official swearing in. As a result of that mistake, Roberts and Obama repeated the presidential oath in a private ceremony to ensure there were no constitutional issues.

Then Obama spoke, as all presidents must in one way or another, about "one nation and one people," healing words after a battering ram of an election and before the partisan struggles ahead. The address clocked in at 18 minutes. He ran 52 minutes in 2009.

Hours before the pageantry, people on foot spilled out of Metro stations near the White House and streamed toward the scene, official vehicles sealed off intersections blocks from the White House and Obama stood for a blessing in the "Church of Presidents."

The service at St John's Episcopal Church captured the intended tone of the day: unity. Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the African Methodist Episcopal Church spoke in the blessing of "this new season of opportunity after conflicting opinions and visions and platforms clanged against each other like a resounding gong."

A sea of people filled stretches of the National Mall from the West Front of the Capitol back to the Washington Monument and beyond, to the reflecting pool. No one expected a repeat of the unprecedented crowds of four years ago. But for many thousands, it was not to be missed.

Cabinet members and former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter filled prime seats. Katy Perry, Eva Longoria and John Mayer were among stars on the platform. Kelly Clarkson sang ‘My Country, `Tis of Thee’, and Beyonce closed with the national anthem.

It was overcast with a breeze, 40 degrees at noon, sparing the crowd the biting cold morning of four years earlier.

At midmorning, Metro subway trains through downtown Washington were no more crowded than they would be on a typical workday - except few were going to work.

Transit officials said 308,000 train passengers entered the system as of 11am, down 40 percent from the same period in the 2009 inauguration.

Terry Alexander, a Democratic state representative from South Carolina, and his wife, Starlee Alexander, were taking a leisurely ride from their downtown hotel to Union Station. Four years ago, they had to ride a bus to the Pentagon from their Virginia hotel and walk across the 14th Street Bridge to the National Mall.

"It was crazy," he said. "This is calm. Last time, we couldn't even get down in the tunnel to get to the trains."

Obama's motorcade went into motion several hours before the speech, taking him with his family to St. John's Episcopal Church. Before the sermon, R&B performer Ledisi sang the solo ‘I Feel Like Goin' On’.

On recent visits to the "Church of Presidents," Obama has taken to ditching the motorcade in favour of walking back to the White House through Lafayette Park.

But this was a day for a speech, a parade and the many decorative rituals of power, not an idle stroll.

His inaugural speech over, heading into the Capitol before a luncheon of bison and lobster in Statuary Hall, Obama briefly lingered and turned his gaze back to the crowd.

"I want to take a look, one more time," he said. "I'm not going to see this again."

AP

 
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