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Obama Sworn In As 44th President

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHANTING)

SIEGEL: Washington, D.C., swollen with well-wishers, a city celebrating despite a daunting array of national crises, was festive witness to history today. A new president was sworn in, our country's 44th and the first who is African-American. With his hand on Lincoln's bible, Barack Obama took the oath of office, administered by Chief Justice John Roberts.

JOHN ROBERTS: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

BARACK OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama do solemnly swear...

ROBERTS: That I will execute the office of President to the United States faithfully...

OBAMA: That I will execute...

ROBERTS: Faithfully the president - the office of President of the United States...

OBAMA: The office of President to the United States faithfully...

ROBERTS: And will to the best of my ability...

OBAMA: And will to the best of my ability...

ROBERTS: Preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

OBAMA: Preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

ROBERTS: So, help you, God?

OBAMA: So, help me, God.

ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)

ROBERTS: All the best wishes.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD APPLAUSE, BAND PLAYING AND FIREWORKS)

SIEGEL: In keeping with recent tradition, the swearing in was the on the west terrace of the Capitol building. The massive crowd stretched for more than two miles from the west front lawn down the National Mall to the Washington Monument and beyond. People came from all over braving the cold and wind and heard a purposeful new president declare that America is ready to lead once more.

OBAMA: My fellow citizens, I stand here today humbled by the task before us.

SIEGEL: He spoke of homes lost, businesses shuttered, costly health care and schools that failed too often. The ways we use energy, he said, strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet. The challenges, he said, are real.

OBAMA: 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.

SIEGEL: President Obama spoke also of restoring science to its rightful place. He spoke of American greatness as something achieved by the risk takers, the doers and the makers of things. He dismissed what he called stale political arguments that have occupied the country in recent years in favor of a pragmatic, results-oriented administration.

OBAMA: And 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.

SIEGEL: Mr. Obama dismissed what he presented as other false choices between regard for the market and the obligation to regulate it. A nation, he said, cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. And alluding to torturous interrogations and illegal detentions, he dismissed the notion of having to sacrifice either our safety or our ideals.

OBAMA: Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience sake. And so, to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born, know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SIEGEL: At times, this was also a defiant speech. Mr. Obama spoke of leaving Iraq to its people, but he also spoke of forging a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan.

OBAMA: For those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SIEGEL: President Obama's inaugural address often evoked echoes of President Franklin Roosevelt speaking in 1933, as he inherited the Great Depression when he said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. But the American leader he invoked was George Washington, not yet president, leading revolutionary troops across the Delaware River in 1776.

OBAMA: America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, 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. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SIEGEL: Later in this hour, we will re-broadcast President Obama's inaugural address in its entirety. From the Capitol terrace, he moved inside for lunch with congressional leaders, former presidents and others. And from there, a procession down Pennsylvania Avenue to Mr. Obama's new home and office - the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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