TOPICS > Politics

Obama Steps Into History as 44th President

BY Admin  January 20, 2009 at 2:15 PM EDT

President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama; AP

“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many,” President Obama said in his inaugural speech after being sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

“They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met,” he said.

The Associated Press estimated that more than a million people braved below-freezing temperatures to witness the event, the culmination of a campaign that mobilized a record number of donors and volunteers to participate in the political process.

With 11 million Americans out of work and an ongoing housing and banking crisis, President Obama said the nation must choose “hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord” to overcome the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

He also outlined a vision for the country’s “new era of responsibility” and vowed stronger support of impoverished nations and a better relationship with Muslim nations.

“To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” said President Obama.

But Mr. Obama also warned leaders “who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West” that they would be judged by what they create, not what they destroy.

“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,” Mr. Obama said.

President Obama called on Americans to “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin the work of remaking America.”

His oath of office marked the end of President George W. Bush’s eight years in office. After traveling to the Capitol to observe the swearing-in ceremony, Mr. Bush left Washington at the conclusion of the ceremonies with his family in a helicopter bound for Andrews Air Force Base. From there, they will take a plane to Texas.

In addition to being the first black president, President Obama is the fourth youngest, at the age of 47. He is a one-term senator who first rose to national attention through an inspirational speech he gave at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.