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Barack Obama Sworn In as President on Historic Day

Barack Obama took the oath of office Tuesday to become the 44th president of the United States. Ray Suarez reports.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    The inauguration of President Barack Obama. More than a million people were on the National Mall in Washington to observe and cheer. Ray Suarez reports on the events of this day.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    It began before daybreak, a procession of ones and twos, groups and throngs, and tens of thousands by sunrise on their way to becoming the largest crowd ever assembled on Washington's National Mall.

    They came for a glimpse of history: the inauguration of the 44th president, Barack Obama.

    The nation's first African-American chief executive was just five years ago a little-known state legislator from Illinois. Today, he capped a meteoric rise from U.S. Senate to the presidency, at age 47, the fourth-youngest man to hold the nation's highest office.

    Jubilant crowds braved frigid temperatures and navigated an unprecedented security cordon. Thousands of National Guard troops, federal, state, and local law enforcement ringed the Capitol. There were extensive road and bridge closures and airspace restrictions.

    By 9 a.m., Metro, Washington's subway, reported 410,000 passengers had entered the system. Enormous lines snaked out of the stations, and parking lots outside of the city were filled by early morning.

    The president-elect left Blair House across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House just before 9:00 for a brief prayer service at St. John's Episcopal, often called the Church of the Presidents.

    A short time later, with his wife, Michelle, he made the short journey back across Lafayette Park to meet President and Mrs. Bush. While the Obamas met with the outgoing first family, legislators and luminaries, statesmen and women gathered at the west front of the Capitol as witnesses to history.

    Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, along with Mrs. Clinton, the next secretary of state, joined a host of dignitaries from both parties and many eras. There were the Obama daughters, Laura Bush, and Lynne Cheney, Michelle Obama, and Jill Biden.

    The 43rd president, George W. Bush, descended the west front steps just 25 minutes before his term would end. Then the chant began.

  • AUDIENCE:

    Obama! Obama!

  • ANNOUNCER:

    Ladies and gentlemen, the president-elect of the United States, Barack H. Obama.

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