President Obama was sworn into office in a public ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts administered the oath as the president touched the bibles owned by his heroes Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.
Vice President Joe Biden, using a bible that has been in his family since 1893, also took the oath of office, administered by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Following the swearing-in, the president addressed the nation in a stirring speech themed,"Our People. Our Future," that emphasized unity and a recommitment to the task of equality.
“It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts,” the president said. “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
During the 18-minute address, the president was hopeful, but also hinted at some of the hard issues Americans and lawmakers would grapple with over the next four years.
"We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit," he said. "But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future."
The president's remarks were generally well received by the throngs of people who packed west front of the Capitol. The crowd was especially vocal in expressing their positive reactions to the president's mention of equality in all sectors of American life and his use of the phrase "We the people."
"I liked the speech and that he made some emphasis on the inequalities, specifically the poor folks and supporting our elderly people, and education," former Obama campaign worker Ayora Selassi told BET.com. "He made it very clear that those are his priorities. I think he's going to have some big battles ahead and I'm looking for stronger leadership from him this term."
Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun was also pleased with the speech, "I was very proud of the president. He did not back off, he did not back down. He made it very clear about his agenda and commitment to the promises that he made to the American people in the election."
Obama and Biden were joined by Democratic forebearers former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, the only living members of the party who have also occupied the White House.
After the public ceremony, the president and vice president and their families attended a luncheon hosted by congressional lawmakers. Just two hundred guests attended the exclusive luncheon and dined on a menu of lobster, bison and apple pie.
Later in the day, the Obamas and the Bidens will participate in a parade from the Capitol to the White House. The inaugural parade will feature floats and vehicles representing nearly 60 groups.
Monday morning, before leaving for a worship service at St. John's Episcopal Church, the president tweeted, "Let's go," as he began the day of inaugural celebrations.
Obama and Biden were officially sworn into office on Sunday at small private ceremonies at the White House and the Naval Observatory to comply with the U.S. Constitution, which requires the oaths be taken on Jan. 20 before noon.
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(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)