Thousands of people gathered around the National Mall and reflecting pool as President Barack Obama delivered his inaugural address. (Don West photo)
BALTIMORE — President-elect Barack Obama, cheered by onlookers along the train route Abraham Lincoln took nearly a century and a half earlier, last Saturday undertook the final leg of his inaugural journey to the U.S. capital, pledging to reclaim America’s spirit, but also warning of the steep challenges facing the country.
Hundreds of excited people screamed and cheered as Obama waved from the back of his inaugural train when it rolled slowly through the station in little Claymont, Del., on the way to larger crowds at stops in Wilmington, Del., and Baltimore.
The historic train ride was the kickoff to inaugural events leading to Obama’s swearing-in Tuesday as the first black U.S. president.
Unfazed by frigid temperatures, scattered groups stood waving at crossroads along the way.
“Starting now, let’s take up in our own lives the work of perfecting our union,” Obama told several hundred people gathered for the send-off inside a hall at Philadelphia’s historic 30th Street train station. “Let’s build a government that is responsible to the people and accept our own responsibilities as citizens to hold our government accountable … Let’s make sure this election is not the end of what we do to change America, but the beginning and the hope for the future.”
While talking about the future, Obama reflected on the past, echoing the words of the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln and President John F. Kennedy. He cited the founding fathers who risked everything with no assurance of success in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776 when they declared independence from the British king:
“They were willing to put all they were and all they had on the line — their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor — for a set of ideals that continue to light the world: That we are equal. That our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness come not from our laws, but from our maker. And that a government of, by and for the people can endure.”
Vice President-elect Joe Biden, who hopped aboard the train with his wife, Jill, in Wilmington, said the train ride marked the beginning of a journey that would change America.
“Our economy is struggling. We are a nation at war,” Biden said. “Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s hard to believe that we’ll see the spring again. But I tell you spring is on the way with this new administration.”
This is a momentous time for the Obamas. And for Michelle Obama, it was also her 45th birthday. The crowd in Wilmington sang “Happy Birthday” to her, forcing the president-elect to briefly delay the start of his second speech of the day in which he pledged a revival of the middle class.
“When we Americans get knocked down, we always, always get back up on our feet,” Obama said.(p2)
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The cheers at the Cactus Club started early on Tuesday morning, when
the cameras first focused in on the moving van hauling the last
vestiges of the Bush administration away from the White House. They strengthened and swelled as Aretha Franklin serenaded the
country with a soaring version of “My Country, ’Tis of Thee,” and they
filled the room to overflowing when Barack Obama took the oath of
office. More »
The cheers at the Cactus Club started early on Tuesday morning, when the cameras first focused in on the moving van hauling the last vestiges of the Bush administration away from the White House. They strengthened and swelled as Aretha Franklin serenaded the country with a soaring version of “My Country, ’Tis of Thee,” and they filled the room to overflowing when Barack Obama took the oath of office. More »