Obama Takes Oath at White House to Begin Second Term

President Barack Obama took the oath of office today surrounded by family in a small ceremony at the White House that officially begins his second term.

Chief Justice John Roberts administered the 35-word oath at 11:55 a.m. in the Blue Room with the president using first lady Michelle Obama’s family bible.

“Congratulations, Mr. President,” Roberts said as Obama repeated the final words, “So help me God.”

“Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice. Thank you so much,” Obama replied. As his extended family applauded, Obama embraced his wife and daughters, with 14-year-old Malia telling her father, “you did it, daddy.”

Today is the constitutionally required date for the U.S. president to assume office. Because Jan. 20 fell on a Sunday, Obama will repeat the ritual tomorrow and deliver his inaugural address at the U.S. Capitol before a crowd of thousands gathered on the National Mall.

Vice President Joe Biden was sworn in earlier in the day at a similar ceremony at the vice presidential residence by Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, the first Hispanic on the court and the first to administer the oath.

President’s Focus

Obama, 51, the nation’s first black president, has presided over an economy that is still recovering from the worst recession in a generation. While the world’s largest economy grew at a 3.1 percent rate in the third quarter, this year will bring growth of just 2 percent, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Over the next two months his administration will engage in a fiscal debate with Republican lawmakers who hold the majority in the U.S. House over raising the government’s $16.4 trillion borrowing limit, steps to shrink the deficit and funding federal operations.

As part of today’s ceremonies, the president and Biden laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

Obama and his family also attended services at historic Metropolitan African Methodist Church in Washington. The choir and the congregation sang “Happy Birthday” to the first lady, who turned 49 on Jan. 17. The sermon by the Reverend Ronald E. Braxton included a scripture reading from Exodus and ended in a call-and-response with the word “forward,” the slogan of Obama’s re-election campaign.

King Holiday

Tomorrow’s public inauguration ceremony coincides with the federal holiday marking the birth of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Roberts will again administer the oath while using King’s traveling bible and President Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural bible, the same one Obama used for his swearing in four years ago.

Obama kicked off four days of events tied to the inaugural yesterday by volunteering with his wife and daughters on a renovation project at a Washington elementary school. As he did four years ago, Obama called for a National Day of Service on the eve of his inauguration, saying volunteerism represents the democratic ideals upon which the country was founded.

“This is really what America’s about, this is what we celebrate,” Obama said to volunteers, after helping paint a bookshelf at the school in Northeast Washington.

Today’s swearing-in took just 30 seconds. Roberts read the oath slowly and deliberately, a light tremble in his left hand causing the sheet of paper to shake slightly.

Redone Oath

Four years ago, the chief justice had to administer the oath of office a second time the day after the formal Jan. 20 ceremonies because he misstated a line.

The Constitution requires presidents to take the following oath: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

At the swearing in at the Capitol, Roberts said “execute the office of president of the United States faithfully” and Obama followed suit.

Concern about a possible challenge, Obama’s lawyers advised that the oath be re-sworn. The next day in the White House Map Room, Roberts, wearing his judicial robe, asked the president if he was ready to be sworn in. Obama replied: “I am, and we are going to do it very slowly.”

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