WASHINGTON – Barack Hussein Obama officially began his second term as the 44th president Sunday, setting the stage for him to lay out his vision in an inaugural address on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
More than half a million people are expected to watch from the Mall today, four years and a day after the nation’s first black president was sworn in the first time.
President Obama, joined Sunday by a dozen family members, recited the 35-word oath of office administered by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Blue Room of the White House. It was an intimate and businesslike 30 seconds of history.
Obama’s hand rested on a Bible that the first lady’s father, Fraser Robinson, had given to his mother, LaVaughn Delores Robinson, on Mother’s Day 1958.
The president saved the pomp for today, when he and Roberts will repeat the oath outside the U.S. Capitol. The Constitution mandates that presidential terms begin Jan. 20, and when the date falls on a Sunday, the public ceremony traditionally is held the next day.
After reciting the oath Sunday, Obama kissed first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, Malia and Sasha.
I did it, the president said.
You didn’t mess up, Sasha said, a reference to four years ago when Roberts and Obama bungled the oath at the public ceremony and had to do it again privately to make sure all constitutional obligations were met.
After today, Obama will have taken the oath four times – as many times as President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The last president to take the oath on a Sunday was Ronald Reagan, as he began his second term.
Vice President Biden got a jump on the president by taking his oath at an 8:21 a.m. ceremony at his residence at the Naval Observatory. Justice Sonia Sotomayor did the honors, becoming the fourth woman and the first Hispanic to administer the oath to the president or vice president.
Biden’s gaffe sets off speculation on his plans
Vice President Biden is a politician long known for his gaffes and groaners.
Saturday night, at the Iowa State Society’s inauguration ball – one of scores of unofficial parties that blossom every four years in the shadows of the real things – Biden told the crowd he was honored to be, yes, president.
I’m proud to be president of the United States, said Biden, who some speculated had made a classic Freudian mistake.
Biden corrected himself quickly, but the gaffe made many wonder if he was unconsciously telegraphing his intent to run for president in 2016.
Iowa, as we all know, is a traditionally pivotal primary state, and pundits note the first day of the next presidential race is the first day after a lame-duck president’s inauguration.
Are 1,500 port-a-potties enough for audience?
Inauguration planners are hoping the 1,500 port-a-potties they ordered for the National Mall and inaugural parade crowd – expected to number between 600,000 and 800,000 – will be enough.
In 2009, when 1.8 million attended, they had about 5,000 portable toilets at their disposal.
Temporary toilet suppliers say the size of the estimated crowd this inauguration would require about twice as many portable restrooms as will be available Monday today.
But after the 2009 festivities, organizers found the port-a-potties weren’t as popular a destination as they had anticipated. Many people opted for the indoor restrooms at several Smithsonian museums, which will be open today as well.