WASHINGTON—Barack Hussein Obama was officially sworn-in for a second term Sunday, in a quiet ceremony at the White House. The president will repeat the oath of office again in the inauguration ceremony on Capitol Hill, Monday, in front of members of Congress, international dignitaries, hundreds and thousands of spectators, and the world’s media.
The parade, ceremony, and inaugural balls are significant events commemorating a peaceful and democratic transfer of power, but it is the president’s inaugural address that will be the focus for days to come, says Dr. Michael Cornfield, political scientist at George Washington University.
“The Inaugural Address is as close as a regular American speechwriter gets to poetry,” he told reporters at the Foreign Press Center. It provides a rare opportunity to talk about the big themes, “to speak in terms of centuries and destinies,” all the while setting the tone for the term ahead, said Cornfield.
First lady Michelle Obama, held her family Bible for the private swearing-in, and with his two daughters, Malia and Sasha close at hand, Obama took the 35-word presidential oath before Chief Justice John Roberts just before noon, Jan 20. It was the 17th time a U.S. president was sworn-in for a second term. Looking on were the Obamas’ immediate family, the Chief Justice’s wife Jane Roberts, and that was it. The whole service took less than two minutes.
In a similarly brief affair, Vice President Joseph Biden took the oath of office at the U.S. Naval Observatory in front of Justice Sonia Sotomayor earlier in the day. Justice Sotomayor became the first Hispanic and fourth female judge to administer an oath of office.
The Main Stage
Sunday’s ceremonies were understated, attracting little media frenzy as the United States and indeed the international community, prepare for the presidential inauguration Monday.
The fanfare will be huge, but the main event is the inaugural address. What will the president include and exclude? What will the tone be? Will he single out any particular issues or industry sectors? Will he single out any foreign leaders or countries? Will he single out any particular groups?
“Will the president have anything to say to Hispanics, and if he does, will he become the first president in American history to utter a line in the presidential address in Spanish?” asked Cornfield.
The Hispanic population is the largest and fastest growing ethnic minority in the United States, according to the U.S. Census.
White House Secretary Jay Carney gave little away about the president’s address last week, telling reporters in a briefing that he had not seen the speech and that the president was still working on it.
“He, as you know, takes very seriously speeches of this kind and is very engaged in the process. He’s working on his remarks.”
During the weekend, however, White House officials hinted that the president would refer to a conflicted Washington, to values, and the need to find common ground.
“He’ll talk about those founding values and principles that have always guided our country so well,” said Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s senior advisers, according to RealClearPolitics.
She described it as a “hopeful speech.”
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