WASHINGTON – Stepping into history, Barack Hussein Obama grasps the reins of power as America’s first black president in a high-noon inauguration amid grave economic worries and high expectations.
Braving icy temperatures and possible snow flurries, hundreds of thousands of people descended on the heavily guarded capital city yesterday for the first change of administration since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Two years after beginning his improbable quest as a little-known, first-term Illinois senator with a foreign-sounding name, Obama moves into the Oval Office as the nation’s fourth youngest president, at 47, and the first African-American, a racial barrier-breaking achievement believed impossible by generations of minorities.
Around the world, Obama’s election electrified millions with the hope that America will be more embracing, more open to change.
The dawn of the new Democratic era – with Obama allies in charge of both houses of Congress – ends eight years of Republican control of the White House by George W. Bush. He leaves Washington as one of the nation’s most unpopular and divisive presidents, the architect of two unfinished wars and the man in charge at a time of economic calamity that swept away many Americans’ jobs, savings, homes and dreams – leaving behind a sickening feeling of insecurity.
The unfinished business of the Bush administration thrusts an enormous burden onto Obama’s shoulders. Pre-inauguration polls show Americans believe Obama is on track to succeed and are confident he can turn the economy around. He has cautioned that improvements will take time and that things will get worse before they get better.
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