Obama Sworn in Amid Celebrity Serenades; Makes Plea for Equality in Second Term
The president became the first chief executive to use his inaugural speech to endorse gay rights and marriage equality. He also reaffirmed his commitment to fight climate change.
WASHINGTON -- Serenaded by music stars, greeted by a traditional 21-gun salute and watched by a beaming First Lady and their two daughters, President Barack Obama took the ceremonial oath of office Monday to begin his second term.
Chief Justice John Roberts administered the ceremonial oath to Obama, while Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court’s first Latina member, took Vice President Joe Biden through his oath. Justice Antonin Scalia, distinctive in the black head gear usually worn by European judges and law professors looked on, as did former chief executives Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
The president’s second inaugural address, which began slowly and built to a rhetorical crescendo, drew strongly on themes of political and economic equality and diversity and, while endorsing deficit reduction, featured a ringing defense of some of the social programs congressional Republicans are most eager to cut. In the first inaugural address to speak directly of gay and lesbian Americans, the president placed a key event in the gay rights movement -- the Stonewall incident -- in a line of milestones during the struggle for women's suffrage and equal rights for African Americans, then went on to explicitly endorse marriage equality.
"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. ... Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well," Obama said.
First Lady Michelle Obama was attired in a quietly striking navy Thom Browne coat and dress, a belt from J.Crew, a cardigan designed by Reed Krakoff and a necklace by Cathy Waterman. She also wore J.Crew shoes. Older daughter Malia wore a J.Crew ensemble, while Sasha was attired in a Kate Spade coat and dress.
Though not quite the star-splashed affair his first inauguration was, Obama’s presidential sequel has drawn a strong cadre of Hollywood and entertainment industry loyalists, including: Tennis Channel head Ken Solomon and his family; soap opera producers Colleen and Bradley Bell; star interior designer Michael Smith and his partner HBO exec James Costos; LGBT leaders Barry Karas and Dana Perlman, and industry money manager John Emerson and his filmily.
The music industry, however, has been amply represented throughout the festivities. As part of Monday’s official ceremonies, Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor performed the national anthem, "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" and "America the Beautiful." In a nod to the President’s well-known admiration for Abraham Lincoln -- Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis were recently White House dinner guests -- an award-winning Mormon choir performed a stirring version of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” while Obama turned to look on with obvious appreciation.
On Monday evening, Jennifer Hudson serenaded the Obamas during their first dance at the Commander-in-Chief Ball with a rousing rendition of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together." Jamie Foxx reprised his Oscar-winning Ray Charles role by singing "I Can't Stop Loving You" for the Bidens' first dance. And Alicia Keys crafted new lines for her song "Girl on Fire," singing "everyone knows Michelle is his girl and together they're gonna run the world. Obama's on fire…"
Sunday night Stevie Wonder performed at a concert for the president’s campaign workers. Tuesday evening Lady Gaga will give a invitation-only concert for Democrats who worked on the president’s reelection campaign.
The First Family began Inauguration Day with religious services at St. John’s Cathedral, where they heard readings and homilies from a variety of Protestant ministers, a rabbi and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington.
Obama actually took the official oath of office for a second time Sunday in a brief midday ceremony witnessed almost entirely by family members. Afterward, some of his leading entertainment industry supporters joined the First Family for a celebratory reception.
The short swearing-in ceremony was held in the most formal of the White House’s oval reception chambers, the Blue Room. The President was flanked by the First Lady, who held the Bible on which he swore his oath, and their daughters Sasha and Malia. The sacred text on which he rested his hand as Chief Justice Roberts administered the solemn oath of office is an heirloom of his in-laws’ family, presented by the First Lady’s father, Fraser Robinson, to his own mother, LaVaughn Delores Robinson, who was the first African American to manage a Moody Bible Store.
As President Obama completed the oath, he turned to his daughters and quipped, “I did it.”