US PRESIDENT Barack Obama will take the oath of office today during an inauguration celebration that starts his second term in a more muted tone than his historic swearing-in four years ago.
High unemployment and partisan fights over fiscal policies have drained some of the hope that marked Obama’s first swearing-in after he swept to victory on a manifesto of change in 2008 to become America’s first black president.
Today, following a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Obama will be sworn in at the White House, meeting the constitutional requirement that he does so on 20 January. That portion will be held in private – except for a media presence – with a small audience of mostly family members. Then Obama will repeat the procedure tomorrow during a public ceremony in the US capital.
On both occasions he will be sworn in by supreme court justice John Roberts, and the president’s two recitations this year will be the third and fourth times he has taken the oath.
It will be only the second time he has made an inaugural address, however, and millions worldwide will be watching.
Some 800,000 people are expected to pour into Washington for the event, down from a record 1.8 million who attended in 2009.
Obama is expected to talk about the need for political compromise where possible – a nod to the divisive fights with the Republican-led House of Representatives over the “fiscal cliff” and raising the United States’ debt ceiling.
He will emphasise that the values on which the US was founded should still guide the country in the 21st century and encourage Americans to make their voices heard to influence legislators’ actions, according to an administration official.
He will also touch on the goals he hopes to address in his second term, while leaving detailed policy blueprints for his state of the union address next month. Deficit reduction, gun control, immigration reform, and energy policy are likely to be top priorities in his second term.
Obama has been working on his inaugural address at the White House, scrawling out drafts by hand on yellow legal notepads.
The White House views the two speeches – he delivers his state of the union address before Congress on 12 February as two parts of a package, with the first one spelling out a vision and the second one specific policy proposals.