The American heart will stir this day with pride and hope as the powers of the presidency of the United States, magnificent in their promise, terrible in their burdens, are vested in a man of groundbreaking heritage and grand aspirations.
At noon this day, Barack Hussein Obama will become the 44th leader of the Republic, sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, as were Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln before him and others great and obscure. May he prove to be great in these troubled times.
The trials that await Obama are many, and they are well-known. They make for a depressing diet that demands the seasoning of optimism. We have a long, hard way to go, but we prove with this inauguration how very far we are capable of traveling as a people.
Amid the severe crises that undermine prosperity and peace, the moments when Obama stands with his hand on the Great Emancipator’s Bible will be moments to treasure.
This will be a milestone that so many suffered for, fought for, died for and voted for.
A mountain will be crossed.
Throats fully lumped, we will witness in the son of a union of black and white the impulse for fairness that has animated the national soul since the words were written: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. …"
The world, too, will watch, citizens of democracies and dictatorships alike, those well-disposed to the U.S. and those not, all taking note of free and exceptional change at the top of the globe’s military, economic and cultural superpower.
Via television, radio and the Internet, the scene will be transmitted near and far. Commerce will pause; church bells will peal. And who could blame parents should they keep children home from school for a lesson in history? No one in these quarters.
The revelries will go into the night, headlined by a youthful, elegant couple with two daughters who are about to take up residence at an intimidating address. May the girls have a blast.
With the dawn will come the parlous affairs of state. Only those who came of age before the Great Depression will remember an administration started in the thick of worsening crises. No President since then has come freshly to office confronting challenges on the order of those that await this one.
Vested with the merited confidence and goodwill of an anxious public, he will be sorely tested.
To rescue the U.S. financial system from collapse, in the process saving the American standard of living.
To revive an economy that is throwing people out of work by the hundreds of thousands per month.
To chart solutions for long unaddressed ills, health care and climate change and energy independence among them.
To more effectively prosecute one war and bring another to a secure and successful close.
And, of course, to keep our home soil safe from attack.
He said, yes, he could. And he said, yes, we can. So now he, and we, must.