"We reject that Americans must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future," Obama told the crowd of hundreds of thousands of spectators who descended on the National Mall Monday morning. "The
commitments we make to each other–through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security-these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great."
The president also warned that the country cannot succeed if a "shrinking few" succeed economically while the middle class suffers.
The festivities are more muted than four years ago, when nearly two million people showed up.
Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath to Obama shortly before noon in front of a cheering, American flag-waving crowd from the steps of the Capitol, before Obama began speaking.
Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain civil rights icon Medgar Evers, prayed for strength for the nation to face challenges ahead in her invocation. "One hundred and fifty years after the emancipation proclamation and 50 years after the March on Washington, we celebrate the spirit of our ancestors," Evers-Williams said.
The First Family will then attend a luncheon, before the inaugural parade starts around 3 p.m.
Compared to President Obama's first Inauguration in 2009, finding a spot on the National Mall to watch the ceremony this year was a breeze. Down on the Mall, inaugural staffers passed out free tiny American flags, while others waved their own version of the Stars and Stripes overlaid with the president's face. Despite an estimated crowd of as many as 700,000 people for the day's festivities, there was plenty of room for people to stand on the grass. Families with small children had little problem sprawling out on blankets as others carefully tip toed around them.
On Jumbo Tron screens placed throughout the Mall, inaugural attendees watched dignitaries, celebrities and lawmakers file to their seats. With each camera shot of Obama and his vice president, Joseph Biden, the members of the crowd lifted up their flags and cheered.
Earlier on Monday, the First Family emerged from an 8:45 a.m. service at St. John's Episcopal Church. Obama took time to tweet during church. "I'm honored and grateful that we have a chance to finish what we started. Our work begins today. Let's go. -bo," he wrote. During the service, Bishop Vacti Mckenzie blessed Obama and Vice President Joe Biden while they stood in the front row with their heads bowed.
The president shared a laugh with his daughters upon his return to the White House Monday morning. Malia ran up to his limousine and shouted "Boo!" at her father. "You scared me!" he joked back as the Obamas together entered the White House.
Michelle Obama is wearing a navy dress and coat by the American designer Thom Browne, and accessories by J.Crew. The outfit will be donated to the National Archives after the Inauguration. Malia Obama is wearing a purple J.Crew outfit, while her sister Sasha, also in purple, wears Kate Spade.
Early on Monday, it seemed the District had drawn nowhere near the number of guests that descended upon the city in 2009. Streets near the White House were busy at 6 a.m., but very walkable despite the large number of closed-off streets and pedestrian-prohibited pathways. In 2009, an estimated 1.8 million people showed up to watch the nation's first black president take the oath of office.
Inside Statutory Hall in the U.S. Capitol, florists put the finishing touches on the room where Obama will dine with members of Congress after the ceremony. Tables were set with coral flower centerpieces and adorned with fine silver and glassware. Walking from table to table, a decorator and her assistant made sure not a single piece of silverware, dish or chair was even a millimeter out of place.
Behind the head table, where the president and the First Lady will dine, stood the lectern, in the shape of a golden eagle, from which Obama will speak later that day.
Obama already took the oath of office in a private swearing-in ceremony on Sunday.