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Stepping into history, Barack Hussein Obama assumed the reins of power as America’s first black president today, declaring the nation must choose “hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord” to overcome the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
In frigid temperatures, an exuberant crowd packed the National Mall and parade route to celebrate Obama’s inauguration in a high-noon ceremony, according to first Associated press reports after his speech.
Los Alamos County Councilor Michael Wismer was one of more than a million people who experienced the event in person. In an e-mail this morning he said just reaching his location at 3rd and Independence Avenue was a struggle.
“We had to wait inside the Metro Station this morning for about an hour-and-a-half because there were so many people waiting to get on,” he said. “People are really happy and took the wait very well. They were dancing and encouraging each other.”
Wismer described the scene as he made his way to the National Mall.
“It's the most electrifying site I’ve ever seen,” he said this morning. “The entire Mall is filled to capacity from the Capitol all the way to Lincoln's Memorial – There must be two million people here.”
Wismer was positioned with a clear view looking beyond the reflective pool straight to the Capitol Building, he said, adding that there were JumboTrons positioned all over the area to provide audience viewing.
Wismer’s brother Bill Wismer lead the Delaware Volunteer Firefighters in the Inaugural Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue following Obama’s swearing in ceremony.
With 11 million Americans out of work and trillions of dollars lost in the stock market’s tumble, Obama emphasized that his biggest challenge is to repair the tattered economy left behind by outgoing President George W. Bush.
Obama wove a thread of personal responsibility and accountability through the address. He spoke of a “new era of responsibility” and alluded to the inability — or unwillingness — of Americans to adjust to the passing of an industrial-based economy. “Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age,” he said.
Los Alamos responds to change
Obama partisans in Los Alamos responded in various way to the inaugural ceremonies in Washington today, as Barrack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.
County Democrats gathered at the Central Avenue Bar and Grill Monday night to share their anticipation and exhilaration on the eve of the historic change of administrations.
“Everybody was pretty excited and happy at that event,” said Pete Sheehey, who went door to door on Obama’s behalf during the primary and the general campaign and all the way to the national convention in Denver.
“In an hour, it will be a great relief,” Sheehey said this morning, just before high point of the ceremonies in Washington. “So many of us felt we we’ve got to change the direction of the country, and that was the guy.”
Sheehey said even during the primary he thought Obama had a good shot to take the election.
Los Alamos County reflected the nation as a whole, with 53 percent of the total vote going to Obama, evidence that support came from more than local Democrats in a county with a majority of Republicans.
The inauguration brought the first African American to the highest elective office, but to many that was a side issue.
“Sure there’s an interesting culture there, a part of being a human being,” said Sheehey. “But I’m convinced he was elected because he had the goods to take America in the right direction.”
But Tyler Taylor, a family doctor said he had another perspective.
“I grew up in Birmingham Alabama in the ’60s and I watched the civil rights movement unfold in my owh life and commuity,” he said. “I went to a segregated school. For me to see this man with this incredible skill and competence become president is just great.”
Physician Carolyn Linnebur said was treating a patient during the ceremonies this morning.
“This is an incredibly exciting time for change, including the changes in healthcare that may be in store,” she said.
After watching the inauguration on televison, writer Joanna Gardner, who blogs at www.joannagardner.com, thought the event promised the country a new sense of wholeness.
“Black and white shared the podium, women and men, science and poetry – the powers of mind and soul joined forces.” She said. “Our imagination is waking up, and it is thrilled at the chance to play. I think we will amaze ourselves at the creative solutions that emerge under this new leadership, and I predict that very soon we will find it within our hearts to extend full rights to gays, especially the right to marry. Also, no one, and I mean no one, can sing like Aretha Franklin.”
Monitor Editor Roger Snodgrass, Managing Editor Carol A. Clark and the Associated Press contributed to this story.