US President Barack Obama has taken a public oath of office to begin his second term in office, a day after officially affirming the duties of president in a private White House ceremony.
Hundreds of thousands gathered at the National Mall in Washington, DC, on Monday to witness the president take an oath to "protect and defend" the US constitution.
In his second inaugural address, Obama declared that a decade of US wars was ending and that the country's economy was on the road to recovery.
"My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together,'' Obama said, moments after taking the oath of office.
Trumpets blew fanfare and cannons fired as the country watched the president take the public oath.
Obama also alluded to the challenges he has faced in domestic policy during his first term, stressing the need for "collective action".
"We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of healthcare and the size of our deficit," he said. "But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future."
Obama also spoke of the need to tackle climate change, asserting that the US "must lead" the transition towards sustainable energy sources.
Immediately following the ceremony on Monday, the US president signed papers nominating several members of his new cabinet and a new CIA director. The nominations - including John Kerry for secretary of state, Chuck Hagel for defence secretary and Jack Lew for treasury secretary - will have to go through a confirmation process in the US Congress.
Parades and balls
Monday’s ceremonies, which will consist of parades and fancy dress balls, mark the beginning of Obama's second four-year term.
|Monday's ceremonies mark the beginning of Obama's
second four-year term) [Reuters]
A heavy and steady stream of people flooded the Mall on Monday morning, stretching out around the reflecting pool. People snapped pictures with a flag-draped Capitol building in the background.
After taking oath, Obama followed the recent tradition of walking at least part of the way back to the White House, while surrounded by crowds.
In a brief ceremony on Sunday, with family gathered in the White House, Obama took the oath of office shortly before noon, as required by law.
With his left hand on a family bible held by first lady Michelle Obama, the 44th president raised his right hand and repeated the time-honoured words, read out by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
The intimate swearing-in met the legal requirement that presidents officially take office on January 20. That date fell on a Sunday this year, forcing the putting off of the traditional public ceremonies surrounding the start of a president's term to Monday, which coincides this year with the birthday of revered civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Obama made no special remarks at Sunday's ceremony. "I did it," he said quietly to his youngest daughter, Sasha, before wrapping her in a hug. The oath went smoothly, unlike four years ago, when Roberts made mistakes while trying to recite the oath from memory and had to do it again with Obama later.
Monday's events are expected to have less of the effervescence of four years ago, when the 1.8 million people packed into central Washington knew they were witnessing history. Officials are expecting 500,000 to 700,000 people to turn out Monday.
"We won't get the 1.8 million that was estimated to be here four years ago - we'll get somewhere in the region of 800,000," reported Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher from the National Mall in Washington DC.
"There might be some disillusionment with Barack Obama, a man who was elected on the promise of hope, to bring both sides together in American politics, but here we are four years on, and Republicans and Democrats have never been more divided."
Those at the ceremony, however, said they still supported Obama wholeheartedly.
"Being the president of the United States of America is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and he's faced a lot of adversity, and he came in with a big problem [in the form of the financial crisis], and that problem is going to take more than eight years to overcome," Tauris Patterson, who was at the ceremony, told Al Jazeera.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies