Before the balls begin today, Obama and Biden partied last night at an inaugural reception with a performance by Stevie Wonder.
“He’s just getting started,” Biden promised of his boss. “In the weeks and months ahead, we’re going to reduce gun violence here in America. We’re going to pass comprehensive immigration reform. And we’re going to put this nation’s economy on a sustainable path to the future.”
Obama acknowledged that many questioned his choice of Biden as his No. 2, but said “one decision I know was absolutely correct, absolutely spot on, was my choice of vice president.”
“All of you here understood and were committed to the basic notion that when we put our shoulders to the wheel of history, it moves,” Obama said. “It moves. It moves forward.”
The morning began at St. John’s Episcopal Church, where during the service a message was posted on Obama’s Twitter account with the initial signature indicating it was from the president and not his staff: “I’m honored and grateful that we have a chance to finish what we started. Our work begins today. Let’s go. -bo”
The Republican attendees on the steps of the Capitol included lawmakers obliged to be there, such as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.). House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who ran on the unsuccessful GOP ticket, also posted a congratulatory message on his Facebook account.
“The president and I were political opponents. We had strong disagreements over the direction of the country—as we still do now. But today, we put those disagreements aside. Today, we remember what we share in common,” Ryan wrote. “…We may disagree on matters of policy. But today we remember why we take those matters so seriously—because we seek the public good. It’s our highest duty—one that we share—and one for which we’re grateful.”
“I’m happy to mark this historic occasion—for the president and for the country. And I look forward to tackling the big challenges ahead,” he added.
Ryan, though, was booed by many in the crowd when he appeared on the steps — egged on, it seems, by a Department of Justice attorney, Dan Freeman, who wrote on his Facebook page that he “just started the crowd booing when Paul Ryan came out.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) had a speaking role at the inauguration as vice-chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, introducing Sotomayor for the Biden swearing-in.
“The late Alex Haley, the author of Roots, lived his life by these six words: Find the good and praise it,” Alexander said. “Today we praise the American tradition of transferring or reaffirming immense power as we inaugurate the president of the United States.”
“We do this in a peaceful, orderly way,” Alexander continued. “There is no mob, no coup, no insurrection. This is a moment when millions stop and watch. A moment most of us always will remember.”
Other Republicans’ inaugural messages, though, were more pithy or nonexistent: “Congratulations, Mr. President,” tweeted Cantor. Boehner issued a message about Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but not about the inauguration as of this posting.
Some celebrated the day without mentioning the president by name. “Americans are truly privileged to live in a great nation, where we enjoy the freedom to democratically elect our leaders and to assemble freely as her leaders take office,” said Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.). “This is a privilege we cannot take lightly; so many men and women throughout our history have fought bravely and given selflessly for this great nation. Though we face many challenges, today is a day to rise above conflict and party, to simply celebrate the honor to be an American and to enjoy the ceremonial events surrounding this momentous occasion envisioned by our founding fathers.”
And yet others seized the opportunity to send a message of reformation to Obama.
“We can and must work together with simple reforms, smaller government, and protection of our freedoms to give America’s middle class the opportunity to prosper and live free,” said Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.).
“I congratulate President Obama for taking his second oath of office for the Presidency of the United States,” said conservative Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). “To ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States’ is a promise not to be taken lightly, and one that may require refreshing.
“In Iowa we understand that each new harvest season brings new crops, and as the Bible teaches, to everything there is a season,” King added. “With the presidential campaign behind us, a new season begins today. I encourage President Obama to look at this second term for new opportunities to uphold the rights enshrined in the Constitution, and to commit to representing the desires and dreams of the American people.”