Barack Obama faces a smaller crowd, and a more subdued country, on Monday as America's first black president marks the beginning of his second term and repeats the oath he took in a private ceremony the day before.
In his inaugural address to millions watching in Washington and on television, Obama will urge lawmakers to find common ground and will look forward to goals over the next four years, including comprehensive immigration reform, stricter gun control laws and an end to the war in Afghanistan.
"What the inauguration reminds us of is the role we have as fellow citizens in promoting a common good, even as we carry out our individual responsibilities that, the sense that there's something larger than ourselves, gives shape and meaning to our lives," Obama said during brief remarks to donors at a reception Sunday night.
Obama also faces a less charmed standing on the world stage, where expectations for him had been so high four years ago that he was given the Nobel Peace Prize just months into his presidency. "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the Nobel announcement in 2009 read.
Hundreds of Thousands Descend on Washington
The president, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia began the day at St. John's Episcopal church, which was built in 1812 and is known as the church of presidents. Obama later had coffee at the White House with congressional leaders, who play major roles in how the country is governed.
Monday's events, including parades and fancy dress balls, 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. Obama is now older, grayer and more entrenched in the politics he once tried rise above. Officials are expecting 500,000 to 700,000 people to turn out Monday.
Obama is expected to follow the recent tradition of walking at least part of the way back to the White House, surrounded by cheers.
In the briefest of ceremonies 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 his wife, the 44th president raised his right hand and repeated the time-honored words read out by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
The intimate swearing-in met the legal requirement that presidents officially take office on Jan. 20. Because that date fell on a Sunday this year, the traditional public ceremonies surrounding the start of a president's term were put off to Monday, which coincides this year with the birthday of revered civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
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.
Obama 'the Strong'
As he enters his second term, Americans increasingly see Obama as a strong leader, someone who stands up for his beliefs and is able to get things done, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The survey shows him with a 52 percent job approval rating, among the highest rankings since early in his presidency. His personal favorability, 59 percent, has rebounded from a low of 50 percent in the 2012 campaign against Republican Mitt Romney.
When the partying is done on Monday, it's back to business for a president who is leading a nation that is, perhaps, as divided as at any time since the Civil War 150 years ago. That conflict put down a rebellion by southern states and ended slavery.
In light of the nation's troubled racial history, Obama's election to the White House in 2008 as the first black president was seen by many as a turning point. In his first inaugural address, Obama vowed to moderate the partisan anger engulfing the country, but the nation is only more divided four years on.
While Obama convincingly won a second term, the jubilation that surrounded him four years ago is subdued this time around - a reality for second-term presidents. He guided the country through many crushing challenges after taking office in 2009: ending the Iraq war, putting the Afghan war on a course toward U.S. withdrawal and saving the collapsing economy. He won approval for a sweeping health care overhaul. Yet onerous problems remain, and his success in resolving them will define his place in history.
Barack Obama is Sworn in For Second Term as US President [Slideshow]
U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for his swearing-in ceremonies on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington
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