WASHINGTON – President Obama was sworn into office on Sunday just before noon, officially beginning another four-year term.
“I did it,” Obama said to his youngest daughter, Sasha, after being sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. He thanked the small group gathered in the room, and then left with his wife and two daughters.
With his left hand on a bible that belonged to First Lady Michelle Obama’s grandmother, Obama took the oath inside the White House’s Blue Room – named after the upholstery, carpet and drapes that hang on windows that overlook the South Lawn and the Washington Monument.
Obama was sworn in several hours after Vice President Joe Biden took his oath at 8:21 a.m. at his official residence at the Naval Observatory. The early hour for his ceremony was because Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor—who was the first Latina and third woman to administer the oath for a vice president—had to catch a train to New York for a book signing. She will return in time for Monday’s Capitol ceremony.
Biden’s service was attended by his family, top administration officials, and several longtime aides. In a potential sign of Biden’s further political ambitions, there were also several Democrats from early primary states, including newly elected New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan and South Carolina Democratic Party chair Dick Harpootlian.
“Let’s just say I see a number of superdelegates here,” Donna Brazile, a top Democratic consultant, told a pool reporter who witnessed the event on behalf of the media.
Biden, 70, is the second-oldest man to be sworn in as vice president (exceeded only by Alben Barkley, who was a year older when he began his term in 1949 as Harry Truman’s vice president). If he ran and won, Biden in 2017 would be the oldest president to be sworn in as his first term as president.
After Biden was sworn in, he and Obama were slated to go to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier. Biden held a mass at his official residence before his swearing in, and Obama went to the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Under the Constitution, the president automatically begins his new term on January 20. But because the date fell on Sunday, Obama and Biden chose to do so in a mostly private ceremony, as President Reagan did in 1985, the last time the inaugural fell on a Sunday.
They will both take the oath of office again on Monday, along with the full pomp and circumstance that follows traditional swearing ins, with the inauguration address on the steps of the Capitol, parade to the White House, and evening balls.
In a historical quirk, Obama will technically be sworn in four times – two in 2009 because Roberts botched the text during the inauguration, so later re-administered the oath in private; and two in 2013. The only other president sworn in four times was Franklin Roosevelt, but he served four terms before presidents were limited to two terms.
Obama on Saturday kicked off the three-day celebration of his inauguration by volunteering at a local elementary school here, putting on a pair of rubber gloves, wielding a paintbrush, and staining a bookshelf.
“This inauguration is going to be, is a symbol of how our democracy works,” Obama told about 300 people who were working on a project sponsored by Boston-based non-profit City Year. “But it should also be an affirmation that we’re all in this together.”
Hotels and businesses began displaying red, white, and blue bunting outside. Musicians began arriving for a series of concerts, and people from around the country arrived to see Obama’s second inauguration.
Obama and Biden were scheduled to address supporters at a reception on Sunday night.
The festive mood is not as overwhelming as it was four years ago, when 1.8 million people flooded the capitol to witness the inauguration of the nation’s first black president at the conclusion of a campaign built on messages of hope, optimism, and generational change. Now, less than half as many people are expected to attend the inauguration, and the country is far more divided after a bitter campaign and a more entrenched Washington.
The weather forecast for Monday during the inauguration is mostly cloudy skies, with a 30 percent chance of rain in the afternoon and a high of 44 degrees.