WASHINGTON, D.C. —
"I'm not going to see this again," said the man whose political career has been meteoric — from the Illinois Legislature to the U.S. Senate and the White House before marking his 48th birthday.
On a day of renewal for democracy, everyone seemed to have an opinion, and many seemed eager to share it.
"I'm just thankful that we've got another four years of democracy that everyone can grow in," said Wilbur Cole, 52, a postman from suburban Memphis, Tenn., who spent part of the day visiting the civil rights museum there at the site where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. The inauguration this year shared the day with King's birthday holiday.
Less upbeat, Frank Pinto, 62, watched on television at a bar in Hartford, Conn., as the president was sworn in and spoke. An unemployed construction contractor, he said that because of Obama's policies, "My grandkids will be in debt and their kids will be in debt."
The tone was less overtly political in the nation's capital, where bipartisanship was on the menu in the speechmaking and at the congressional lunch.
"Congratulations and Godspeed," House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, said to Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he presented them with flags that had flown atop the Capitol.
Outside, the Inaugural Parade took shape, a reflection of American musicality and diversity that featured military units, bands, floats, the Chinese American Community Center Folk Dance Troupe from Hockessin, Del., and the Isiserettes Drill & Drum Corps from Des Moines, Iowa.
The crowds were several rows deep along parts of the route, and security was intense. More than a dozen vehicles flanked the president's limousine as it rolled down Pennsylvania Avenue, and several agents walked alongside on foot.