Obama's inaugural address invoked the syntax and themes of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I have a dream' speech, and, on the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the president took the oath of office on Bibles used by Lincoln and King.
On a day already steeped in national symbolism, Barack Obama added a few more iconic touches for his second inaugural – moments of high political theater meant to illustrate the president's values and priorities.
Of course, as the first black US president, he adds a powerful symbolic element to the day simply by showing up.
Many in the largely black crowd on the Mall said they braved the horde so that their children could have the experience of seeing the president.
“It’s a life-changing experience," says Michelle Brown, a Detroit public schoolteacher, who spent a long day with a busload of 14- to 17-year-old students to get here. The first election of a black president was historic, she says, but the second is “awesome.” “Our children can see that anything is possible.”
For the second time in American history, a presidential inauguration fell on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But it also fell on the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, whose iconic moment took place at the far end of the National Mall with the Rev. Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech.