By John Whitesides
WASHINGTON, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Four years after making history by becoming the first African-American president, Barack Obama will kick off his second term on Monday with a scaled-back inauguration that reflects the tempered expectations for his next four years in office.
Lingering high unemployment, bitter political battles and a divisive re-election campaign have tempered the mood of optimism and hope that infused Obama's 2009 inauguration after he was swept into office on a mantle of hope and change.
This time, Obama's inauguration will feature smaller crowds and fewer inaugural balls and parties to match the more subdued tenor of the times.
But Obama, seeking to build on momentum from his decisive re-election on Nov. 6, will lay out a vision for the next four years in his inauguration speech while trumpeting several notable first-term achievements, including a healthcare overhaul, ending the war in Iraq and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
"We have a chance to finish what we started. Our work begins today. Let's go," Obama said in a pre-inauguration message on Twitter.
A second inauguration marks the latest rite of political passage for Obama, the Hawaiian-born son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas. An electrifying speech at the 2004 Democratic convention as a little-known Illinois state legislator lifted him to the national stage, putting him on a rapid trajectory to the U.S. Senate and a few years later the White House.
But battles are now looming over budgets, gun control and immigration, with Republicans ready to oppose him at almost every turn.
When Obama raises his right hand to be sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts outside the U.S. Capitol at 11:55 a.m. ET (1655 GMT), it will be his second time taking the oath in 24 hours - but this time with tens of millions of people watching on television.
He had a private swearing-in on Sunday at the White House because of a constitutional requirement that the president be sworn in on Jan. 20. Rather than stage the full inauguration on a Sunday, the main public events were put off until Monday.
Obama and his family began the day worshipping at St. John's Episcopal Church across from the White House, an Inauguration Day tradition for U.S. presidents, before heading by motorcade to Capitol Hill.
He will take the oath again, in public, and then deliver his inaugural address from the Capitol's west front overlooking the National Mall, where a crowd of up to 700,000 was gathering to watch.
That is down significantly from the record 1.8 million people who jammed Washington in 2009 for Obama's first inauguration.
"We're a bit surprised by how few people are out here this morning. But that's fine - makes the crowds more manageable. The weather is delightful and we're happy to be here," said Kathy Reid, 61, from Waco, Texas.
As people streamed through the wintry cold to assemble on Capitol grounds, Washington was in security lockdown, with thousands of police and National Guard troops deployed, barricades up and Humvee military vehicles blocking major intersections.
Outside the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, an elaborate presidential viewing stand, encased in bullet-proof glass, awaited Obama and other VIPs to watch the inaugural parade.
Even though the atmosphere lacked the euphoria of Obama's first inauguration, many of his supporters celebrated through the night.
"Yes, I can sense the inauguration is not as big as last time, but there is nonetheless excitement," said Carrie` Solages, a New York state legislator, as she attended a pre-inaugural ball late on Sunday. "We are still here to be a part of history."
At the Hawaii State Society inaugural ball, dancers swung their hips to traditional songs, and some partygoers sported tuxedos with Hawaiian-print cummerbunds as they ate suckling pig.
INAUGURAL ADDRESS IS CENTERPIECE
The focal point of Monday's festivities will be Obama's inauguration address, which he will use to lay out in broad terms his goals for the next four years. But he will stay away from second-term policy specifics, saving that for his State of the Union speech to Congress on Feb. 12. aides said.
Obama arrives at his second inauguration on solid footing. He won an end-of-year fiscal battle against Republicans, whose poll numbers have continued to sag, and appears to have gotten them to back down, at least temporarily, from resisting an increase in the national debt ceiling.
But after a bitter election fight against Republican Mitt Romney, the daunting challenges facing Obama and his political battles with congressional Republicans have split public opinion about the prospects for the next four years.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll last week found 43 percent of Americans were optimistic about the next four years and 35 percent pessimistic, with 22 percent having a mixed opinion.
Obama's main political opponent in Congress, Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, attended a White House coffee before the ceremony, and then returned to the Capitol for the inaugural speech and a post-event lunch with the president and lawmakers.
The inauguration ceremony will include music - singers James Taylor and Kelly Clarkson will perform patriotic songs and Beyonce will sing the national anthem - and also feature Vice President Joe Biden taking the oath of office again after doing so already on Sunday.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, will join Biden and his wife, Jill, at the capital luncheon before the two couples take part in the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House.
Obama could get out of his limousine and walk part of the way to interact with the crowd, as have presidents in the last several inaugurals.
After watching the rest of the parade from a viewing stand in front of the White House, the Obamas will change and head to the two inaugural balls - an official ball and one for military personnel and their spouses.
That is a dramatic reduction in activities from 2009, when there were 10 official inaugural balls.
With the public ceremony falling on the national holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Obama will be able to draw some historic parallels. While taking the oath, he will place his left hand on two Bibles - one once owned by Abraham Lincoln and the other by King.
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01/25/2013 1:48 PM EST
The Capitol At Sunset
The U.S. Capitol is shown following the public ceremonial inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on January 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
01/21/2013 9:34 PM EST
Latest News From The Inauguration With Jason Linkins
01/21/2013 9:12 PM EST
First Lady: 'I'm So Proud'
@ FLOTUS :
Just danced to "Let's Stay Together" with the love of my life and the President of the United States. I’m so proud of Barack. –mo
01/21/2013 9:10 PM EST
Wu, Choo Again For FLOTUS
It seems like only yesterday that First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage at the Inaugural Ball in that sparkling white gown and immediately made Jason Wu a household name.
Four years later, at the Obamas' second and final inauguration, Michelle stunned in a long high-neck red Jason Wu gown with velvet details and an armful of sparkly bangles. She wore Jimmy Choo shoes, and a ring by Kimberly McDonald.
Click here to read more and see a photo of FLOTUS's gown.
01/21/2013 8:33 PM EST
Obama, Roberts Inscribed Traveling King Family Bible
Per a White House pool report:
From a WH official: After today's swearing in ceremony at the Capitol this afternoon, at the request of the King family, the President and Chief Justice Roberts inscribed the traveling King family Bible.
01/21/2013 7:24 PM EST
Inaugural Ball Main Floor: Cash Bar And Peanuts
Guests at Monday night's main inaugural ball for President Obama will be well served to eat a hearty dinner beforehand, and bring plenty of cash.
The main ballroom floor of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center was festooned with disco balls and thumping Madonna's "Holiday" as the doors opened to guests at around 6:45 p.m., but the bars and food tables were far from lavish: A cash bar required that customers purchase drink tickets from a separate location, while the food laid out on tables consisted of peanuts and pretzels.
Inauguration officials said in December that this year's festivities would be scaled back -- Obama's first inauguration included 10 balls, a fireworks show and a Bruce Springsteen concert. This time around only two official balls were scheduled, the main ball and the Commander In Chief's Ball, for military personnel and VIPs.
The main ballroom space was the least exclusive of the various events taking place tonight in the convention center -- upper floors contained various receptions for donors, diplomats and administration officials. Still, tickets for the main ball initially sold for $1,000, a lot of money to pay for for pretzels and a cash bar.
The cost of tickets was cut to $500 in recent weeks, leading to speculation that inauguration fundraising was lagging behind expectations.
-- Christina Wilkie
01/21/2013 6:49 PM EST
WATCH: Sasha Yawns During Dad's Inauguration Speech
A .gif of Sasha Obama is becoming quite the viral smash, after the younger First Daughter was caught yawning during her father's inauguration speech.
According to the Atlantic Wire, 11-year-old Sasha's mighty yawn was captured on camera Monday while President Obama was speaking about education policy.
"No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people," the president had said, before pausing for applause.
Click here to read more.
01/21/2013 6:37 PM EST
Crowd Estimates Are In
@ ChadPergram :
DC's security and emergency mgt agency says turnout for #inaug2013 was 800,000 and maybe higher.
01/21/2013 5:51 PM EST
Obamas' Inauguration Kiss Captured By Sasha & Malia On Cell Phones
Most kids get squeamish at the sight of their parents canoodling, but Sasha and Malia Obama love them some good parental PDA.
While watching the Inauguration Day Parade on Monday, the First Daughters got President and Michelle Obama to pose for a quick kiss -- and captured it on their cell phones. First FLOTUS gave her best duck face, then she and POTUS locked lips ever so briefly... then Malia and Sasha examined the results on their small screens and tried out some duck faces of their own.
Click here to read more.
01/21/2013 5:44 PM EST
Sasha And Malia Obama To Hit Teen Milestones
The AP reports:
That's how it goes with kids. You hardly notice how fast they're growing up, then suddenly big sis is nearly as tall as Mom and the little one is a tween, gently sassing Dad.
On the inaugural platform again four years later, a more mature Malia Obama, 14, and Sasha, 11, smiled, sometimes giggled, and chatted with their cousin Avery Robinson as they awaited their father's arrival. Sasha bounced on her feet a bit as if chilly in temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, and later huddled in her seat. Malia, looking poised in calf-high black boots, rivaled her mother's 5 feet 11 inches. Like any girls their age, they whipped out their smartphones in the parade reviewing stand to take photos.
Click here to read more.