Big crowd, high spirits for 2nd Obama swearing-in

By Julie Pace

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 21 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

President Barack Obama, with daughter Sasha, waves as they leave St. John's Church in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, followed by first lady Michelle Obama, talking with Rev. Luis Leon, after attending a church service during the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

Editor's note: Watch the inauguration live here.

WASHINGTON — Declaring "our work begins today", President Barack Obama vowed to "finished what we started" four years ago as hundreds of thousands of inauguration-goers gathered on the historic National Mall in anticipation of his oath-taking for a second term.

"Let's go," Obama tweeted Monday morning as he began the day of inaugural celebrations.

The president was cheered in the streets as he returned to the White House following a morning church service. At midday, He was to speak to a huge crowd on the Mall and millions more watching on television, hoping to set an optimistic tone for a divided nation seeking solutions to economic woes at home and conflict overseas.

The fanfare is extending across the nation's capital, including the traditional inaugural parade and a pair of glitzy formal balls.

Obama and his family, along with Vice President Joe Biden, arrived at St. John's Episcopal Church on a crisp and clear morning. Known as "The Church of the Presidents", St. John's is located just across from the White House on the other side of Lafayette Park. Pew 54 is known as "the president's pew" and is reserved for the commander in chief whenever he attends.

The centerpiece of Monday's festivities is Obama's inaugural address. The president will be urging lawmakers to find common ground and will preview his second-term goals, including immigration reform, stricter gun-control laws and an end to the war in Afghanistan.

Obama is also facing fresh concerns about terrorism in North Africa. In the midst of the inaugural celebrations, a U.S. official said two more Americans died in Algeria, bringing the U.S. death toll from a four-day siege at a natural gas plant to three. Seven Americans survived, the official said.

Washington largely shelved its partisan fighting for the three days of inaugural celebrations. Obama, perhaps seeking to start fresh with lawmakers in his second term, invited several members of Congress to the White House before his swearing-in, including the Republican leaders he has been at odds with for the past four years: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Pressing matters await the president and Congress once the celebrations subside, including three looming fiscal deadlines. Obama will also need help from a reluctant Congress if he hopes to fulfill his promise to sign comprehensive immigration reform and tighten gun laws in the wake of last month's school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

The mood surrounding Obama's second inaugural is more subdued than it was four years ago, when the swearing in of the nation's first black president drew 1.8 million people to the Mall. Still, organizers were expecting up to 700,000 to attend Monday's events, which would make it the largest second-term inaugural in history.

At least one public viewing area on the National Mall was full two hours before the president's swearing-in, and the crowd spread from the Capitol to the Washington Monument.

The weather forecast was encouraging, to a point. High temperatures were predicted for the lower 40s during the day, with a slight chance of rain and snow showers in the afternoon and flurries later.

Security was tight across Washington, with several streets near the White House and Capitol Hill closed off. Humvees and city buses were being used to block intersections. Volunteers fanned out near the Mall to help direct the crowds.

Lawmakers and other officials slowly trickled onto the platform on the West Front of the Capitol where Obama was to be sworn in. Former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich sat next to each other on the folding chairs as they awaited the festivities.

David Richardson of Atlanta and his two young children were among the early crowds heading to the National Mall Monday even before sunrise.

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