UPDATE: President Barack Obama issued a call to unity in his second inaugural address, urging the nation to move past the divisions that marked the last four years in politics and complete the work of living up to America's founding principles.
The president, in a speech that blended together post-partisan rhetoric and policy declarations, highlighted the progress made during his first term to end foreign wars and turn around the economy.
But Obama said that there was much unfinished work ahead, and he used Monday's speech to urge political leaders to finally rise above bitter squabbling — a recurring theme of his first term, and a mark of how difficult it has been for Obama to live up to his 2008 vow to change Washington's business as usual.
"Our journey is not complete," Obama said during one refrain in his speech.
"We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate," Obama said. "We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect.
We must act, knowing that today's victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall."
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts and Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, respectively, shortly before noon; Monday's oath of office was ceremonial, following their formal, constitutionally-prescribed swearing-in on Sunday.
Monday's ceremonies coincided with the federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Obama nodded to the slain civil rights leader during his speech, and the nation's first African-American president used one of King's Bibles during today's inauguration.
The president's speech, though, strode between acknowledging the accomplishments of his first term and the new priorities for his second. The president begins his new term this week intent upon pursuing an ambitious agenda following his decisive re-election victory last November over Republican opponent Mitt Romney.
Rebuilding the economy, strengthening entitlement programs for future generations and addressing the threat of climate change were among the initiatives upon which the president touched during his speech. Obama nodded toward other priorities, that were set to define his next four years in office: equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans, immigration reform that offers undocumented residents a pathway to citizenship and new rules to curb gun violence.
But as political leaders from both parties looked on from the inaugural platform, Obama avoided much of the hard-charging rhetoric of last year's campaign.
Romney, the erstwhile GOP nominee, spent Inauguration Day at his home in La Jolla, Calif., and a former aide told NBC News it was unlikely that the former Massachusetts governor would watch today's festivities.
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate last fall, said today was not a day to emphasize partisan divisions.
"But today, we put those disagreements aside," Ryan said in a statement. "Today, we remember what we share in common."
To be sure, a variety of bruising political battles between Obama and Congress — in particular, a House of Representatives controlled by Republicans — loomed on the horizon. On Wednesday, Republicans said, they would vote on a measure to extend the nation's debt limit by a few months.
Earlier in the day, Obama and the first family attended a service at St. John's Episcopal Church — the "Church of the Presidents," as it is sometimes known — just two blocks from the White House.
There, Dr. Luis Leon, the rector of the church, led a series of "prayers for the nation," Washington Cardinal Donald Weurl led a Gospel reading, and an Alexandria, Va., rabbi offered a final blessing. Biden and his wife also attended the service.
Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were among the dignitaries in attendance during the oath-of-office ceremonies during late Monday morning. Celebrities including musician Jay-Z and actress Eva Longoria joined government officials on the inaugural platform, and attendees were treated to performances by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor.
Obama would retreat to a traditional luncheon on Capitol Hill following the inaugural ceremonies before participating in the parade down Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue, which would consume much of the afternoon. The president and first lady will make their way to glitzy, black-tie inaugural balls later this evening before wrapping the whirlwind day of festivities.
UPDATE: President Barack Obama says that "while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on Earth."
Delivering his second inaugural address, the president said that the inalienable rights set out in the Declaration of Independence may be self-evident - but "they've never been self-executed."
The president says we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.
Obama spoke shortly after taking the public oath of office for his second term Monday. He addressed hundreds of thousands on the National Mall and millions more watching worldwide.
UPDATE: Sen. Charles Schumer is opening the 57th inaugural ceremonies by invoking the innate majesty and sacred meaning of the proceedings.
The duty falls to the New York Democrat as chairman of the inauguration committee.
Schumer says that the entrusting of power from the people to our chosen leaders "never fails to make our hearts beat faster, as it will today."
Said Schumer: "America always rises to the occasion, America prevails and America prospers."
UPDATE: The White House says President Barack Obama will sign documents officially submitting top administration nominations to the Senate after he takes the oath of office.
In a traditional inauguration signing ceremony in the U.S. Capitol, Obama will affirm the nominations of John Brennan to be director of the CIA, former Sen. Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense, Sen. John Kerry to be secretary of state and Jack Lew for Treasury secretary.
The White House says Obama will also sign a proclamation to commemorate the inauguration. The proclamation is entitled "National Day of Hope and Resolve, 2013."
President Ronald Reagan established the tradition of visiting the Capitol's President's Room after taking the oath to sign documents and pose for photographs.
UPDATE: Vice President Joe Biden has taken a ceremonial oath office, kicking off the start of his second term as No. 2 to President Barack Obama.
Biden, placing his hand on a family Bible that's been in use since 1893, took a public oath from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Biden was formally sworn in during a private ceremony on Sunday at his residence, the U.S. Naval Observatory. The Constitution requires presidential and vice-presidential terms begin on Jan. 20. Sotomayor also administered the private oath.
UPDATE: Inauguration-goers are complaining about a slow-moving security gate at the National Mall.
Authorities say the orange gate, located between Union Station and the U.S. Capitol, was stalled so a motorcade could pass and barriers could be repositioned.
Stuck spectators vented on Twitter that the line did not move for at least a half-hour and that there were repeated chants of "Orange gate." Some said they were redirected to the blue security gate, a block away.
UPDATE: Spectators at inauguration events should prepare for tight security, long lines and downtown road closures.
Inauguration-goers will be screened at security checkpoints Monday, but officials hope that additional metal detectors and staff will help ease the congestion. There are flight restrictions in the skies over Washington and extra security on the waterways. There's also a long list of prohibited items, including glass containers, large signs and bicycles.
Security appeared generally light over the weekend around the National Mall, where thousands of people milled about and attended events like a wreath-laying ceremony at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
Protesters are expected at various spots along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route. A small group of anti-abortion demonstrators picketed near the White House on Sunday.
Obama adviser hedges optimism on stricter gun laws
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration says it's confident stricter gun laws can be passed, but it's hedging its optimism by stressing how politically difficult that will be.
White House senior adviser David Plouffe said on CNN that gun legislation and immigration reform are two top domestic priorities as President Barack Obama readies for a second term.
He says the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has changed the gun debate, yet he did not sound assured that some measures would even get a vote.
Republican Sen. John Barrasso said on CNN he doubted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would bring all of the administration's proposals regarding gun violence to the floor, to protect Democrats in conservative states.
Both men sounded more optimistic about the prospects for an immigration overhaul.
Obama starts Inauguration Day with visit to church
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama and his family are beginning inauguration day by attending services at St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House.
The presidential motorcade arrived shortly after 8:30 a.m. under crisp, cold skies outside the sanctuary. The president and first lady Michelle Obama emerged to pose briefly for photos with their daughters Sasha and Malia before entering the church. The first family sometimes attends Sunday worship at the church, which is across Lafayette Park from the White House.
Vice President Joe Biden and his family also were attending.
Meanwhile crowds were gathering at the National Mall to watch Obama take the oath of office later in the morning for his second term.
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