WASHINGTON - Barack Obama has been sworn in as the 44th U.S. president Tuesday, shattering racial barriers as the first black leader of a country gripped by profound economic troubles and at war in two distant lands.
The 47-year-old Obama assumes power over a nation longing for change after President George W. Bush's eight divisive years in the White House, an era that witnessed the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, the beginning of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and an economic collapse not seen since the 1930s Great Depression.
With his hand on the Bible used in the 1861 inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, the country's 16th president and Obama's inspiration, the new president has ascended to the pinnacle of American political power to confront perils seldom faced by a new president.
Obama's wife, Michelle, the nation's new first lady, held the Lincoln Bible as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the 35-word oath of office taken by every American president dating to George Washington.
The National Mall, which stretches from the foot of Capitol Hill west to the Lincoln Memorial, was jammed with hundreds of thousands of spectators, perhaps as many as a million, who came from across America and the globe to witness the historic transfer of power.