Washington was teeming with visitors and abuzz with anticipation only hours
before Barack Obama was to be sworn in as America's 44th president.
city not known for flashiness is packed with inaugural revelers and untold
numbers of people who journeyed from near and far to witness
Washington's usually-staid manner has been swept aside by dozens
of gala events surrounding the inauguration and an almost-electric undercurrent
of anticipation ahead of the swearing in of the nation's first African American
The event comes one day after the U.S. holiday honoring slain
civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. - without whose life's work
and sacrifice Mr. Obama's rise to power might not have been
To mark the day, the president-elect visited a Washington shelter for
homeless youth as part of a broader call on Americans to commit themselves to
community and national service.
"If we are waiting for someone else to do
something, it never gets done," said Barack Obama. "We are going to have to take
responsibility [for our nation's well-being]. All of us. And so this is not just
a one-day affair."
Mr. Obama is expected to echo that theme in his
inaugural address after he is sworn in.
Late Monday, the president-elect
hosted three dinners: one for another African American trailblazer - retired
General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, another for Vice
President-elect Joe Biden, and one for the man he defeated in the November
election - Senator John McCain.
Mr. Obama has repeatedly stated his
desire to forge consensus and a bipartisanship in solving America's problems,
and has made an effort to reach out to Republican leaders during the transition
The president-elect and Mr. Biden will be sworn in on the steps of the U.S.
Capitol building before an anticipated crowd of one-to-two million people.
Later, a massive parade will wind its way through central Washington, followed
by several inaugural balls.
Excitement surrounding the inauguration has
been building for days.
Byron Miller and his family are visiting
Washington from San Antonio, Texas. He says Barack Obama's journey to the
presidency is a feat for all Americans to savor, but one that holds special
meaning for those who descended from slaves.
"We have gone from
emancipation [from slavery] to inauguration," said Byron Miller. "My emotions
run from exuberance to just [being] excited."
Already, many roads in and
around central Washington have been cordoned off as part of a massive security
effort. Most bridges across the Potomac River from Virginia will also be closed
to all but official vehicles and some pedestrians. Local officials are urging
visitors and residents alike to make use of the region's subway system, but note
that the inauguration day crowd will likely be at least double the highest
single-day ridership in the system's history.