INAUGURATION WATCH: Of music and second-term plans

By The Associated Press



WASHINGTON — AP journalists are fanning out across the capital to cover Inauguration Day as part of a running feed of content and analysis. Here are their reports, which will be updated through the day.
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MANY PATHS TO HAPPINESS

Sally Buzbee, AP’s Washington bureau chief, unpacks one piece of President Barack Obama’s inaugural address.

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I’m not like you. You’re not like her. She’s not like him. Yeah, so what? We can — must — still find common ground.

That was the point of the somewhat subtle argument used today by President Barack Obama to make a basic point: Government officials shoulder a responsibility to take action and solve problems, even if they disagree on some basic beliefs.

“Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life,” the president asserted in his inaugural address. “It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness.”

But, he said, even if Americans can’t settle “centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time,” officials do have the responsibility to take action to try to make progress on the immediate problems the country faces.

The idea that liberty can be defined in different ways and that there are different paths to happiness has particular resonance, of course, in a country that is becoming ever more diverse. Polls show that increasing diversity makes some Americans uncomfortable.

But beyond that sweeping philosophical point, the president’s argument also had a clear, pragmatic — and more immediate — political purpose: to unite people who are deeply dug in on their beliefs and harness their energy to seek common ground and practical solutions.

“For now, decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle,” the president said. It’s a highly relevant point for a president who must will spend the next several years trying to seek compromise with politicians who believe things quite different than he does.

— By Sally Buzbee

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HALF A LOAF

President Barack Obama is fond of saying: “We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” His point: sometimes we have to settle for half a loaf.

Well, that’s what he got in Washington today during his second inauguration — in attendance, that is.

Turnout was “definitely above 800,000″ and possibly up to 1 million people, according to Chris Geldart, who directs the District of Columbia’s homeland security and emergency management agency. That estimate is based on aerial views of how the crowd filled sections of the mall.

That’s about half of the 1.8 million people who showed up for Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.

— Liz Sidoti — Twitter http://twitter.com/lsidoti

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ON CLIMATE

A look at the issues that those who govern the country will face during Barack Obama’s second term. Up now: the climate.

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President Barack Obama is picking a fresh fight on climate change, saying in his inaugural address that a failure to act to curb it would betray future generations. He’s hoping to tackle the issue — and live up to his prediction during the 2008 campaign that he would. But addressing the matter will be difficult.

The president has acknowledged that climate change was pushed to the back burner during his first term while he dealt with wrenching economic challenges and spent much of his political capital on reforming health care. But now he appears to be trying to make the case for action by pointing to the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, annual wildfires and droughts rivaling the Dust Bowl.

Says Obama: “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”

Even amid the natural disasters, any attempt to respond to global warming faces a daunting prospect in Congress, where legislation narrowly cleared the House in 2009 but died in the Senate. Republicans control the House now and many Democrats in the Senate view the issue with suspicion — especially about a half-dozen Senate Democrats facing re-election next year who represent states carried by Republican Mitt Romney.

When Obama won enough support in the Democratic primaries to secure the 2008 Democratic nomination, he said future generations would look back at that night as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Heading into his second term, one of the main questions is whether he meets that test.

— Ken Thomas — Twitter http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas

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AMERICAN SONGBAG

It was at 6:31 p.m. tonight, just before the inaugural parade ended, that the bagpipers passed the president’s reviewing stand playing their oddly compelling medley of “America, the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.” One wonders whether Irving Berlin ever considered what it would be like to hear his famous song in bagpipe.

Barack Obama began the second term of his presidency today in many ways. You could say he began it leading a fractious nation (many did). You could say he began it with daunting tasks at hand (certainly true). Or you could say, quite accurately, that he began his second four years as leader of the free world by spending quite a bit of time listening to unusual and diverse versions of American musical standards.

The works of John Philip Sousa, who was born on Capitol Hill in 1854, turned up more than once, and one wonders how many people these days can identify “Stars and Stripes Forever” (1896) anymore. “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” (1831) made several appearances, too, with few people perhaps considering that it shares a melody with Britain’s “God Save the Queen.”

This after some high-ticket performers tried their hands. James Taylor pulled off a very affecting “America the Beautiful” (first published in 1910). Kelly Clarkson chimed in with an offbeat “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” And Beyonce belting out “The Star-Spangled Banner”? Electric.

The inevitable “Hail to the Chief,” of course, which was first used for the president in the early 1800s, popped up regularly through the day, and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” (1861) echoed through the streets of Washington more than once as well. If you were watching and listening, you heard the best of the American songbag presented in ways as varied and diverse as America itself. Exciting stuff.

Too bad the parade’s over, though. A few more minutes and who knows? We might have been treated to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” — on the Australian didgeridoo.

— Ted Anthony — Twitter http://twitter.com/anthonyted
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DEFICITS AND DECISIONS

A look at the issues that those who govern the country will face during Barack Obama’s second term. Up now: the deficit.

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President Barack Obama devotes one word — “deficit” — to the issue that brought Washington to the brink of fiscal crises time and again during his first term.

But it’s the paragraph that follows in his inaugural address that foreshadows what’s to come: more hard bargaining and more last-minute deals driven by a conviction that he wields an upper hand.

“We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future,” he says. “The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

This was the language of his re-election campaign. And while his address contained no reference to either political party, his pointed rejection of “a nation of takers” was an implicit reminder of the ill-timed surfacing of Mitt Romney’s declaration that Obama’s support came from the 47 percent of American voters “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

—Jim Kuhnhenn — Twitter: http://twitter.com/jkuhnhenn

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ORGANIZING FOR ACTION

President Barack Obama got his start in politics as a community organizer nearly 30 years ago on Chicago’s South Side. He hasn’t stopped organizing since.

He didn’t waste much time after delivering his second inaugural address to implore his backers to join his campaign’s new nonprofit organization, Organizing for Action.

The president said in an email to supporters that the group was the “next step in our grassroots movement and will be crucial to finishing what we started.”

“If you haven’t already, say you’ll be a part of it,” Obama wrote, directing supporters to a web link with more details.

The nonprofit, which will raise money from corporate and grassroots donors, is an unusual creation, essentially morphing a presidential re-election campaign into a nonprofit organization built to back up Obama’s efforts in Congress.

Organizers of the group, composed of top Obama aides, have vowed to build support for the president’s plans on gun control, immigration and climate change. The group will operate outside the confines of the White House and Obama’s political arm, the Democratic National Committee.

It sets up a test of whether Obama can turn his political army into a powerhouse grassroots lobbying machine for his agenda — in other words, whether the community organizer-turned president can organize the country behind his goals.

— Ken Thomas — Twitter http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas

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O, CANADA!

These folks know how to keep warm.

At the Canadian Embassy, a couple hundred guests lined up on the chilly open promenade of the embassy for that country’s native treats: a fried dough delicacy of Beavertails, beer and hot cider.

“We love Obama!” said Pam Hooker, co-owner of Ottawa-based BeaverTails Canada Inc., as she handed out the fried dough to the embassy crowd from a bright red food truck parked on the embassy grounds. Her husband Grant Hooker says they created the “ObamaTail” version of the flat, oval-shaped fried dough, topped cinnamon sugar, whipped cream and chocolate and maple topping. “President Obama insisted on having one” when he visited Ottawa in 2009, Grant says, but “security whisked him away after we handed him one, and we never got to hear back on what he thought of it.”

The Canadian embassy had an ideal vantage point overlooking the parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue. It also offered stunning views of the Capitol and National Mall.

Talk among the diplomats and military officers, in a mix of English and French, veered from talk of how Canadian troops would be out of Afghanistan by 2014, to hopes that the US Congress and the White House would see eye to eye and avert another fiscal cliff drama.

“We think of ourselves as being at ‘center ice’ here on Pennsylvania Avenue halfway between the Hill and the White House,” says Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer. Center ice is an ice hockey term, for the center of the rink between the two goals. “We are hoping for similar balance between the two in 2013,” he said with a smile.

—Kimberly Dozier — Twitter http://twitter.com/KimberlyDozier

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QUICKQUOTE: RALLIER

“There are some people, powerful people, who aren’t happy to have a black man as president. And they are going to keep fighting him every step.” — Curtis Martin, 75, at a Martin Luther King Day rally at the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C.

—Jeffrey S. Collins — Twitter http://twitter.com/jscollinsap

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BIDEN FRONT AND CENTER

Could this be a sign of Biden 2016?

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were out of sight after walking parts of the presidential inauguration parade. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, filled the void, working the cheering crowds that lined the streets of Washington D.C.

It was a powerful symbol — and an enormous opportunity for a man who is leaving the door open to his own presidential run. Biden took full advantage, waving presidentially to the crowd, glad-handing with onlookers, and even running across Pennsylvania Avenue at one point to shake hands with a group of onlookers.

And what does it say about Obama’s personal preference for his successor in 2016, with a full slate of Democrats in governorships, in Congress and even in his own cabinet likely thinking about throwing their name into the ring for the open presidential seat in 2016? How many presidents have let their vice president walk alone — with the real president nowhere in sight — during the president inauguration parade, one of America’s most-watched spectacles?

— Jesse J. Holland — Twitter http://twitter.com/jessejholland

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‘I MISS THIS PLACE’

President Barack Obama had an interesting greeting for his former congressional colleagues as he entered the Capitol for his swearing in.

“I miss this place,” he said with a big smile as he greeted leaders of the Senate and House.

Obama served in the Senate for four years as an Illinois Democrat before becoming president in 2009.

What he didn’t say: Congress — and particularly the Republican-controlled House — made it difficult for him to get his agenda passed in the first term, and is likely to continue doing the same in the second term.

Check out this picture of him arriving earlier today. http://yfrog.com/oc50boqrj

—Alan Fram — Twitter http://twitter.com

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AT THE KING MEMORIAL

The hulking structure paying tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t exist during President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. It opened two years later, and this time it was a popular stop for people honoring the slain civil rights leader on the day of his remembrance as well as on the day of Obama’s second public swearing-in.

Nicole Hailey, 34, had driven with her family from Monroe, N.C., a six-hour drive they started at midnight. She says her family made a point of coming to the MLK memorial before staking out a spot for the swearing-in ceremony. She says: “We’re just celebrating freedom.”

Jon Barton, 61, and his wife Brooke Stephens, 59, of Roanoke, Va., had knocked on doors to get out the vote for Obama. On Monday, they were visiting the MLK memorial before heading to the mall. “When you grew up in the 60s, this means a lot,” Stephens said while looking at the statue of King.

And Kona Brown, 45, of Annapolis, Md., and her friend Donna Thomas, 45, of Fort Worth, Texas, were both visiting the memorial for the first time. Brown called it beautiful and emotional, because it brought back stories of the Civil Rights movement she was told growing up. “What better day to come see the memorial?” she said, adding that King had helped pave the way for Obama to become president.

— Jessica Gresko — Twitter http://twitter.com/JessicaGresko

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DECODING THE ADDRESS

AP Political Editor Liz Sidoti’s wrap-up on what we learned today from the president’s second inaugural address.

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At the outset of a second term, this is an empowered Barack Obama — one who made clear that he knows he has political capital, and that he plans to spend it.

He signaled that he’s ready — or, rather, that he has a duty — to tackle big challenges. And that he wants Republicans to walk with him in that endeavor. But he also indicated that he has core beliefs on which he won’t compromise. Like the notion that government can be a tool — not THE tool — for solving what ails the nation. And the need to curb climate change. And the fact that all people are created equal, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. And, finally, that you don’t always have to see the world the same way to get things done.

In doing so, he’s suggesting that he has a responsibility to press his agenda even if the deeply divided nation — and its equally fractured leaders — refuse to heed his call to come together to address the nation’s problems.

— Liz Sidoti — Twitter http://twitter.com/lsidoti

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A LONG HAUL

Talk about a road trip. Mattece Mason traveled with eight members of her family — three generations — in a 12-passenger van from Tulsa, Okla., to New York City for a night, and, finally, to Washington, D.C. for the festivities.

After the ceremony, the 34-year-old Mason sat on a bench with three of her daughters and traded impressions of the day.

“It was just momentous. I think the second inauguration of this president was even more important than the first. Because it was based on his credentials, you know?” Mason said. Twelve-year-old Sanaa added: “It made me feel good. I got to see Obama!” And 8-year-old Jada said: “I got to see the president AND Beyonce.”

Asked about Michelle’s hair, the mother and daughters screamed and gushed about how much they loved the first lady’s new bangs.

Mason said her 14-year-old daughter Aubrianna told her that she wanted bangs now, too. “That made me feel great because my girls have such a role model. A first lady they can emulate.”

— Jocelyn Noveck — Twitter http://twitter.com/jocelynnoveckap

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GETTIN’ DOWN

Yes, Mr. President. We can see you.

As band after band passed by the White House viewing stand, a standing President Barack Obama bobbed his head and bopped to the beat, a giant grin on his face.

His wife, Michelle Obama, and daughters Sasha and Malia did a bit of chair dancing, and craned their necks to see the performers.

They, too, eventually stood up, and followed Obama — bobbing their heads and clapping their hands.

— Liz Sidoti — Twitter http://twitter.com/lsidoti
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FROM THE GOP:

Sentiments of bipartisanship and an interest in working together: That’s what Republicans are offering as President Barack Obama starts his second term.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says the day shows that “our major political parties can disagree with civility and mutual respect.” He wishes Obama well on the next four years.

McConnell says the second term represents a “fresh start when it comes to dealing with the great challenges of our day,” including federal spending and debt. He said Republicans believed that “divided government provides the perfect opportunity to do so.”

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate, notes that he and Obama were “political opponents” and had “strong disagreements over the direction of the country — as we still do now.” But Ryan says that on Inauguration Day, “we put those disagreements aside” and “remember what we share in common.”

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, speaking shortly before Obama’s address, invoked Alex Haley, the author of “Roots,” who lived by the motto, “Find the good and praise it.” Alexander says that when America’s government transfers or reaffirms power, “we do this in a peaceful, orderly way. There is no mob, no coup, no insurrection.”

—Ken Thomas — Twitter http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas

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A TIGHT EDIT

President Barack Obama’s speech clocked in at 18 minutes — a relatively tight and short inaugural address.

— Darlene Superville — Twitter http://twitter.com/dsupervilleap

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OBAMA: GOVT AS (PARTIAL) SOLUTION?

More analysis from Michael Oreskes, AP’s senior managing editor for U.S. news and co-author of a book on the Constitution’s role in American life:

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From the same podium where President Obama stood today, Ronald Reagan famously said that in the present crisis government is not the solution, government is the problem. Three decades on, emerging from another, even deeper crisis, Obama said government is, at least part of the solution.

Americans remain skeptical of central authority and have never succumbed to the fiction that government is the total solution, he said.

“But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action,” Obama said.

“For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. 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.”

Perhaps it is the ultimate sign of the end of the Reagan era that a president who uses a phrase like “collective action” could be re-elected.

— Michael Oreskes — Twitter http://twitter.com/MichaelOreskes

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CIVIL RIGHTS, INVOKED

President Barack Obama emphasized three prongs of civil rights, declaring, “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still.”

He went further, with direct mentions of equality regardless of race, gender and sexual orientation. He referenced both Selma and Stonewall — landmark events for black and gay Americans, respectively — and talked of our country finally seeing its wives and mothers earning an “equal living” for the work that they do.

“It is our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began,” he said on this day, which is also Martin Luther King Day in the United States.

—Liz Sidoti — Twitter http://twitter.com/lsidoti

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WE JUST DISAGREE

“Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness.” — Barack Obama, in his second inaugural address.

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QUICKQUOTE: PAST AND FUTURE

“We remember the lessons of our past … we do not believe in this country that freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few,” Barack Obama said. “We the people still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves but to all posterity.”

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CALLING FOR UNITY

After a bitterly partisan election and lame-duck session, Barack Obama is using his speech to call for a divided nation to come together to right the nation’s course.

“Now more than ever we should do this as one nation,” Obama says, adding that Americans are made for this moment and can succeed “so long as we seize it together.”

It’s a signal that he heard the message of the center of the American electorate, which voted for no change in power in November and told its lawmakers to work together to start fixing what ails the nation.

—Liz Sidoti — Twitter http://twitter.com/lsidoti

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SELF-EVIDENT

“History tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing.” — Barack Obama, after quoting the “unalienable” American rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” outlined in the Declaration of Independence.

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VENERABLE WORDS

President Barack Obama is starting his second inaugural address with a lot of quotations from — and invocations of — the nation’s founding documents. It’s an interesting approach, one keyed to a dominant question in the national conversation these days: Where is this republic headed, and is it the right direction? Obama is starting by re-invoking the foundational principles of the republic — and asking people to hear him.

— Ted Anthony — Twitter http://twitter.com/anthonyted

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BIDEN NEXT?

The nation’s No. 2 was sworn in a second time, for a second term.

Like President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden took his oath of office during a private ceremony on Sunday. This one was for the masses.

Biden, a former Delaware senator, has attended a bunch of inaugural festivities.

The next one he attends may be his own if he decides to run for president in 2016 — and wins. He’s certainly keeping the door open to a future presidential run.

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OBAMA: OATH TAKEN

Barack Hussein Obama has just been sworn in before the nation for his second term as president.

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BIDEN SWORN IN

Joe Biden has been sworn in before the nation and the inauguration crowds, a day after he did it officially in a private ceremony.

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‘NO MOB’

“There is no mob, no coup, no insurrection. This is a moment when millions stop and watch.”— Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., co-chair of the inaugural committee.

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THE SPEECH

AP National Political Editor Liz Sidoti’s pre-speech take on the inaugural:

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President Barack Obama will be in his element when he steps to the podium to deliver his second inaugural address. He plans to lay out a broad vision for the country’s future. These speeches are traditionally heavier on prose than on policy, and devoid of many details. And Obama is expected to keep with that formula, focusing on America’s founding values and their importance to the country of today.

Don’t expect a partisan pitch. But make no mistake: this speech — like so many others before it — will be political, to a certain degree.

The president will be speaking to an America whose citizens are divided, and who fear their nation is in a perpetual — if not irreversible — state of decline. He will be speaking at a time of political paralysis, deep polarization and a resounding lack of faith in the institution of government. And he will be speaking at the start of a period in which he hopes to tackle a slew of thorny issues — taxes, guns, immigration and other issues — even as Republicans control the House.

So, expect Obama to do what he’s been known for since he burst onto the national stage — pepper his remarks with strong notes of resolve and the notion of a can-do America.

With the country’s grim backdrop and knowing what we know about Obama, it’s hard to see how the president doesn’t take advantage of the platform he has to issue an urgent call to action for Americans and their political leaders to come together to try to break Washington’s gridlock and solve the country’s big looming problems.

—Liz Sidoti — Twitter http://twitter.com/lsidoti

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SO AMERICAN

Some thoughts from Sally Buzbee, Washington bureau chief for The Associated Press:

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There’s something so inherently American about seeing sedate, totally non-glamorous political figures like former President Jimmy Carter and Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer — both dressed formally (in a dark coat in one case and a dark robe in the other) — next to the flash and glamour of American celebrities like Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z.

Beyonce, of course, was dressed more sedately than she normally is — for reasons of weather if nothing else — but that mane of big, gold hair gave her away. The singer superstar can’t help but ooze glamour even on a cold day in the nation’s capital.

The mix of people on the podium during an inaugural is always a celebration of America’s diversity. In this case: from the staid, wonky and serious to the flamboyant and celebrated.

— Sally Buzbee

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QUICKQUOTE: MYRLIE EVERS

“Blessings upon all who contribute to the essence of the American spirit, the American Dream.” — Myrlie Evers, activist and widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers.

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QUICKQUOTE: SCHUMER

“In 2013, far too many doubt the future of this great nation.” — Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., starting off the inaugural program.

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ON STAGE

President Barack Obama is on the podium, greeting supporters and colleagues, and ready to be inaugurated for his second term — or, at least, “inaugurated,” since the official ceremony was conducted Sunday indoors. Today’s ceremony is the public version.

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A SEA, NOT AN OCEAN

So, just how many people are on the National Mall for President Barack Obama’s second inaugural ceremony?

A lot — but probably not the roughly 1.8 million who jammed it four years ago.

In hours before Obama’s public swearing-in, the crowd extends from the Capitol and beyond the Washington Monument to around the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

But, though the crowd has grown thicker this morning — especially beyond the ticketed section — it doesn’t seem as packed as in 2008.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee has announced that the non-ticketed public viewing areas on the National Mall east of 7th Street are full and now closed.

— Donna Cassata and Mary Clare Jalonick— Twitter http://twitter.com/DonnaCassataAP and http://twitter.com/mcjalonick

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COOPERATE, PLEASE

“I hope the people in the Capitol can work together so we can get some things accomplished.” — Lolita Allen, 50, from Detroit, who said she and some friends made a last-minute decision on Friday to drive to Washington for the inauguration.

— Sam Hananel — Twitter http://twitter.com/SHananelAP

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‘MORE THAN THE HERE AND NOW’

“It’s really important for her to understand that her potential is endless. You have so much to live and look forward to, for yourself personally, for our country — just to see that there’s more than the here and now.” — Kenya Strong, a 37-year-old financial analyst, on her daughter’s attendance at the 2013 inauguration.

— David Dishneau — Twitter http://twitter.com/ddishneau

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Follow AP reporters contributing to Inauguration Watch on their Twitter handles, listed throughout the text.