Barack Obama made history on Tuesday as he was sworn in as the first black president of the United States in front of three million people turned out to witness the historic inauguration of the country's 44th president.
In his first speech as U.S. president, Obama promised to responsibly leave lraq to its people and start a new way with the Muslim world, while pledging bold and swift action to meet what he called the crisis of two wars and a badly weakened economy.
"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many," Obama said in a prepared text of his inaugural speech.
"They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America -- they will be met," he said in the speech delivered from the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Obama, a Democrat taking over the presidency from Republican George W. Bush, said the economic crisis buffeting the country was the result of "greed and irresponsibility on the part of some" and promised to keep a watchful eye to ensure that the market did not spin out of control.
He also vowed to responsibly pull U.S. forces out of Iraq and forge peace in Afghanistan, while pledging to find a new way forward in relations with the Muslim world.
"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect," said Obama, who spent several years of his childhood in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world.
But he warned that those who wage terrorism around the world that America's resolve remained strong.
"We say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."
History in the making
Obama, 47, the son of a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, took the oath of office at midday eastern time (0500 GMT) on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Hill with his hand placed on a Bible used by Abraham Lincoln at his first inauguration in 1861.
Obama's inauguration culminates the hopes and dreams of generations of African-Americans who suffered slavery and then racial segregation policies that saw them treated like second-class citizens.
He assumes the mantle of power at a moment of great anxiety among Americans who have seen hundreds of thousands of jobs vanish in past months and left them fearful an economic collapse could turn a crisis into a catastrophe.
"Obama-mania" that helped propel Obama into office was alive on the streets of Washington and a winter chill failed to dampen the spirits of more than three million people who swept into the U.S. capital to witness the pomp and ceremony and revel in the festivities surrounding Obama's inauguration.
"I'll be sardine-stuffed on the mall in the freezing weather to watch Obama on a pixilated Jumbotron!," said Adel Iskander, an Egyptian-American who lives in Washington D.C. and was preparing to brave the crowds and cold to participate in festivities.
"I believe that while all indications suggest there is little to be hopeful for amidst the rigidity of the political perspectives towards the Middle East, most Arab Americans have joined the bandwagon in hope they too might reap the benefits of Obama's motto of "Change" awesome," he said.
After they were sworn in Obama and his Vice-President Joe Biden and their families attended a luncheon in the Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol along with some 200 guests.
Following the theme of the inauguration, the luncheon menu was inspired by the tastes of president Abraham Lincoln.
As the senators and former heads of state dined, ailing U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy collapsed and was evacuated by medical staff, apparently suffering from convulsions, a congressional aide said.
Kennedy, 76, is battling a life-threatening brain tumor. Kennedy is the brother of the late President John F. Kennedy and one of the Senate's most respected Democrats.
The official festivities marking the historic inauguration of Barack Obama are as follows:
*8:40 a.m. (1340 GMT) - Obama attends a morning worship service, a tradition that began with Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.
*9:55 a.m. (1455 GMT) - Obama and first-lady-to-be Michelle meet President George W. Bush and Laura Bush at the White House. The couples, along with vice president-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill, have coffee with congressional officials before proceeding together to the U.S. Capitol for the swearing-in ceremonies.
*10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT) - Festivities begin on the west front of the U.S. Capitol. Events include musical selections by the U.S. Marine Band, children's choruses, Aretha Franklin, composer John Williams with violinist Itzhak Perlman and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and the U.S. Navy Band.
*11:30 a.m. (1630 GMT) - Formal program begins. Conservative pastor Rick Warren gives the invocation.
*11:46 a.m. (1646 GMT) - Vice president-elect Joe Biden is sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts.
*11:56 a.m. (1656 GMT) - Obama takes the oath of office using president Abraham Lincoln's inaugural Bible during the swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. He will then give his inaugural address at noon. Expected to last about 20 minutes. Poet Elizabeth Alexander to read a poem she has composed for the occasion.
*12:30 p.m. (1730 GMT) - Obama escorts outgoing President George
W. Bush to a departure ceremony. Obama, Biden and their families attend a luncheon in the Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol along with about 200 guests. The luncheon menu is inspired by the tastes of president Abraham Lincoln.
*2:30 p.m. (1930 GMT) - The 56th Inaugural Parade travels down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House with the participation of groups from across the United States.
*7:00 p.m. (0000 GMT) to around midnight (0500 GMT) - official and unofficial inaugural balls across Washington. The Presidential Inaugural Committee hosts 10 official inaugural balls.