Barack Obama sworn in as 44th U.S. President

WASHINGTON (AP) - Barack Hussein Obama has taken the oath of office as the 44th president of the United States.

With a hand on Abraham Lincoln's inaugural bible, and before a crowd stretching across the National Mall toward where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of his dream of racial equality, the 47-year-old Obama was sworn in as the first black American president by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Roberts told him, "Congratulations, Mr. President."

Obama's wife, Michelle, and young daughters Sasha and Malia looked on.

They were joined by people from around the world who gathered in huge numbers in the early morning Washington cold to see history made.


The Rev. Rick Warren has delivered the inaugural invocation, saying Barack Obama's election as the nation's first black president represents a pivotal point in history.

Calling America a "land of unequaled possibility," Warren's prayer invoked the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. and asked that Americans remember they are united by a commitment to  freedom and justice for all.

The conservative evangelical is considered perhaps the nation's most influential pastor.

His "Purpose Driven Life" books and lectures have made his Saddleback Church in California among the largest in the country.

But his selection to give the invocation sparked protests from the gay community and liberal groups, because of his support of a California ballot measure banning gay marriage.


Thousands of people are gathered in Birmingham's historic Boutwell Auditorium for the inauguration of Barack Obama as president.

And about three thousand more are crowded into the basketball arena at Alabama State University in Montgomery to see Obama become America's first black president.

At landmark sites of the civil rights era in Alabama, there is a mood of celebration.

At the Birmingham auditorium, a huge video screen was raised to show the events Tuesday in Washington.

The hall was decorated withAmerican flags. The words "change" and "hope" flanked the stage area.

The crowd included both school children and aging veterans of the civil rights movement.

One man who marched in demonstrations in Birmingham in the 1960s, 77-year-old Ted Roberts, said he never thought he would live long enough to see an African-American president.


Former President George W. Bush and his wife have left Washington for their Texas home, after eight years in the White House.

Following the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president, Bush and his wife Laura boarded a helicopter alongside the U.S. Capitol.

The new president and his wife walked them to the chopper - keeping with tradition - to see them off.

The Bushes are first headed to Midland, Texas, for a homecoming celebration in the city that hosted a send-off for them eight years ago.

Then they'll go to their ranch in Crawford for their first night as private citizens again.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)