Barack Hussein Obama was officially sworn in as the 44th US President just after 4am this morning AEDT and the reaction came thick and fast. Here are some of the best efforts.

“A new era of responsibility”. Sometimes, it’s best to go with just the facts: Barack Hussein Obama became the nation’s 44th president Tuesday, and its first black president, taking the oath of office in front of an enormous, joyous crowd that swarmed the national Mall and overflowed into the frigid streets of the capital. After eight years, his predecessor, George Walker Bush, left Washington, heading back to Texas to await the judgment of history (which he says he still believes, stubbornly as ever, will be kinder than that of his contemporaries). Obama gave an inaugural address that aimed for balance between the hope that powered his campaign and the stark reality of what lies ahead. It began with ringing rhetoric, drifted a bit toward the policy-specific wonkiness of a State of the Union speech in the middle, and then steered back to inspiration by the end. But it almost didn’t matter if he’d stood up at the podium and recited the alphabet; the moment was moving, well before he spoke. And the crowd that gathered here, and the millions more who watched around the world, was just thrilled he had finally taken power. — Mike Madden, Salon

Obama’s speech annotated. This is going to be a classical speech. Obama begins with an exordium, a means of defining why he is giving the speech now. Traditionally, the exhordium is based on the speaker’s justifying his paradigm in history — the paradeigm. Obama takes his oath amid “gathering clouds” — an allusion to the hymns of John Newton — “(“The gathering clouds, with aspect dark, A rising storm presage; O! to be hid within the ark, And sheltered from its rage!”) — Mark Ambinder, The Atlantic

Realistic if not soaring. At the swearing-in of America’s first African-American president, amid crowds on a scale never witnessed before in Washington, and in all the usual pomp and pageantry of a presidential inauguration, the great set-piece inauagural speech – even from a highly accomplished orator – might have been in danger of being overshadowed. But this was after all Barack Obama, now President Barack Obama, and if anyone’s oratory can rise to even the highest occasion, it is his. Yet with the country confronting its gravest set of circumstances in at least a generation, this wasn’t the occasion for his most soaring of speeches. It was instead an oration rooted in the immediate challenges. It was directed at two audiences: a hopeful but anxious one at home, and an uncertain but hopeful one overseas. — Gerard Baker, The Times

“It’s really real”. No, everything didn’t go smoothly. By 5:20 a.m., the line of cars outside the Vienna Metro station stretched two miles. Minutes later, the New Carrollton Station parking lot filled up, and some drivers abandoned their cars. There was a water main break near the Archives-Navy Memorial Station that brought crowds to a standstill. A rider fell on the tracks at Gallery Place Station, bringing service on the Red Line to a halt. Some barriers were torn down, people complained about being misdirected, and the 14th Street Bridge was closed because of overcrowding hours before the swearing-in. Dozens of people were treated for hypothermia. And yet, it was an amazing day. — Washington Post

Now this was an inauguration. A conspiracy theorist might say that Chief Justice John Roberts, perhaps George W. Bush’s most conservative and most lasting contribution to American life, was trying to psyche out Barack Obama by intentionally mangling the syntax of the oath of office as he administered it to the new president. But when Roberts fed him the words in the wrong order, Obama seemed only to chuckle slightly, then gestured to the Chief Justice to try again. Nothing was going to ruin this moment – not for Obama and not for the tens of millions of Americans who had been waiting for months, even years, for this moment. From a dramatic standpoint, Obama’s inaugural address was the masterpiece you’d expect from a man whose rise to power was predicated on his oratory. He employed powerful language and vivid imagery, varied his pace, and paused for effect several times. But this wasn’t just showmanship: the new president offered some striking and resonant themes in his address. — Steve Kornacki, The New York Observer

More prose than poetry means: it’s time to get down to work. A presidential inaugural address can be pitched either to the ages, replete with eternal verities, or to the particular moment, cataloguing the challenges of the day, but rarely to both. I think most of us expected the former from Barack Hussein Obama, whose most stirring oratories have certainly sung with ageless poetry. This speech had those moments, to be sure, and Obama from time to time reached back to Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and even to Paul the Apostle. But what was surprising was how rooted in the current moment the speech was. — Michael Tomasky, Guardian

Speech spanned history, but tiptoed around Bush. Though couched in indirect terms, Barack Obama’s inaugural address was a stark repudiation of the era of George W. Bush and a vow to drive the United States into “a new age” by reclaiming the values of an older one. It was a delicate task, with Mr. Bush and the former vice president, Dick Cheney, sitting feet from him as he described the false turns and the roads not taken. In his words, Mr. Obama blamed no one other than the country itself — “our collective failure to make hard choices” and a willingness to suspend national ideals “for expedience’s sake.” Yet every time Mr. Obama urged Americans to “choose our better history,” to make decisions according to science instead of ideology, to reject a “false choice” between safety and American ideals, to recognize that American military power does not “entitle us to do as we please,” he signaled a commitment to pragmatism not just as a governing strategy but as a basic value. — David E. Sanger, New York Times

Summoning the US up from childishness. Wondering if his publisher liked the manuscript of “Les Miserables,” Victor Hugo sent a terse note: “?” His publisher replied as tersely: “!” That was the nation’s response to Barack Obama’s inaugural address, even though — or perhaps because — one of his themes, delicately implied, was that Americans do not just have a problem, they are a problem. “The time has come,” he said pointedly, “to set aside childish things.” Things, presumably, such as the pandemic indiscipline that has produced a nation of households as overleveraged as is the government from which the householders insistently demand more goods and services than they are willing to pay for. “We remain,” the president said, “a young nation.” Which, even if true, would be no excuse for childishness. And it is not true. The United States is older, as a national polity, than Germany or Italy, among many others. — George Will, Washington Post

His journey, and ours, begins. Barack Obama has always been about the words. And so it was on Tuesday. For all the grandeur of the setting and the breathtaking and seemingly endless crowd arrayed before him, it was still about the words. He officially began his improbable journey on a frigid day in Springfield, Ill. a little less than two years ago with words that promised he was running “not just to hold an office, but to gather with you to transform a nation.” Tuesday, he took his office and now he will begin on the transformation. It is not guaranteed. It will not be easy. But he will, he said, make a start. He looked very serious, almost somber, throughout his inaugural ceremony. And as he has done repeatedly in the last few weeks, he listed the barriers America faces, the mountains we have yet to climb. — Roger Simon, Poltitico

Tone and challenge in the Obama era. “Never in our national history has there been so dramatic a coincidence as this simultaneous transfer of power and the complete collapse of a system and of a philosophy.” Resonant and relevant words at this moment. Those words come from March 1933, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt marked the end of an epoch, and The Nation editorialized that his inaugural words “had something of the challenge, the symbolism, and the simplicity of a trumpet blast.” As Barack Obama was sworn in as America’s 44th president, we heard a new trumpet blast. The simple and powerful symbolism of the 44th President’s inauguration reminded us, again, of what a stirring milestone his election marks for America’s scarred racial landscape — and what a victory for the forces of decency, diversity and tolerance. — Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation

Obama asks nation to rise to the challenge of his words. In the inaugural address launching his presidency, Barack Obama today drew on his sense of history and the needs of the moment — the same strengths that shaped the speeches that propelled him from obscurity to the White House in four years. In his very first sentence, Obama cited “the sacrifices borne by our ancestors” and said the confidence he feels in the face of two wars and the worst economic crisis in three-quarters of a century rests on Americans remaining “faithful to the ideals of our forbearers and our founding documents.” More than most politicians, Obama has relied on his formal speeches to power his ambitious career. Today’s address — much of which he wrote himself — signaled a sharp break with the domestic and national security policies of the Bush administration and a reaffirmation of Obama’s main campaign themes.David S. Broder, Washington Post

Revolutionary road: Obama’s inaugural. Barack Obama didn’t promise a new era in his inaugural speech. He promised a new American revolution. His evocation of George Washington at the end of his address made it clear that he regards the perils that face the country as almost no less daunting than those that it confronted in battling for its independence. Now a fresh, stubbornly independent generation, Obama suggested, must emerge to renew the promise of American life. The tone of his speech was somber, but his vision of the future was not. If America can navigate the icy rapids that threaten to submerge it and tap into the “quiet force of progress,” Obama indicated, it can emerge into a sunlit harbor, united by the memory of having conquered some of the greatest dangers, domestic and foreign, that it once braved. Whether that vision will be fulfilled is another matter. But Obama’s inaugural address, sober and dignified, has set the foundation for constructing a new gleaming edifice of democracy. It is up to us as much as Obama to construct it. — Jacob Heilbrunn, Huffington Post

The new man. Of all the contradictions embodied by Barack Obama, none is more fascinating than the tension between his clear instinct toward idealism and his equally apparent devotion to pragmatism. It was the idealistic Obama that the country got to know first–through the soaring exhortations of a 2004 convention speech, and later as we began to digest the rough outlines of a resume that included a stint as a community organizer in a poor Chicago neighborhood. But, over the course of the 2008 campaign–even as he darted around the country delivering speeches crammed with paeans to hope–a different side of Obama revealed itself. This Obama was disciplined, practical, and cautious–politically liberal, yes, but in many ways temperamentally conservative. He was also decidedly unafraid of the trade-offs, compromises, and conflicts inherent to electoral politics. — The New Republic

What was your take on the Obama’s Inauguration? Send your thoughts to [email protected] with “Obama” in the subject field by 11am and we’ll publish the best responses in the regular edition today.

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Peter Fray
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