WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Barack Obama on Tuesday was sworn in as the first African American president in U.S. history amidst daunting challenges that include a worsening recession and two wars in distant countries.
Despite the history Obama made by becoming president, the "testing stone" that his fellow citizens will use to judge his administration will be whether or not he can bring the U.S. out of its financial crisis.
REASSURE PEOPLE, RESTORE CONFIDENCE
In his inaugural address, labeled by some as "a speech ushering in an Obama Era," the new president made a cool-headed and objective analysis of the current U.S. situation.
"Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age," the president said.
Obama said the U.S. is facing "a sapping of confidence ... a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights."
However, he said, despite the troubles all of the difficulties "will be met."
"We gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord," he told the throngs that massed in Washington to bear witness to the historic inauguration.
Analysts said the problems facing the U.S. are intricate and no panacea can be easily found. The first thing Obama needs do to prevent the crisis from deteriorating is to reassure Americans that things will get better.
As long as Obama can unite as many forces as possible, he can reduce political resistance to the process of tackling the crisis, analysts said.
One U.S. political commentator said Obama obviously followed the trail that former President Franklin Roosevelt blazed when he delivered his inaugural speech during the Great Depression in 1933.
The commentator called Obama's move to reassure America "a new interpretation" of Roosevelt's famous saying that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
In fact, Obama has endeavored to create a stable and harmonious political atmosphere since he was elected.
The San Francisco Chronicle said the "inaugural address blends inspiration, humility. It was just the right tone for these perilous times."
SEEKING FOR NEW WAYS TO TACKLE CRISIS
In the address, Obama stressed his "new economic policy."
He also acknowledged the daunting challenges facing the nation, including war, the recession, health care, home foreclosures, jobs, and energy among others. He said that the country was "in the midst of crisis is now well understood."
The president called for "bold and swift" action on the economy, "not only to create new jobs, but also to lay a new foundation for growth."
Obama said it was time "to build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines, restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost."
The president pledged to "harness the sun and the winds and the soil" and "transform schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age."
He also said he would take a pragmatic stance on the economy. The question ahead, Obama said, is not "whether the market is a force for good or ill."
The only right thing to do, he said, is to exert the great market power of making wealth while learning lessons from the current financial crisis.
"The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart," Obama said.
Concerning foreign policy, Obama listed major goals, including "begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people," and "forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan" as well as work with the international community to prevent nuclear proliferation.
He expressed the will to resolve disputes through cooperation and dialogue. He said he would firmly defend the U.S. leadership and fiercely fight against terrorism and "hostile countries."
Concerning the Islamic world, the president said he would "seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."
He also promised to lend a helping hand to under-developed countries while calling on developed nations to work together to address international concerns.
Though his inaugural speech largely sounded conciliatory, Obama struck tougher notes when he warned that the U.S. would defeat those who use "terror" and would never give in to "unfriendly nations."
A GOOD START IS HALF THE SUCCESS
Obama's speech set the tone for his future policies, the analysts said. However, what determines the success or failure of Obama's administration will be his performance in office, especially during the first months.
History indicates that a new president's popularity and power to overcome opposition is usually at its peak during his first three months in office. As an American Broadcasting Company (ABC) News poll showed, up to 80 percent of Americans have expressed confidence in Obama while about 71 percent back the president's "new policies."
Reports said the Obama administration is expected to launch a massive stimulus plan to fulfill the president's campaign promises.
Obama's schedule for "Day 1" includes meetings with his economic and national security teams and high-ranking military officers. That's to discuss his planned stimulus package, as well as the next steps for the unfinished wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an aide said.
Within his first week in office, Obama was also expected to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and forbid the use of interrogation techniques denounced widely as torture.
He also was expected to appoint senior diplomat Dennis Ross as a special envoy to the Middle East and task George Mitchell, a former senator, with mediating peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Obama will also act swiftly to sign legislation to expand medical care for children from poor families. He will also overturn President George W. Bush's ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Within his first month in office, the new president will also urge Congress to pass an economic stimulus package that calls for even more massive funds.
However, the new president is also facing some unfavorable factors during his early days in office. Democratic leaders in Congress still oppose Obama on some details of his economic stimulus plan. Meanwhile, they are also discontented with him for not looking into misconduct within the Bush administration.
The "Obama era" seems to be blessed from its very beginning because the inauguration ceremony saw an unprecedented massive audience and the new president's speech were well received.
However, the world is still waiting to see whether the new administration can make a good start and finally lead the United States out of the economic crisis.