Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th president of the United States, on Monday begins his second term with the usual inaugural festivities — but in a political atmosphere markedly different from 2009's highs of hope and change.
The traditional parade and public swearing-in outside the Capitol — not to mention the National Anthem sung by Beyonce — will kick things off, but inevitably many will notice the difference between 2013 and 2009.
Obama will take a public oath of office (he took a private oath Sunday) and deliver his inaugural address to an estimated crowd of about 700,000. That's less than half of the record-breaking 1.8 million people who turned out in 2009 to watch the first African-American president assume the nation's highest office, according to Reuters.
Senior adviser David Plouffe said Sunday on CNN that Obama would make a "hopeful" speech, and "remind the country that our founding principles and values still can guide us in a changing and modern world."
Plouffe also said Obama would outline his vision for the next four years.
"In the inaugural address he is really going to lay out his vision for his second term and where he thinks the country needs to go in the years ahead, the values undergirding that, and then obviously a detailed agenda and blueprint in the State of the Union," Plouffe said.
The issues are many — gun control, illegal immigration, a recovering but struggling economy, the national debt, Afghanistan's drawdown — and perhaps the largest barrier to effective action is the continued political deadlock in Washington.
"The barrier is there are factions here in Congress, Republicans in Congress, that are out of the main stream so we need to bring the American people into these debates," said Plouffe.
But on the same CNN program, Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso said, “The president seems so fixated on demonizing Republicans that he is blinded to the opportunities as well as the obligations that he has to deal with the big problems of this country on debt and the entitlements.”
Obama's approval ratings are down 11 percentage points compared to his 2009 inauguration day, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News survey. The survey also said 35 percent of Americans were pessimistic and 43 percent of Americans were optimistic about the next four years.
For those watching from afar, here's a schedule of the day's main events compiled by Newser, via Reuters and the Associated Press. The highlights (all EST):
11:46 a.m.: Joe Biden is sworn in as vice president.
11:55 a.m.: President Obama is sworn in "using two Bibles, one from President Lincoln and the other from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr."
12 p.m.: Obama gives his inaugural address.
6:30 p.m.: The Inaugural Ball.
Watch highlights of the last four years and the inauguration live: