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As a growing celebratory spirit began to consume the nation’s capital,President-elect Barack Obama on Sunday stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and declared a “celebration of American renewal”...

Written by The Washington Post | Washington |
January 20, 2009 10:54:22 pm

As a growing celebratory spirit began to consume the nation’s capital,President-elect Barack Obama on Sunday stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and declared a “celebration of American renewal”.

“Behind me,watching over the union he saved,sits the man who in so many ways made this day possible,” Obama said,in front of the marble statue of Abraham Lincoln.

Obama’s advisors began to give a taste of the inaugural address that he will deliver at the other end of the Mall on Tuesday,saying it will emphasise the themes of responsibility and restoring public confidence.

Obama said on Sunday what gave him great optimism was the “Americans of every race and region and station who came here because you believe in what this country can be and because you want to help us get there.”

In a series of appearances that culminated in the concert at the Lincoln Memorial,Obama ventured across a city transformed into a miles-long block party,with banners strung across storefronts and tourists covered in Obama gear.

Earlier in the day,he and Vice-President-elect Joe Biden visited Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Obama and his family later attended a service at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church.

As Obama rode from place to place in his new armoured Cadilla,his aides made television appearances to preview his tightly held speech and to remind the public of his immediate goals upon taking over the presidency on Tuesday. Robert Gibbs,the incoming White House press secretary,said Obama had written the speech himself last weekend and was relieved to have the bulk of it completed. Obama will talk about restoring a sense of responsibility in the country,Gibbs said,conveying his belief that “we need more responsibility and accountability,certainly,in the way our Government acts”.

“We have to have it,certainly,within many of our financial institutions that sort of have gotten us to where we are in this economic crisis today,” Gibbs said on Fox News Sunday.

Rahm Emanuel,the incoming Chief of Staff,said the “culture of responsibility” would be sought for American leaders as well as the population at large. “We need that culture of responsibility,not just to be asked of the American people,but its leaders must also lead by example,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Obama hopes to turn some of the focus back onto the electorate,as he did with his presidential campaign. In that sense,Obama will also revive a theme that belonged to outgoing President Bush,who in his 2000 campaign talked about ushering in a “responsibility era”.

Obama on Sunday sought to strike a balance between his trademark optimism and the challenges he faces.

“In the course of our history,only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now,” Obama said. “Our nation is at war. Our economy is in crisis. Millions of Americans are losing their jobs and their homes… And most of all,they are anxious and uncertain about the future — about whether this generation of Americans will be able to pass on what’s best about this country to our children and their children.”

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