President Barack Obama celebrated his the start of his second term on Sunday evening with a candle-lit inaugural reception at the National Building Museum in Washington, where Stevie Wonder was the headliner and guests were donors and benefactors to the reelection campaign and the inaugural festivities. The President was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden as he stood on stage and spoke to the well-heeled crowd, and opened with what he deadpanned was the most important topic du jour.
"First of all, I love Michelle Obama," President Obama said, to cheers. "And to address the most significant event of this weekend, I love her bangs. She looks good. She always looks good."
There were more cheers as Mrs. Obama, clad in a black sleeveless sequined cocktail sheath, laughed and shook her now-famous bangs at the President. Her hairstyle was revealed on her 49th birthday on Thursday, in a photo posted to her newly created @FLOTUS Twitter account, and has been making headlines ever since.
The First Lady had already complimented her husband during her own remarks, also garnering cheers from the guests, who held phones aloft to snap photos.
"Let me tell you, it has just been a true thrill to watch this handsome, charming individual grow into the man and the President that he is," Mrs. Obama said. "We have seen him every single day--his integrity, his character, his sense of humor--his compassion, his courage."
The love fest continued, with the President giving a shout out to both Bidens. Noting that selecting "your partner during the course of your presidency" is a tough choice, the President congratulated himself for being "spot on" with his selection for Veep.
"I could not have a better partner than Joe Biden. And Joe Biden couldn’t have a better partner than Dr. Jill Biden."
The President kept his remarks short--"I'm delivering another speech tomorrow so tonight I'm going to be pretty brief, because there are a limited amount of good lines and you don’t want to use them all up"-- and turned to the business of thanking the many donors and supporters who have made his presidency possible.
He closed by asking everyone to continue to work for his agenda, asking them to "make sure you know that what we’re celebrating is not the election or swearing-in of a President; what we’re doing is celebrating each other, and celebrating this incredible nation that we call home."
"All of you here understood and were committed to the basic notion that when we put our shoulders to the wheel of history, it moves," President Obama said. "It moves forward. And that’s part of what we celebrate when we come together for Inauguration."
"The theme of this year's Inauguration is 'Our people and our future.' And throughout my career, what’s always given me energy and inspiration and hope, what’s allowed me to stand up when I’ve been knocked down, are folks like you--the decency, the goodness, the resilience, the neighborliness, the patriotism, the sense of duty, the sense of responsibility of the American people. You have inspired me throughout."
Inaugural Officials declined to give a crowd count, but the hall was packed. The First and Second Couples exited the stage with waves as the audience cheered. (Above, the President and VP shake hands as their wives look on)
All four worked the ropeline for about fifteen minutes, shaking hands, chatting, and in some cases leaning over and giving hugs as Bruce Springsteen's We Take Care of Our Own blasted on the sound system. Springsteen wrote the song for the President's reelection effort, and headlined rallies for him. The band The Source and the U.S. Navy Sea Chanters also performed at the reception.
The President and Mrs. Obama arrived at the partly shortly after 8:30 PM, and were back at the White House by 9:53 PM. On Monday evening, after a day filled with inaugural ceremonies, they will attend the Commander-in-Chief's Ball and The Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center. On Tuesday evening, they will attend the Staff Ball, the last-ever inaugural party of Mr. Obama's two terms in office.
On Saturday night, the First Lady and Dr. Biden also partied inaugural style, hosting the Kids' Inaugural concert, honoring children from military families.
Earlier in the weekend...
Ahead of Sunday's private White House swearing-in, the President and First Family attended a morning service at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the most historic churches in the nation, in an outing not listed on the President's official schedule. Before church, the President and Vice President Joe Biden laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, during a brief 9:00 AM ceremony. Biden was sworn in early Sunday morning during a private ceremony at his official residence, the Naval Observatory. It was far larger than the President's ceremony, with 120 guests.
President Obama and the First Family kicked off the four days of inaugural festivities on Saturday, joining citizens across the nation for the National Day of Service. They helped refurbish DC's Burrville Elementary School, staining a five-tier bookshelf as their project.
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*Photos by AP/pool