Four years ago today, a million people streamed onto the national mall for one of the most anticipated speeches of the new century: Barack Obama’s inaugural address. A man hailed for his oratorical skills and renowned for his literary flair was taking office at a moment of national crisis. The recipe called for a grand statement on par with Franklin Roosevelt’s “all we have to fear is fear itself,” from his 1933 oath-taking.
FDR was just one of the antecedents on the minds of the crowd; the ceremony was dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, whose achievement in freeing the slaves was being brought to dazzling fruition with the inauguration of an African-American president. The president-elect arrived in Washington by train, following the route taken by Lincoln.