Barack Obama is poised to make history on Tuesday as America’s first black president, riding the optimism of millions of people into power and inheriting a recession and two wars that will test his skills.

Obama, 47, the son of a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, is set to take the oath of office at midday (0500 GMT) on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, his hand placed on a Bible used by Abraham Lincoln at his first inauguration in 1861.

Obama’s inauguration culminates the hopes and dreams of generations of African-Americans who suffered slavery and then racial segregation policies that made them second-class citizens.

He assumes the mantle of power at a moment of great anxiety among Americans who have seen hundreds of thousands of jobs vanish in past months and left them fearful an economic collapse could turn a crisis into a catastrophe.

The “Obama-mania” that helped propel Obama into office was alive on the streets of Washington.

A winter chill failed to dampen the spirits of more than 1 million people who swept into the U.S. capital to witness the pomp and ceremony and revel in the festivities surrounding Obama’s inauguration as the 44th U.S. president.

“Slavery to History, The Obama Inauguration,” was the slogan on a handwritten cardboard sign held by a smiling man on a downtown sidewalk.

Thousands of security personnel were in place to maintain order and guard against an attack. Much of the city center was barricaded and shut down to vehicular traffic.



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