January 20th, 2009
03:34 PM ET

Obama's moment

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/20/obama.inauguration/art.inaug.crowd.cnn.jpg]

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

Tuesday a week ago, I was asked what I thought would happen the following Tuesday, on Inauguration Day.

What’s important, I replied, is what happens the next day; on Wednesday, when the euphoria of the previous day’s swearing-in and that night’s celebration recede to memory and President Obama has what I must imagine will be . . . THAT moment.

How can there not be THAT moment, when the new President, no matter how celebrated his focus and calm, looks around the Oval Office, puts his hands on the massive desk before him and exhales a long breath as the enormity and gravity of the job sets in?

And if he opens a desk drawer and finds a note from his predecessor offering advice, maybe it would include:

Keep a sense of humor.

Don’t forget to eat lunch.

Exercise helps with the stress. Keep shooting hoops.

Meet with the families of our fallen troops. Value their sacrifice.

Remember that you’re also a husband and a father and that the folks working around you have families.

Don’t worry about history, they’ll write it later. Have faith in your judgment. Protect the country we all love.

My new phone number’s unlisted but I’ll make sure you have it.

For a while during the campaign, debate focused on who was the most qualified to answer the phone at 3 o’clock in the morning.

There is no preparation for this job; not in terms of knowing the important issues and the important people, but in terms of THAT moment, when you realize that you alone are the leader of more than 300 million people with an equal number of needs and interests, that you alone are commander-in-chief of the most powerful military ever assembled, that you alone lead the country the world looks to as a beacon?

Sure, there is a vice-president and there are Cabinet secretaries and other advisers, but as the man from Independence said, “The buck stops here.”

Outside the Oval Office is an officer in the United States armed forces holding carrying a briefcase that includes the means to launch nuclear weapons.

The financial markets, foreign leaders, politicians, friends and enemies alike (not to mention newspaper columnists, talk radio hosts and bloggers) react to every word the President speaks, every decision he makes.

We’re told that President Obama will meet Wednesday with his primary economic advisers and with the civilian and uniformed national security leadership.

Which of a dizzying array of issues are top priorities and which are left simmering on a side or back burners?

A recent Secretary of Defense would offer the following admonition:

· There are things you know that you know.

· There are things you know that you don’t know.

· There are things you don’t know that you know.

· There are things you don’t know that you don’t know.

That last one would be the unexpected, the opportunities, dangers and crises yet to be revealed, events that could force everything else to a back burner, that can cause that phone to ring at 3 a.m.

And at day’s end Wednesday – not that the President’s day ever ends – when President Obama walks from the Oval Office to the private residence, how will he describe THAT moment to his wife and daughters?

And will he have THAT moment again the next morning and the morning after that and every day that he serves as President of the United States of America.

Filed under: Barack Obama • David Schechter • Inauguration
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Katie R

    I just wanted to say that as an 18 year old girl of mixed race this day is one i will never forget. I went to school with my head held high, a bounce in my step, a smile on my face,as well as an Obama shirt on! It really hit me that i was seeing history being made!
    Today is a moment i'll always treasure, and i honestly believe with all my heart that America's future is brighter with Barack Obama as president!

    January 20, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  2. Sandra O'Malley

    Look how good America looks coming together! With this good positive vibe, the possibilites are endless. I am over joyed, and trying to teach my 3 year old son how to say President Barrack Obama. my son is now apart of histroy. Americans believing in something better, and wanting change, doing something about it, is what this country is about, who wants to do something the same way if it hasn't worked for the past 8 years. Thank you cnn for doing such great coverage.
    Abilene Kansas

    January 20, 2009 at 6:02 pm |
  3. susan

    I work in a pediatric practice where my patients are very racially diverse. Right before the President took the oath of office, I went into the waiting room with a video camera, gathered the children and their parents together and all of us watched the swearing in. I wanted something to remember this day. No one spoke, there were plenty of moist eyes, but the thing I'll remember forever was a little African-American girl, about age 4, walk over to me, and spontaneously take my hand. At that moment, I truly believed there was hope.

    January 20, 2009 at 5:57 pm |
  4. Joe

    Was I the only one to hear the crowds sing "na, na, na, na hey hey hey goodbye" to Bush?? We felt bad for him.

    January 20, 2009 at 5:05 pm |
  5. Miranda M


    Really fantastic technology!It was a marvel! A "so I could be just standing in front of the building with a crowd feeling". Really cool stuff for a magical moment forever stopped, suspended and accounted for in this our time of our history.


    January 20, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  6. olive Atlanta Gergia

    Where was Sarah Palin,,, was she not invited? or did she return the clothes too Quickly,,,

    January 20, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  7. Neil Habermehl

    Terrible inaugural organization. My 17 year old daughter flew 3000 miles, picked up official tickets at the office of our US House representative, stood in line 5 hours before the inauguration, and was locked out. They locked the gate leaving a huge crowd of valid ticket holders stranded and not even able to join a public viewing area.

    January 20, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  8. Richard Wood

    I know what Dr Martin Luther King would say today;

    Free at least, free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last!!

    January 20, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  9. Naureen

    The presidential inauguration of Barak Obama is not only a great day for African Americans in the United States. Obama represents all minorities, all people who have been discriminated against in the last century. He brings hope to immigrants, homosexuals, people of color, people who have suffered economic discrimination. It is not just a great day of African Americans. It is a great day for the rest of us as well.

    January 20, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
  10. Joyce Cadima

    We have been freed from "The Bushes" and we can see the "mountaintop"

    January 20, 2009 at 3:50 pm |
  11. demetrice shannon

    i think is is great that we have an african american president because it will show young people that you can do whatever you want .Also this would be our very first black president and the 44th president of the united states.

    January 20, 2009 at 3:40 pm |
  12. rk

    Sad to hear about the Senators collapsing at the luncheon.. hope they are better soon..

    January 20, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  13. Cesar

    After this big party and celebration, are we ready for change to reach these goals of our constitution? “ We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    January 20, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  14. Sydnee

    Wow, this is truly a monumental occasion and a significant turning point in History. There has been much work done in order to reach this point, as well as more to come in order for the future to prosper. It is moments like these, in which we look back on to restore hope, strength and Inspiration. It is Obama's words of encouragement, and a promise of a new tomorrow. That allow us to help change and History run their course.
    American has hand picked Obama to lead them out of the depths of despair, & out of the valley of broken dreams. He is leading them towards the horizon, where hope waits eagerly. Of course it may take along time for them to get to their destination. However, I cannot even begin to imagine the impact this change will have not only on America, but also on the whole world. The world will witness the hard work and the challenges that will be met. Starting from this point on, we will see America stand tall once again. Till one day it will not only be America, but the whole world that will stand up together and say YES WE CAN, YES WE WILL. After all we were here to witness change when it started on Jan 20, 2009 and we will never let it die. For we have all found a change we can believe in.

    Sydnee ( Vancouver, Canada. STUDENT)

    January 20, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  15. Jeffrey Lodge

    As a 6th distant cousin of President Abraham Lincoln through the Hanks family tree, I found the inauguration ceremony a strong uniting moment for our country. However the lack of respect the CNN reporters displayed throughout their inaugural coverage towards the outgoing President George W. Bush was horrific. Such behavior clearly would not have been tolerated by President Lincoln. President Bush is and will aways be a great American and deserves the respect equal to that of any other President in this regard.

    January 20, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  16. Neil (Ireland)

    What an amazing moment, I ran home from class today just so i could say i was part of this moment. I am filled with hope for the future, let the next four years be good ones!

    January 20, 2009 at 2:09 pm |
  17. JC- Los Angeles

    With a morally bankrupt nation in free fall, with a culture of corruption housed in all segments of government and industry and with a painstaking absense of oversight, Barack Obama needs to immediately instill an unwavering commitment to reform.

    While closing Guantanamo Bay will garner the most headlines, Obama should start by asking Timothy Geithner to recuse himself from consideration for Treasury Secretary.

    For eight years, the connected few looted our once proud nation and operated with an anything goes mentality; Geithner failed to pay social security taxes and Obama should use him as a most public example of reform.

    January 20, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  18. Nicholas Bailey

    As I sit here alone in an apartment in North London, I can't remember feeling more connected and inspired that I do now. I'm not ashamed to say I wept, not just because as a Black man Obama is a unique inspiration to me but also because i've witnessed the promise of a renewed hope and resolve embodied in one very special man. The hard work starts now and the road is long and fraught with obstacles but this day and that astounding speech of Obama's allow me to dare to dream of a restored America and a new dawn of trust and peace which extends far beyond America's shores.

    God Bless America, in its fundament and our special relationship with you

    January 20, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  19. Dayana

    At the luncheon...they presented first lady Mrs. Omaba as..Mrs. omaba..why not first lady?

    January 20, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  20. Sheila Borzomati

    Much has been mentioned of Chief Roberts' gaff when administering the Oath, yet little of Associate Justice Alito's absence. His lack of judgement is appalling. His behavior despicable and thoroughly unprofessional. To boycott an event as significant as this is unexcuseable. Were he not serving a life term in his position, I should think losing HIS job should be a real threat.

    January 20, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  21. Adeline

    What a historic moment. I wish President Obama all the best. Believe in your own abilities and believe that God is guiding your every steps. There are many people standing behind and beside you. You have an amazing ability to bring people together. Never take this for granted. we are moving forward, yes we are.

    enough of the past. Let's look into the future.

    January 20, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  22. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    America is OURS once again ! We the people have once again reclaimed her. Let's move forward together and with hope and confidence, intelligence and open minedness,insite and honesty, Humility and Humanity farther away from the dark past of Lies and Deceit and Greed and Senseless Hatred and Senseless Killing and Torture with each passing day !

    It is my fervent hope that the only thing that G W Bush will be remembered for is what NOT to do as President and how NOT to be as President ! Someone who couldn't even admit to human frailty and to making mistakes until it was way too late to make any difference at all ! G W Bush deserves no better than to be a foot note in history if anything at all.

    January 20, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  23. Titi

    Welcome President Obama and Say Goodbye to President Bush. May God bless Obama and help him fulfil the dreams of this generation. it is certainly a new day in America. May God bless America and every nation on earth.

    January 20, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  24. Lisa

    I am watching history being made in America!!!! Congratulations to Barak Obama and thank you for proving all things are possible!!!!!

    I believe in all my heart that Barak Obama will be one of the greatest Presidents who have ever lived...His ability to bring people together as in today the past any many more to come is tremendous!!!!

    January 20, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  25. KAREN

    Its realy great to have a president who truley cares about the people ,hes got alot of mess to clean up but every one will do there part.

    January 20, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  26. Gary Alexander Hart

    the fact that our next president will be black is a moment that will be remembered for the lifetime of this great nation. Bieng black I greatly appreciate this day. Yet I look along with my fellow countrymen towards tomorrow. Tomorrow and the day's to follow are the ones that are the most vital. success is only achieved through hard work so I say work hard and don't just achieve success but be successful time and again. Listen to critics because they continue to let you know what work is to be done. If we listen we will hear what needs to done, then we must have the initiative to do.

    January 20, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  27. Rich

    Obama Obama Obama. What does he stand for I dont know do you. Thank god Bush has us on the right track. Another Dem to screw things up. CLinton News Network will have to change it's name to ONN.

    January 20, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  28. PA Canada

    Doubting Thomases even from Biblical Days were shunned and proven wrong! The one thing that is Certain is that no matter what Obama does or doesn't do – there is no possibility it will ever out shine the complete devastation G.W. Bush brought upon his Nation! And that is a Guarantee that can be taken to any of the Banks G.W. Sponsored with American's Dollars !

    January 20, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  29. Rick Dagen

    People have been comparing this to Woodstock and Christmas, and other inaugurations. I don't feel those comparisons are adequate. This moment is much more unifying than religious holidays or Woodstock, which was embraced primarily by only one generation. This is multi-generational. I don't think the United States has anything comparable. You need to look at "recent" world history. I think it's more like the Berlin Wall falling. This marks the crumbling of a wall that's lasted much longer than the Berlin wall, but a wall nonetheless. It's political and jubilant and historic and a moral victory. Just an amazing moment potentially unmatched in US history.

    January 20, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  30. Mckinley


    thank you for bringing the rick warren theme up. its not just about gay rights anderson. its much more scary. rick warren is a megalomaniac. a monster in our midst. check this video out where he encourages his followers, children (about 30,000 of them) to emulate hitler's youth, lening and mao's followers, to be radical, intentionally using that word, because he is basically crazy.

    god bless obama and his family and god bless america

    January 20, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  31. Linda Petrillo Canada

    I am presently watching the events re Barack Obama. Here is a wonderful man who gives everyone hope for the future. I am finding it difficult to continue to listen to the comments about the White House being built by slaves and the constant referral that President Elect is the first black president. His mom was white and his father was black and during the campaign Barack never referred to race. Yes it is historic but lets take into account this wonderful man who has so much to offer his country and the little people that he cares about. I cannot remember in my lifetime the energy that everyone feels. Isn't it wonderful that he has brought everyone together.

    January 20, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  32. Cindy

    "The Moment" will be when Obama takes the oath and realizes that it is all on his shoulders now! That while he did make dreams come true for blacks it means way more than that because he is in control and can't screw it up!That if he screws up and our country fails it will all be his fault. That will be the moment that he realizes that he has huge shoes to fill and he better get busy!

    That will be the moment!


    January 20, 2009 at 10:40 am |
  33. Mike, Syracuse NY

    The real test will be if Obama can walk the walk and not just talk the talk. So far it has been ALL talk. He's made promises on everything to every interest group. Expectations are sky high, and it's Obama's own doing. To be successful, America needs Obama to succeed. Unfortunately there is nothing in a mediocre and very short Senate 'career' or IL Senate service that shows Obama is a person of outstanding achievement. We need an 'A' player now. Just being 'historic' isn't good enough. Obama needs to deliver like few before him have had to deliver. These are serious times and call for a serious President, not a pop idol. I hope Obama can rise to the challenge, because if his performance is at the same level as in the Senate, we are in deep trouble.

    January 20, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  34. MzVnKentucky

    I am sure BarackO will have the big moment. I hope he exhales and then takes a deep breath then exhales again because from that moment on he will forever wish for that big moment again. Come Wednesday it's off and running!!! BarackO didn't get my vote however my prayers are with him! God please continue to bless America.

    January 20, 2009 at 10:21 am |
  35. shanika


    January 20, 2009 at 9:50 am |
  36. Bralouh

    I would like to rest of the world see with their own eyes that when we, Americans are talking about democracy we mean it , we are doing it , and we are living it.

    January 20, 2009 at 9:50 am |
  37. GV

    I am a Obama fan and I voted for Obama. I live in Atlanta Georgia. My entire family here in US (My brothers and sisters and their kids) are a Obama fan . I even got calls from my family in India today about watching today's inauguration which is shown on most of the Indian channels at this moment.
    It is a great moment and am cherishing each and every minute of it. It's not just because Obama is an African American- but mostly because he is an Honest, Modest, Intelligent, People Friendly Person who also has an Infectious smile. He will do great as the President of this great nation.
    God bless Obama and God Bless this great nation.

    January 20, 2009 at 9:17 am |
  38. Dean Schindler

    I know this is a momentous time in all of our lives. I know that millions of people, men, women, children of all ages will be tuned in to watch this history changing event. I even know that there will be a huge celebration afterwards, including the likes of Oprah and every other 'A' list celebrity out there looking to get a snapshot of themselves with this man. I just hope when Wednesday rolls around, the vision is back from all of the party confetti, and the streets have been swept from all of the debris people have strewn about while making history, that his man that has changed history is ready to begin his fight! The one for the people! The ones that are losing his his/her homes at a record pace. The ones that are steadily looking for employment. The ones that are struggling to keep families fed. I just hope and pray this man who has changed history as we know it is ready to continue to make history with smart, economical decisions that will greatly impact the American people. I think Randy has a great point...start looking at the current homeowners and help them with those incredibly tough mortgage payments. Rebuild Americas Independence President. Do your job and please, for the love of God and all things great, do it well! Start NOW!

    January 20, 2009 at 9:08 am |
  39. alan severance

    today's importance is simple. first and foremost, it is about the return
    to government of the people, by the people, and for the people. it is about mr. obama's leadership skills, used to unite this nation, and not to polarize and divide.
    for 8 years our executive branch has dictated our courses of action, at home and in the world. presidental signings, no vetoes for over 5 years, executive orders, unilateral actions, a level of secrecy unknown before this administration, an arrogant disregard for the constitution, and the use of torture and redition, warrantless wiretappings, the politicizing of the justice department, the ignoring of congressional supeonas; sadly, the list seems endless. these actions, along with the tripling of our national debt and the $700 billion placed in the hands of one man amount to the largest power and money grab in the history of our democracy.
    today's transfer of power restores to the american people, and to the world, that our constitution has prevailed, that the rule of law has been returned to this nation, so that it may be shared, and not forced, on the rest of the world.
    finally, the election of a man whose father arrived on the shores of this land called america from africa, completes a circle which began with the first arrival in 1619 in jamestown of african slaves.
    free at last, free at last, thank god almighty we are free at last.

    January 20, 2009 at 9:08 am |
  40. Gary Phillips

    I didnt vote for Obama. I live in a mostly republican East Tennessee. I worry about Obama's gun control views, abortion, and his ability to take care of the economy. But, reguardless of my views on what he may or may not do, he is going to be my next president. That being said, I will throw all my support behind him and I hope he turns out to be a rock star as president. Myself, I dont care if the president is black, white, green or purple. I just want someone who will take care of business at home before we continue trying to save the rest of the world. We are in a time that our country needs a good president that will take care of the very people he is leading. We need a rock star and I hope Barack Obama is the man we have been looking for. Will this president remember the people of this country or be like the rest we have had in the last 20 yrs and continue to give our country away. We need an American president for Americans, and I pray Barack is that man.

    January 20, 2009 at 8:56 am |
  41. Debbie, Denham Springs, LA

    I have been a weepy mess all morning. I voted for Obama and I supported him from the beginning of his candidacy and I know in my heart that he would win all along. But I didn't expect to get so emotional on this truly important day. I love this man, I am so proud of him and what he means to so many people-black, white, female, male, children...whatever the case. I have felt a connection to him since I learned about his mother-we both lost our mothers to ovarian cancer. And my mom, like his, bypassed the medical attention she so desperately needed because of her worry about money. Her doctors tolds us that she probably had cancer for four years and she would not go to a doctor in that time because she was uninsured and didn't have the money. I have to work today, but I have my DVR recording the ceremonies. For all of you out there who can't or won't appreciate this day for what it represents for so many people then you are truly closed minded and I am ashamed of you today.

    January 20, 2009 at 8:43 am |
  42. Annie Kate

    "That moment" , I think, would on some level occur every day that the office is his. Good Presidents would always feel that responsibility even on the last day of their Presidency. The responsibility of the job and the enhanced expectations of the country right now may weigh very heavy on Obama for a while as he does not seem to be a man that would take either lightly although he does a good job of keeping a calm demeanor and a steady hand. Its no wonder with the type of responsibility the Presidency brings with it that Presidents age rather dramatically during their tenure of office.

    January 20, 2009 at 8:42 am |
  43. Lee


    January 20, 2009 at 8:40 am |
  44. Randy Ecker

    Instead of giving the bailout money directly to the banks and wondering what is being done with it. Give vouchers to the citizens that have mortgages and let them use this money to pay off or at least apply the money towards their home mortgages. This way the banks or mortgage lenders still get their money. But more importantly, people will have money freed up that would normally go towards their house payment. They would likely take that money and buy things like automobiles and maybe even decide to buy or build a new house. So basically, paying off the mortgages will free up a lot of money that will find it's way back into the economy. Then instead of sitting at home and watching CNN and drawing unimployment , I would be working overtime. And once the economy is back up and running again, let's not make the same mistakes that were made before. And if need be, lets reinstall a little regulation on the banking and lending industry to insure the same mistakes aren't made again,

    January 20, 2009 at 8:30 am |
  45. Kathleen

    I had to call tech support yesterday for a problem with some software installation and as usual these days I was speaking with someone in India. The tech guy who was helping me just couldn't resist asking me all about Barak Obama and the "holidays" we were having for our incoming President! He wanted to know who I had voted for and if I was going to watch the swearing-in. This guy knew the swearing-in was at 11:30 EST! (He must watch CNN)
    I think the whole world is as excited as most Americans are about President Obama!
    It was a fun conversation, and yes, I got my problem resolved in one phone call.....

    January 20, 2009 at 8:24 am |
  46. Frank Bakis

    Hello and Welcome President Elect Obama. Good bye to the worst President in American history.

    January 20, 2009 at 6:24 am |
  47. Sandra Olibrice

    It maybe nothing, at my sattelite earlier I was able to watch everything on cnn, but now nothing, after calling dishnetwork troubleshouting, I can only get foxnews and the weather isn't a factor, no other movie channel and my bill is updated. Please look into it, at least that's what I got weird in Alaska giving the fact I want to record the entire inauguration ceremony,but smell something fishy.

    January 20, 2009 at 6:17 am |
  48. Sherman Kave

    A little something from the dusty terrain of Nigeria...









    January 20, 2009 at 6:14 am |