Obama's inauguration ceremony kicks off in Washington
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Tens of thousands of people gathered at the Abraham Lincoln memorial in the US capital for a massive concert marking the start of Barack Obama's inauguration as president. He warned the audience of the "serious" challenges ahead.
AFP - Standing in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, president-elect Barack Obama called Sunday for a new spirit of national sacrifice to overcome war and economic crisis.
At a joyous, star-studded concert marking the official start of festivities leading up to his inauguration Tuesday as America's first black president, Obama gave a somber assessment of the challenges ahead.
"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. Our nation is at war. Our economy is in crisis," he said.
"I won't pretend that meeting any one of these challenges will be easy. It will take more than a month or a year, and it will likely take many," Obama said.
"But never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard.
"I ask you to help me reveal that character once more, and together, we can carry forward as one nation, and one people, the legacy of our forefathers that we celebrate today."
A sea of people braved bitter cold to gather in front of the imposing memorial dedicated to Civil War president Abraham Lincoln, as stars including Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Stevie Wonder performed to usher Obama into power.
Obama said what gave him the greatest hope was "not the stone and marble that surrounds us today, but what fills the spaces in between."
"It is you," he said, "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."
Obama said his election victory was proof "that people who love this country can change it."
"And as I prepare to assume the presidency, yours are the voices I will take with me every day I walk into that Oval Office," he said.
"The voices of men and women who have different stories but hold common hopes; who ask only for what was promised us as Americans -- that we might make of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did."
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