'I, Barack Hussein Obama, ...' Barack Obama, the former community organizer and Illinois U.S. Senator, takes the oath of office today as the first African-American Commander-in-Chief. In a special broadcast marking the occasion, Tell Me More is on-location near the National Mall in Washington. NPR's Audie Cornish, sets the scene from the Lincoln Memorial.
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'I, Barack Hussein Obama, ...'

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'I, Barack Hussein Obama, ...'

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. It's Inauguration Day, and we are live at the Canadian Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue, steps from the National Mall. To my left is the U.S. Capitol, where President-elect Barack Obama will be sworn in in less than three hours.

In just a few minutes, we're going to have my conversation with Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu. He's here in Washington to be part of today's historic events. But first, we're awaiting the moment when Barack Obama officially becomes the president.

Throughout the program, we're going to check in with our reporters around the country and around the world for their reflections on this day. But we're going to turn first to NPR's Audie Cornish-Emery, who's on the National Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Audie, how are you other than cold?

(Soundbite of singing)

AUDIE CORNISH: Oh, I'm doing good. Right now, they're actually replaying the audio from the concert that happened on this end of the Mall, the "We Are One" event. And the people who are sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial are actually dancing to the song "Shout" and throwing their arms up. And I think we're all just trying to keep warm and appreciating the tunes.

MARTIN: Are there many people out there now? And what was it like on your way down there?

CORNISH: On the way in, it was really amazing. The streets were completely barren except for all these hundreds of folks sort of streaming in and out of the metros, and they had parked the public buses horizontal across the major thoroughfares so nobody could pass through.

And the security checkpoints didn't open until about seven A.M., so there was quite a bottleneck of folks. We essentially walked all the way around to the most western end to get down here to the Lincoln Memorial and didn't go through a security checkpoint. And the folks that are down here are folks with backpacks and blankets, and they're in it for the day, for the long haul.

MARTIN: You must have spoken to some of the people in the crowd. What are they telling you about why they were willing to brave these frigid temperatures and these tight security restrictions in order to get here?

CORNISH: Well, it's really interesting because if you think about it, the folks who showed up at the Lincoln Memorial in particular at this time of morning, they - it's the complete opposite end. If you're going to show up this early, you'd think you might try and get closer.

But a lot of them really talked about the significance of Abraham Lincoln, his presidency and his accomplishments, especially in the area of race and how they felt that it was important for them to be here to celebrate this particular presidency of Barack Obama at this particular spot.

MARTIN: And are any of them sharing their blankets with you in the spirit of the day and their hand warmers and other treats?

CORNISH: They are not sharing blankets. They're sharing their warm thoughts and greetings. But I have to say, I mean, if you're over by the Lincoln Memorial, it's a little bit like sitting on a refrigerator. I mean, this is marble. I'm over by some stone steps, so it's pretty chilly.

MARTIN: (Laughing) It is pretty chilly. Well, good for you. What are your plans for the rest of the day? How are you going to stay warm, just keep dancing to "Shout?"

CORNISH: Yes, I plan on shifting back and forth for hours and hours, maybe doing a little walking around, mingling with the crowd, and, you know, I think the energy here also is just really good. People are smiling at each other and saying hello and cheering, you know, spontaneously. So, I think that we'll manage to stay warm.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Audie Cornish joins us from the Lincoln Memorial as thousands begin to gather on the National Mall. Thanks, Audie.

CORNISH: Thank you.

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