RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne. It's Inauguration Day here in Washington, D.C., and soon hundreds of thousands of people will be gathered on the National Mall to watch the first African-American president take the ceremonial oath for a second term.
As we've mentioned, Barack Obama was formally sworn in yesterday. Sworn in to keep it all official. Today are the public services, and of course the inaugural parade. NPR's Don Gonyea is a veteran White House correspondent and he's getting ready to head out to the Mall as crowds gather and events get underway.
And he's sitting with me here in the studio. Hi, Don.
DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: But let's go first to MORNING EDITION's David Greene, who is at the Martin Luther King Memorial on the Mall and joins us for a few seconds here. Describe the scene for us.
DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Yeah, Renee. It's quite a scene. The sky is just starting to brighten here and Martin Luther King, the statue of him, you know, looking very serious, staring across the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. And so, you know, quite historically powerful. And people are looking at the wreaths that were laid here to honor Dr. King.
Reverend Al Sharpton yesterday laid a wreath and said that there's an intersection of history we're seeing this weekend - the nation's first black president being sworn in again and also honoring Martin Luther King. So that's sort of the backdrop to what should be quite a day here in the nation's capital. But everyone bundled up. It's still very cold.
MONTAGNE: So a beautiful scene as the day breaks. Don, let's turn to you now. Obviously this is not likely to be as big an event as we saw four years ago. Record-setting crowds at that time. We definitely don't have that this time. There - tonight are only two official inaugural balls instead of the 10 from last year. More subdued. But it's also not the same man being sworn in.
GONYEA: It's not. And in some ways it's too bad we don't have the big crowds because it is a lot warmer today than that brutal day that we all suffered through out there four years ago. But look, four years ago there were so many questions about what kind of a president Barack Obama would be.
He's only been elected to the U.S. Senate four years earlier and he'd spent half of the time in the Senate preparing for and then running for president. Now we see a man who is comfortable in the office, who obviously everybody does see him as someone who is president, who has been president for four years.
You can see it in his hair. It's a bit grayer. You can see it in his face. More lines. But this is a man who has been through many, many battles, both domestic battles and foreign policy battles. And that's who will be up there.
MONTAGNE: Well, what lessons then do you think he'll take with him into his second term?
GONYEA: That's an interesting thing. I think what he has learned probably more than anything else is how hard it is to get things done in Washington. And we've already...
MONTAGNE: And this from a man who was going to change...
MONTAGNE: ...the way things were done in Washington.
GONYEA: Exactly. And we hear, at least privately, that he's kind of tempered those kind of feelings of what one can accomplish in his own mind a bit as well. We have seen, at least since the election and some of these budget battles that have taken place, a willingness on his part to take more of a hard line, to be more combative. I think we can expect a lot more of that in the coming couple of years.
MONTAGNE: He's also an author and he's hands-on with his speeches - hand writes them, I gather. We're hearing from the White House that he's devoted a lot of time to this speech. Tell us what to expect.
GONYEA: You know, I think what I'll be looking for is something memorable. You go back to that first speech four years ago and it was very much about the crisis at hand, the economic crisis that the country was facing. But there isn't a line that leaps out and you go, oh, that's the ask not what your country can do for you line. I'll be looking for some of that kind of language today, see if he's got that in mind.
MONTAGNE: And Don, we'll be looking to hear from you again from the Mall. You've got to go out there in the cold, although it's not so cold as last year. NPR's Don Gonyea. Thanks very much.
GONYEA: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.