The presidential motorcade arrived shortly after 8:30 a.m. under crisp, cold skies outside the sanctuary. The president and first lady Michelle Obama emerged to pose briefly for photos with their daughters Sasha and Malia before entering the church. The first family sometimes attends Sunday worship at the church, which is across Lafayette Park from the White House.
Vice President Joe Biden and his family also attended.
Inside, R&B singer Ledisi, a favorite of Mrs. Obama’s, sang a solo titled “I Feel Like Goin’ On.”
The sermon was delivered by Pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., who asked what one does when they realize they’re the most powerful person in that room. “You leverage that power for the benefit of other people in the room,” Stanley said.
To the president, he said: “Mr. President, you have an awfully big room. It’s as big as our nation.”
Obama stood for a blessing from Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the Tenth Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church. She prayed for the president to be a “soothing presence in the White House when the stress and strain of leadership seeks a resting place.”
President Obama invoked the call of God on his job during his speech:
Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
He closed by reminding us of the strength of his worn oath:
My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride. Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.
Myrlie Evers-Williams became the first laywoman to give an inaugural invocation at President Barack Obama’s inauguration Monday. She opened her prayers by saying:
America, we are here, our nation’s Capitol on this January the 21st 2013, the inauguration of our 45th president Barack Obama. We come at this time to ask blessings upon our leaders, the president, vice president, members of Congress, all elected and appointed officials of the United States of America. We are here to ask blessings upon our armed forces, blessings upon all who contribute to the essence of the American spirit, the American dream. The opportunity to become whatever our mankind, womankind, allows us to be. This is the promise of America.
She closed the invocation by saying:
We thank you for this opportunity of prayer to strengthen us for the journey through the days that lie ahead.
We invoke the prayers of our grandmothers, who taught us to pray, ‘God make me a blessing.’ Let their spirit guide us as we claim the spirit of old.
There’s something within me that holds the reins. There’s something within me that banishes pain. There’s something within me I cannot explain. But all I know America, there is something within. There is something within.
In Jesus’ name and the name of all who are holy and right we pray. Amen.
In his prayer, León called for national unity at a time of great division in the country.
We pray for your blessing, because without it we will see only what the eye can see,” León said. “But with your blessing, we’ll see that we are made in your image, whether brown, black or white; male or female; first generation immigrant or Daughter of the American Revolution; gay or straight; rich or poor.”