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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama called for “a new era of responsibility” in his inaugural address Tuesday, warning of continued turmoil ahead but vowing that America would rise to the challenge.

“Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less,” he told a crowd on the National Mall, estimated at more than 1 million. “It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

“Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”

Obama, the first black president in U.S. history, laid out an ambitious agenda of issues to tackle in his first term, citing health care reform, renewable energy research, education improvements and national security the most pressing items for the entire country to address.

“There are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans,” he said. “Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

Obama’s words were greeted loudly by the chilled crowd in Washington, many of whom camped out overnight for a spot along the inaugural parade route or simply within view of the Capitol building.

The entire event had more of a rock concert feel than formal transfer of power, with chants of “We love you” and “Yes we can” spreading through the city. Each of the former presidents was greeted with applause, although the Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter received a noticeably warmer greeting than either President Bush.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earned a chorus of cheers simply for waving from her seat, while former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s ovation was overwhelmed by the excitement of Oprah Winfrey’s arrival.

All of the speakers on the day referenced America’s battles with equal rights for civil rights struggles and the historic nature of Obama’s presidency. Obama himself remarked that “a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.”

Thousands of military members took part in the ceremony, acting as ushers and color guards during the inauguration and performing as part of the official parade. Obama pointed to members of the armed forces — particularly those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan — as a model and inspiration for all Americans.

“We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service, a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves,” he said. “And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.”

In a criticism of his predecessor’s policies, Obama said to potential enemies that the United States “will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,” and rejected as false “the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

And despite his campaign promises to quickly withdraw all combat forces from Iraq, Obama spoke of continued challenges to American military power, promising to act decisively against any threat to the country.

“We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense,” he said. “And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”

That passage brought the largest cheer of the day from the crowd. They also stood and clapped with ever admonition by the new president, even as he said sacrifice and hard choices will be required of all citizens.

“Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter,” he said. “And with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”

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