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Obama strides into White House as president

Obama strides into White House as president
AFP
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First Published: Wed, Jan 21 2009. 03 55 AM IST
Updated: Wed, Jan 21 2009. 03 55 AM IST
Washington: US President Barack Obama took his first steps in the White House since taking office on Tuesday and was likely to spend some time in the Oval Office he inherited from George W. Bush.
In his first official act since taking the oath of office, Obama issued a proclamation decreeing his inauguration day to be a “National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation” and calling for a national commitment to public service.
The first African American US president walked into the White House hours after being sworn in at the US Capitol and walking part of the way to the presidential mansion, borne by adoring cheers from thousands of well-wishers.
Obama, the 44th US president, was expected to take his first steps in the Oval Office, the heart of power in the White House, but not take any major actions on his first day, according to press secretary Robert Gibbs.
“We anticipate that he will, after he watches some of the parade, probably go in there for a few minutes,” Gibbs said during his first informal question-and-answer session with reporters in the White House.
Former president George W. Bush said at his final press conference last week that, “the minute he walks in the Oval Office” Obama will feel “the responsibilities of the president land squarely on his shoulders.”
Gibbs signalled that the moving-in process was making progress, with some officials able to get settled even as painters still worked in the West Wing, but said he was having some computer trouble.
“Now we just have to figure out how to log on our computers,” he said, before joking about the small number of “W” keys that went missing in a January 2001 prank when Bush took office.
“All the keys are intact, I just don’t know the code to get in,” said Gibbs, who praised outgoing officials including his predecessor Dana Perino’s cooperation in ensuring a smooth handover of power.
“All of our staff now would agree that their counterparts were very helpful,” said the spokesman, who had yet to read the note traditionally left by departing press secretaries in a symbolic flak jacket for their successors.
“Dana showed me where it was and told me to read it early, but I have not had a chance to read it yet,” he said, joking “that’s why I’m out here.”
Gibbs said he had received his first email on his brand new official government BlackBerry handheld device at 12:07pm(1037pm IST), the transcript of Obama’s inaugural address, from a White House stenographer.
“The next email said ‘you’re the only one I sent this to because you’re the only email address I had,” he laughed.
Gibbs ducked a question about whether Obama possessed a working BlackBerry, saying: “That’s a good question, I just don’t know the answer. There were a lot of things I was thinking about making sure that he had this morning. The BlackBerry wasn’t the first thing.”
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First Published: Wed, Jan 21 2009. 03 55 AM IST