The nation's first African American president took office while American troops were carrying out military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and a financial crisis had plunged the economy into recession. Obama was also the first U.S. Senator to be elected president in forty-eight years, having defeated a fellow Senator, John McCain of Arizona, the Republican candidate. Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office before an immense crowd, estimated at 1.8 million, as Obama swore on the same bible used by Abraham Lincoln in 1861.

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