Rapturous reception for Obama

Tue, Jan 22, 2013, 00:00

Barack Obama celebrated being sworn in for a second term as president last night, dancing with his wife Michelle to Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together at one of two official inaugural balls in the US capital.

The Obamas took to the stage shortly after 9.20pm at the main inaugural ball at a convention centre in downtown Washington to dance to the 1972 soul classic performed by US singer and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson.

The first couple received a rapturous reception arriving on stage as a sea of illuminated phones and camera screens recorded the Obamas kicking their heels at the traditional ball.

The president earlier introduced his wife and “dance partner” at the other official ball, the Commander-in-Chief Ball, being held in the same venue, the Walter E Washington Convention Centre.

“Some may dispute the quality of our president, but nobody disputes the quality of our first lady,” Mr Obama said at the party to mark the 57th inauguration of a US president.

Mrs Obama tweeted shortly afterwards on her "Flotus" - First Lady of the United States - Twitter social media account that she had just danced “with the love of my life and the President of the United States. I'm so proud of Barack".

Just as Mr Obama’s speech earlier in the day was dissected by political commentators, much was made of the ball gown chosen by the first lady on the night of the inaugural balls.

Mrs Obama wore a ruby coloured chiffon and velvet gown designed by Jason Wu, who became a household name in US fashion after designing her dress at the 2009 inaugural ball.

Her decision to choose the same designer surprised many fashion commentators. She also wore shoes by Jimmy Choo and a diamond ring by Kimberly McDonald.

The ball, a tradition for new and re-elected presidents, was attended by about 30,000 supporters who were entertained by musicians including Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys.

There were just two official balls, down from the 10 balls held for Mr Obama’s first inauguration to avoid the transport chaos caused by tens of thousands travelling across Washington to attend the various events.

The White House continued a tradition started by President George W Bush in 2005 by holding the smaller Commander-in-Chief’s Ball to honour US military servicemen and women.

The Obamas were joined at the inaugural balls by the newly-elected vice president Joe Biden and his wife Jill.

Inaugural balls have been held since 1809 when the first lady Dolley Madison, wife of the fourth US president James Madison, hosted a gala at Long’s Hotel in Washington DC.

Earlier in his inaugural address before 700,000 gathered on the National Mall, Mr Obama urged Americans to act together with “passion and dedication” to improve social equality and economic prosperity, nuture democracy and tackle climate change.

Republicans did not warm to Mr Obama’s calls for “collective action” and to avoid treating “name-calling as reasoned debate”, pointing to an immediate return to the fierce bipartisanship of recent months following a short truce for the inauguration.

Arizona senator John McCain, who lost to Mr Obama in 2008, said he “didn’t hear any conciliatory remarks. I didn’t see any specific reference like, `I reach out my hand to the other side of the aisle.’”

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