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Obama Gets Down To Business On First Day

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is Morning Edition from NPR News. With Steve Inskeep, I'm Renee Montagne. President Barack Obama has inherited two wars and a recession, and that's why on his first full day in office he met with his military and economic advisors. Mr. Obama's day was a full one, and it was capped off by an encore of his swearing-in ceremony. Also today, he'll reportedly sign an order to close the controversial prison at Guantanamo Bay. NPR's Scott Horsley has more.

SCOTT HORSLEY: From the Oval Office to the Situation Room, President Obama is settling in to his new role. He began his day with a few private moments in the Oval Office, reading the note left for him there by President Bush. Later, he met with his military advisors and directed them to do the additional planning needed for troop drawdown in Iraq. Mr. Obama also made phone calls to Middle Eastern leaders, stressing the U.S. commitment to active engagement in pursuit of Arab/Israeli peace. And he squeezed in an ecumenical prayer service where Muslims, Jews, Christians and Hindus stood side by side. Reverend Sharon Watkins delivered the sermon at the prayer service. She gave thanks for a new beginning in Washington, and she marveled at this week's inaugural celebrations.

(Soundbite of prayer service)

Reverend SHARON E. WATKINS (General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)): Dancing till dawn. What were you thinking?

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of applause)

Rev. WATKINS: There is still a lot of work to do, and today the nation turns its full attention to that work.

HORSLEY: The White House still has as transitional feel to it, with empty walls where pictures once hung and paper name tags identifying seat assignments. Welcoming senior staffers yesterday, Mr. Obama said he has confidence in them and that soon the American people will, too.

President BARACK OBAMA: What a moment we're in. What an opportunity we have to change this country. And for those of us who have been in public life before, you know, these kinds of moments come around just every so often. The American people are really counting on us now.

HORSLEY: Before a meeting with his economic advisors, Mr. Obama noted that many families are tightening their belts, and he said Washington should do the same. He signed an order freezing salaries for the highest paid White House staffers, and he ordered new limits on the revolving door between government and lobbying firms.

Pres. OBAMA: It's not about advantaging yourself. It's not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients. It's not about advancing an ideological agenda or the special interests of any organization. Public service is simply and absolutely about advancing the interests of Americans.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama then watched as some of his top lieutenants were sworn in. During his own swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts had mixed up some of the words, leading some legal experts to question whether the oath was valid. Aides initially laughed off the suggestion, but then in what the White House counsel called an abundance of caution, they decided to get right. So, last night in the White House Map Room, the chief justice and the president recited the oath again. There was no Lincoln's Bible this time and no cheering crowd, only a handful of reporters and one handheld recording device to capture the event.

(Soundbite of swearing-in ceremony)

Chief Justice JOHN G. ROBERTS (U.S. Supreme Court): I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

Pres. OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

HORSLEY: This time, the two men stuck to the wording in the Constitution, and when they were finished the chief justice said, congratulations, again. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Horsley
Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.