What happened
Barack Obama promised to "begin again the work of remaking America" as he became the 44th president of the United States. Obama offered a sobering assessment of the tasks ahead, with a crumbling economy, two wars, and the continuing threat of terrorism. He said he would usher in a "new era of responsibility" in a pointed break with the presidency of George W. Bush. (The New York Times)

What the commentators said
President Obama's inaugural address "reminded the nation that here was a man who wrote himself into his job," said Walter Shapiro in The New Republic. "Whether it was through simple language about 'the still waters of peace' and the nation's 'patchwork heritage' or the angry evocations of 'the lash of the whip' and 'the bitter swill of civil war and segregation,'" Obama's words left no doubt that "this is a determined, unflinching, activist president."

Obama, with 2 million Americans cheering on Washington's Mall, "met the moment" with his bracing challenge for all of us to improve the country together, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. "We expect to have our differences with our 44th President in the months ahead, but his Inaugural call to greater responsibility and renewed national purpose is one that all Americans can unite around."

Yes, but I can't be the only one who found the speech a little disappointing, said Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune. The famously eloquent Obama didn't deliver any "breakthrough quotable quotes," and after the call to action he went "a bit squishy" on the details. Maybe the problem was that after hearing a black man take the oath of office, everything else was an "anticlimax."

It was indeed a "plain speech," said David Ignatius in The Washington Post, but that was part of its power. By rising above partisan politics, by telling all Americans that the economic crisis is partly our fault, President Obama wasn't trying to score points. "He just told the truth—including the hard parts"—about where the country is and where it needs to go.