Obama's Home in Washington

Whistle-stop tour ends in the nation's capital

Shadowing the 137-mile journey taken by Abraham Lincoln a century and a half ago, President-elect Barack Obama made his way to Washington to become the 44th president of the United States.

The day-long ride started in Philadelphia, made its way through Delaware and Maryland making several stops along the way before pulling into Unions Station in Washington D.C.

Throughout the day,  the President-elect and Vice President-elect reminded the throngs of people along they way that the country has seen navigated through difficult times before and will again.

Baltimore was his last stop before D.C. where a crowd of about 40,000 hearty souls gathered under gray skies to greet them.

Speaking to the crowd with his classic eloquence, the President-elect referenced the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812.

“The White House was in flames and the British were advancing on Baltimore ... That’s when the fate of our nation fell to the troops at Fort McHenry.

“On one long and rainy night, they beat back the greatest navy that the world has ever known ... and raised a flag in triumph, inspiring an onlooker to compose a poem that became the Star Spangled Banner.

“The trials we face are very different now, but they’re severe in their own right ... What is required to overcome them is not new,” Obama said, calling for Americans to show the same perseverance and idealism that the nation’s founding fathers and the troops who defended her displayed.

On the train, Obama, Vice President-elect Joe Biden and their families were joined by a traveling party of guests, public officials and reporters on the 10-car train headed for the nation's capital on Michelle's 45th birthday.

The Obamas and Biden met with the "everyday Americans" who were invited to travel on train with them.  They sat at tables, chatting about the weather, his inaugural address and and the trip.  Reporters said the mood is relaxed and very fun.

At one point, Obama asked everyone, "What are people looking forward to the most?" And they all said, "THIS!"

When the train stopped at Claymont Station in Claymont, Del, Obama and his wife waved to the crowd from the steps of the train balcony as the president-elect pulled the whistle at least three times. He let one of his 50 invited guests, Matt Kuntz, try out the whistle, too.

Obama picked up his running mate in Wilmington and told the thousands of supporters who braved the cold the pair "will fight for you every day we're in Washington." 

"Yours are the stories that will drive us in the days ahead. This is the moment that we have to come together for the sake of our country. For while we come from many different places, as Americans we share a common story. That story began over two centuries ago in Philadelphia, where we started today's journey, and where our forefathers declared the birth of our nation and the creation of our Constitution," the president-elect told the crowd.

"I'm asking Joe Biden to take one more ride to Washington," Obama said, referring to the daily train commute the senator has taken from his hometown to the capital. 

"Delaware, I'd not be taking this journey were it not for you," Biden said.  

"The deeper chill of worry grips the nation," the Vice President elect told the bundled crowd waving American flags. "Spring is on the way for this new administration."

Police estimated that more than 7,800 people came out on the cold Saturday to see the Obama Express pass through Wilmington.

Earlier in Philadelphia, Obama spoke of the country's past as he invoked words from Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Thomas Jefferson before to a crowd gathered at  30th St. train station. He said the problems the nation is dealing with now are not unlike those faced by our founders.

 "They were willing to put all they were and all they had on the line -- their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor -- for a set of ideals that continue to light the world," Obama said of the founding fathers. "That we are equal. That our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness come not from our laws, but from our maker. And that a government of, by, and for the people can endure."

"The American Revolution was and remains an ongoing struggle to live up to our founder's creed," Obama said while addressing the faltering economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, global warming and U.S. dependence on foreign oil. "We are here today not simply to pay tribute to our first patriots but to take up the work that they began. The trials we face are very different now, but severe in their own right. Only a handful of times in our history has a generation been confronted with challenges so vast."

Patricia Stiles, a lifelong Republican, gave an emotional introduction of the President-elect.  Her husband, Tedd, cant' afford to retire from his job after losing his pension and they struggle with healthcare bills since she was diagnosed with cancer. 

"I’m not here this morning hopeful, I am so confident," Stiles said. She said she's convinced Obama will "start listening to Americans."

Among the tens of thousands of onlookers was Toni Mateo, who arrived from Atlanta, where he works at a public relations firm.
"It's going to be life-affirming for me," said Mateo. "It was really important that I come here to represent the family and to take the energy back with me." He said his train car was crowded but quiet -- until "I just screamed out `Obama,' and the whole crowd erupted."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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