Obama arrives in Washington, pledges to act with 'fierce urgency'

Barack Obama arrived at Washington's Union Station on Saturday evening ahead of his inauguration as the country's 44th president, after a six-city whistle-stop tour that followed the route of Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago.

President-elect calls for 'new declaration of independence from ideology and small thinking'

U.S. president-elect Barack Obama waves as he and his wife, Michelle, ride the train en route to Wilmington, Del., on Saturday. ((Chang W. Lee/Associated Press) )
Barack Obama arrived at Washington's Union Station on Saturday evening ahead of his inauguration as the 44th U.S. president, after pledging along his six-city whistle-stop tour to act with "fierce urgency" to address the country's problems. 

The president-elect, who is to be sworn into office on Tuesday, stopped briefly upon his arrival at the historic station to pose with railway workers on the platform before ducking into an armoured limousine.

Obama, his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha began their tour at Philadelphia's historic 30th Street train station at 11:50 a.m. ET and took the same route Abraham Lincoln took nearly 150 years ago as president-elect. 

In an afternoon speech to a crowd of about 40,000 at Baltimore's War Memorial Plaza, Obama challenged Americans to show the fighting spirit of Revolutionary War-era patriots and resist getting discouraged by the country's problems.

Obama remembered the troops at Maryland's Fort McHenry who defeated the British many generations before, saying it was "time to take up the cause for which they gave so much." 

"The trials we face are very different now, but severe in their own right," he said.

Before his departure, the president-elect encouraged supporters to overcome the challenges of a withering economy and global warming.

'Vast' challenges

"Only a handful of times in our history has a generation been confronted with challenges so vast: an economy that's faltering, two wars — one that needs to be ended responsibly, one that needs to be waged wisely — [and] a planet that is warming from our unsustainable dependence on oil," he said.

A spectator waits for president-elect Barack Obama at the War Memorial Plaza in Baltimore, Md., on Saturday. ((Rob Carr/Associated Press))

"And yet while our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not," Obama continued. "What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that our founders displayed."

Obama said that "what's required is a new declaration of independence — from ideology and small thinking."

Although Obama's path tracked Lincoln's and took on the same overtone of high security, it wasn't the journey of virtual secrecy that the 16th president-elect took so long ago.

Obama's journey from Philadelphia included a stop in Wilmington, Del., where he picked up vice president-elect Joe Biden, before arriving at Washington's Union Station.

The train made "slow rolls" through the towns of Claymont, Del., and Edgewood, Md., so more people could see Obama waving from the back balcony of the rail car.

Pressing the inaugural theme of service and community, event planners also called for canned-food drives in Wilmington and Baltimore to coincide with Obama's stops.