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Obama Quietly Marks One Year In Office

  • David Dyar

Wednesday marked one year since U.S. President Barack Obama took office. But as VOA's Kent Klein reports, the anniversary was barely mentioned at the White House.

On a frigid January 20, 2009, an excited crowd numbering in the tens of thousands jammed Washington's National Mall to watch as Barack Obama was sworn in as the first African-American U.S. president.

January 20, 2010 was a much quieter day for Mr. Obama. "Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome. I am glad you all could join us today as we mark National Mentoring Month here at the White House," he said.

The president welcomed a group of teenagers who are being advised by members of the White House staff.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Obama signed an order directing federal agencies to block contractors who are delinquent on their taxes from receiving new government contracts. "One company owner who owed over $1 million in taxes was paid over $1 million as a defense contractor. And instead of using that money to pay his back taxes, he chose to buy a boat, some cars and a home abroad with his earnings," the president said.

At press secretary Robert Gibbs' daily briefing with reporters, the anniversary was ignored. The discussion centered instead on a political setback for the administration-Tuesday's surprising victory by Republican candidate Scott Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley in the U.S. Senate race in the Northeastern state of Massachusetts.

"The president did not expect-I would certainly put myself in that category-not expecting to lose that Senate race. There is no doubt we are frustrated by that," Gibbs said.

Virtually the only public commemoration of the anniversary was by the president's wife, Michelle Obama, who surprised visitors Wednesday by personally conducting White House tours. "It is nice to see you guys. How is it going? Welcome! How are you?," she said.

Wednesday was a quiet day at the White House. But with President Obama facing two wars, ten percent unemployment, a massive earthquake relief effort in Haiti, a resurgent Republican opposition and a health reform program in political trouble, quiet days here will be increasingly rare.

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