WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama took the oath of office to begin his second term on Sunday in a small and intimate ceremony that stood in marked contrast to the heady, hopeful sense of celebration that punctuated the start to his historic presidency four years ago.

Obama, whose public swearing-in ceremony will be held Monday at the Capitol building, took the oath of office in the grand Blue Room of the White House, his hand on a family Bible held by his wife, Michelle, as the couple's two daughters looked on.

The oath was administered by John Roberts, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, who famously flubbed the oath four years ago when he swore in the country's first African-American president. There were no such hitches on Sunday.

"I did it," Obama told his daughters cheerfully after taking the oath. Eleven-year-old Sasha Obama replied: "You didn't mess up."

The U.S. Constitution mandates that presidential terms begin on Jan. 20. It's customary that when the day falls on a Sunday, the public swearing-in is held the following day — this year, it's falling on the national holiday devoted to revered civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Obama begins his next four years in office amid far different circumstances than he did in 2009, when his soaring messages of hope and change dared millions of Americans to dream that their country could be the better, brighter place that King himself envisioned decades earlier.

And yet the commander-in-chief now presides over a bitterly divided U.S. Congress, although the dramatically changing face of America, in particular the growing number of Hispanic voters, helped to decisively propel him to a second victory in November.

The president's first term kicked off as a devastating economic recession was taking hold, thwarting some of his loftiest legislative goals and compelling his administration to spend billions in efforts to ward off a full-fledged depression.

It's also been marked by nasty partisan brawling incited largely by a Republican opposition that made no bones about its determination to put the brakes to Obama's legislative agenda at every turn. They also vowed to deny him a second term, an ultimately fruitless mission.

There have been successes — the president managed to do what so many in the Oval Office had failed to achieve, passing a sweeping overhaul to the country's health-care system that provided health insurance to millions of Americans. He also authorized the successful Navy SEALs raid that finally captured and killed Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida mastermind behind 9-11.

There were failures — Obama did next to nothing on immigration reform, failed to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison as promised and was utterly unable to make deals with John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, on taxes, spending cuts, the debt ceiling and the so-called fiscal cliff.

And there were tragedies, most notably a series of horrific mass shootings — one that almost killed a Democratic congresswoman, another that left 12 dead in a Colorado movie theatre and perhaps the most heinous of all, the massacre of 20 young schoolchildren in small-town Connecticut last month.

Indeed, the carnage in Newtown, Conn., at the hands of a troubled young man toting his mother's assault rifle shook the president to his core. It's resulted in a renewed White House push for gun control that is likely to be a hallmark of Obama's second term.

Even as inauguration festivities played out across the U.S. capital all weekend, gun rights activists held a Gun Appreciation Day as a form of protest against Obama's proposals to combat gun violence. Five people were injured Saturday at gun shows in three states in accidental shootings.

After four difficult years of governing, a greyer, more sombre Obama will address a crowd of as many as 800,000 people on Monday.

One of the president's closest advisers, David Plouffe, pointed out Sunday that despite the partisan warfare on Capitol Hill, polls suggest most Americans back Obama's agenda.

"There's vast support out there for balanced deficit reaction, investments in education and manufacturing, immigration reform, gun safety," he said on CBS's "Face The Nation."

"So on the issues the president intends to really push and focus on, there's massive support in the country, even amongst Republicans."

He added, however, that Obama intends to "do a better job" in his second term working with Congress. Plouffe also touched on something the president will likely underscore in his second inaugural address: the need to "make sure the American people are more connected to what's going on here."

As Obama unveiled his gun control proposals late last week, he urged Americans to say "enough" and demand action from their congressional representatives on gun violence.

In addition to gun control, the next four years will also include a major push for immigration reform from the White House. The Obama administration wants a sweeping bill that would include a path toward citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants already living stateside.

Obama will also face continuing pressure to bring the country's US$16 trillion national debt to heel. There will also be a decision in the weeks to come on the fate of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline.

There are myriad issues confronting Obama on the international front.

Israel continues to pressure the White House to launch military action against Iran in order to stop it from building nuclear weapons. There's also an ongoing civil war in Syria, increasingly tense U.S.-Russia relations, hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians and trade disputes with China.

Among the hottest tickets in the U.S. capital is Canada's embassy at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue, just a stone's throw from the Capitol with a stunning view of the action from its sixth-floor rooftop patio.

More than 1,500 people will be in attendance at the party hosted by Ambassador Gary Doer. They include Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and some American VIPs.

The guests will be treated to beaver tails, Tim Hortons coffee and Crown Royal cocktails among other Canadian fare.

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  • Barack Obama (2009)

    Barack Obama delivers his inaugural address after being sworn in as 44th U.S. president at the Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2009.

  • George W. Bush (2005)

    U.S. President George W. Bush delvers his inauguration speech on Jan. 20, 2005 in Washington.

  • George W. Bush (2001)

    President George W. Bush stands at the podium before giving his inaugural address on January, 20 2001 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

  • Bill Clinton (1997)

    President Bill Clinton calls for national unity during his Jan. 20, 1997 inaugural address on Capitol Hill in Washington.

  • Bill Clinton (1993)

    President Bill Clinton delivers his inaugural address after being sworn in on Jan. 20, 1993 in Washington.

  • George H.W. Bush (1989)

    U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush addresses the audience outside the Capitol on Jan. 20, 1989 in Washington.

  • Ronald Reagan (1985)

    Ronald Reagan delivers his inaugural address in the Rotunda of the Capitol on Monday, Jan. 21, 1985 in Washington.

  • Ronald Reagan (1981)

    President Ronald Reagan waves with his wife, Nancy, after being sworn in as 40th president of the United States on Jan. 20, 1981.

  • Jimmy Carter (1977)

    Jimmy Carter is shown in January 1977, speaking after taking the oath of office as President of the United States.

  • Richard Nixon (1973)

    President Richard M. Nixon delivers his inaugural address on January 20, 1973 in Washington.

  • Richard Nixon (1969)

    President Richard M. Nixon dedicates his new administration to the cause of "peace among nations" as former President Lyndon Johnson, right, listens to the inaugural speech Jan. 20, 1969 in Washington.

  • Lyndon Johnson (1965)

    President Lyndon B Johnson is shown as he waves goodbye to crowds from the presidential reviewing stand, after the long day of inaugural parades, on Jan. 20, 1965 in Washington.

  • John F. Kennedy (1961)

    This Jan. 20, 1961 black and white file photo shows U.S. President John F. Kennedy delivering his inaugural address after taking the oath of office at Capitol Hill in Washington.

  • Dwight Eisenhower (1957)

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower was all smiles at end of public oath-taking for second term of office at Capitol on Jan. 21, 1957 in Washington.

  • Dwight Eisenhower (1953)

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the country's new first lady, Mamie, wave to spectators from an open car as they leave the Capitol at the start of the inauguration parade, January 20, 1953.

  • Harry Truman (1949)

    President Harry S. Truman delivers inaugural address from Capitol portico, January 20, 1949, after taking oath of office for his first full term as chief executive.

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt (1945)

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, speaking during his fourth inauguration ceremony.

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt (1941)

    President Franklin Roosevelt speaking from the inaugural stand on Jan. 20, 1941.

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt (1937)

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt are seen up Pennsylvania Avenue during the inaugural parade in Washington, Jan. 4, 1937.

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933)

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt speaks at the podium during his March 4, 1933 inaugural address in Washington.

  • Herbert Hoover (1929)

    President Herbert Hoover delivers his inaugural speech on March 4, 1929 at the Capitol in Washington.

  • Calvin Coolidge (1925)

    Calvin Coolidge at his inauguration on March 4, 1925 in Washington.

  • Warren G. Harding (1921)

    The 29th American President, Warren Gamaliel Harding (1865 - 1923), delivering his inaugural address from a stand at the East portico of the Capitol building on March 4, 1921 in Washington.

  • Woodrow Wilson (1917)

    This general view shows the second inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson on March 5, 1917 in Washington.

  • Woodrow Wilson (1913)

    Former American President William Howard Taft (1857 - 1930), right, and Woodrow Wilson (1856 - 1924), at Wilson's inauguration as the 28th President of the United States of America.

  • William Howard Taft (1909)

    William Howard Taft at his inauguration on March 4, 1909 in Washington.

  • Theodore Roosevelt (1905)

    The inauguration of President Theodore Roosevelt, 1905.

  • William McKinley (1901)

    American President William McKinley (1843 - 1901) leaving for the Capitol for his inauguration for a second term.

  • William McKinley (1897)

    In this image provided by the Library of Congress Major William McKinley takes his oath of office during the 1897 inauguration in Washington.

  • Grover Cleveland (1893)

    President Grover Cleveland reads his inaugural address from the steps of the Capitol building on March 4, 1893 in Washington.

  • Benjamin Harrison (1889)

    This drawing depicts the inauguration of Benjamin Harrison as he takes the oath of office on March 4, 1889 in Washington.

  • James Garfield (1881)

    This general view shows the inauguration of James A. Garfield, the nation's 20th president, on March 4, 1881 in Washington.

  • Rutherford B. Hayes (1877)

    The public inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes takes place in front of the U.S. Capitol on March 5, 1877 in Washington, D.C.

  • Ulysses S. Grant (1873)

    This artist's rendition shows the second inauguration for Ulysses S. Grant as he takes the oath of office on March 4, 1873 in Washington.

  • Ulysses S. Grant (1869)

    Photo shows Inauguration Day, March 4, 1869, when Ulysses S. Grant took the oath of office as the 18th President of the United States.

  • Abraham Lincoln (1865)

    A scene in front of the East front of the U.S. Capitol is seen during President Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration, 1865, just six weeks before his assassination.

  • Abraham Lincoln (1861)

    Abraham Lincoln takes the oath of office as the 16th president of the United States on March 4, 1861 in Washington.

  • James Buchanan (1857)

    President James Buchanan delivers his address after being sworn in as the 15th president of the United States on March 4, 1857 in Washington.