(The Root) — With the final inaugural ball finally wrapped up and all of the out-of-town attendees headed back home today, The Root decided to take a look back at the highs and lows of President Obama's second inauguration.
High: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday
Hollywood could not have scripted it better. On the day the nation celebrated the life and legacy of its most revered African-American civil rights activist, the ceremonial swearing-in of the country's first black president for his second term took place. The legacy of King hung over all of the inaugural festivities — including when Stevie Wonder performed his signature "Happy Birthday" at an inaugural ball.
High: Michelle Obama's Wardrobe
If anyone has any doubts about how much America loved the first lady's blue jacquard Thom Browne coat and dress, consider this: Browne's website was so overloaded after he was identified as the designer, people had difficulty getting on it for hours. She also returned to Jason Wu, who designed her gown four years ago, only unlike last time's demure white, this time she sported fire-engine red. Last inaugural, Michelle Obama looked like a first lady, but this inaugural she looked like the First Lady of Fierce.
Low: Beyoncé's Wardrobe
She received raves for her performance of the national anthem (though it was later alleged that she lip-synched), but the pop diva's choice of dress for the occasion seemed more fitting for the Grammys than for the inauguration. The floor-length, embroidered, sheer-sleeved gown that she donned made many of us miss Aretha Franklin's unforgettable hat.
High: Obama Takes It All In — One Last Time
While exiting the stage after his second public inauguration ceremony, President Obama lingered to catch one last look, saying, "I want to take a look one more time. I'm not going to see this again." The moment and image became one of the most poignant of the day.
Low: Chuck Schumer Sparks a Meme
As chair of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, Democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer was destined to play a major role in Monday's inaugural activities. Unfortunately for him, he may not be remembered for that role in the way he'd hoped. Schumer is so notorious for his love of the cameras that, as reported by a number of outlets, there is a common Washington joke: "The most dangerous place in Washington is between New York's senior senator and a camera." His camera loving (some might call hogging) was on display in full force during the inaugural festivities, sparking endless ribbing in cyberspace and culminating in this priceless image, sure to start a meme.
High: The First Couple's Kiss
One thing that even political foes of the president have conceded is that the first family represents America very well. From the attractive and clearly in-love first couple to the adorable first daughters, they are without question a lovely, all-American family. When the president and first lady went in for a spontaneous Inaugural Day smooch, thanks to their awesome kids, hilarity and a lot of "awwwws" ensued. Watch it here.
High: President Obama's Speech
Filled with platitudes and light on specifics, President Obama's inaugural address from four years ago is widely considered one of his least memorable, and certainly not one of his best. His second inaugural address, however, will likely be remembered as just as important to his legacy as his star-making speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.
The president made history by being the first commander in chief to champion gays and lesbians in his inaugural speech. He also spoke passionately about a number of issues, from immigration to climate change. If anyone assumed that this president was prepared to accept lame-duck status and a more passive approach in his second term, this speech erased any such speculation.
High: Chief Justice John Roberts Doesn't Flub the Oath
By some counts, President Obama has enjoyed four inaugurations, to most other presidents' one or two. The reason? Four years ago a mishap on the part of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts warranted doing the whole thing over in another private ceremony after the public swearing-in. This year, Jan. 20 (the designated official Inauguration Day) fell on a Sunday, so although the official ceremony was held then, the public ceremony took place on Monday. While the president hesitated a little during his oath, overall it was smooth sailing this fourth time around.
High: Myrlie Evers-Williams' Invocation
When the widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers took to the stage, many were wowed by her youthful appearance. It simply didn't seem possible that this face had lived through some of the darkest days of America so many years ago. But when she spoke, the audience were also wowed by her eloquence, her courage and the spirit with which she imbued the entire ceremony. She set the tone in an extraordinary way.
Low: The Inaugural Poem
Unbeknownst to many younger Americans, a poem is not a standard part of the official inaugural ceremony. Initially introduced by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, the inclusion of poetry was revived by President Bill Clinton in 1993 with Maya Angelou's "On the Pulse of Morning." While President Obama's selection of Richard Blanco, an openly gay Latino poet, was historic, the most memorable parts of Blanco's poem (among them his reference to the Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy) read more like a political speech, which raises the question, do we really need more speeches at the inauguration?
But the larger question Blanco's poem raised is, how important is it to include an increasingly unpopular art form (poetry readership in America is at a 16-year low) in the festivities of such a historic day? The question is certainly being pondered by some of Monday's inaugural audience, but probably by no one as much as one of the president's most vociferous foes, whose facial expression during the poem spoke volumes.
High: Kelly Clarkson Performing for a President She May Not Support
American Idol winner-turned-pop star Kelly Clarkson wowed many with her rousing rendition of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" at President Obama's inauguration. But the biggest surprise of her performance is that it happened at all. Clarkson sparked controversy by professing her adoration for Republican candidate and avowed libertarian Ron Paul during the 2012 election.
Though she claimed to have supported President Obama in 2008, her appreciation of Paul seemed to represent a political transformation on her part. Yet on Inauguration Day, she set aside her own politics to help the country celebrate the second term of a man whose policies she may not entirely agree with but who represents all of us, regardless of our party affiliation, politics or policy positions.
High: Michelle Obama's Bangs
How could they not make the list? The most-talked-about participant in this year's inauguration festivities was not the president but his wife's new do. Proving yet again what a smart man he is, the president commented during his official Sunday swearing-in: "First of all, I love Michelle Obama. And to address the most significant event of this weekend, I love her bangs."
High: Michelle Obama's Side-Eye
Much has already been written about the first lady's amusing reaction to being seated near one of her husband's greatest political adversaries, Republican House Speaker John Boehner. Some call it a "side-eye." Some call it an "eye roll." We'll just call it pure magic. Watch it here.
High: The Weather
Four years ago the weather for the first Obama inaugural left a lot to be desired — namely some sun, or at the very least some heaters and hot cocoa. The temperature was a frigid 28 degrees, leading the president to remark this year, "This one is going to be warmer."
This one was. It was still chilly, but nothing compared to the last inaugural. The sun even came out in time for the parade, making it a beautiful day. Proving that the president, and the crowd, clearly had more luck on their side than four years ago, practically as soon as the inauguration ended, the temperatures dropped to below freezing, and it was announced that a snowstorm was expected later in the week.
Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.