After late inaugural balls, Obama begins day with interfaith service" title="After late inaugural balls, Obama begins day with interfaith service" width="187" height="130" align="left" />Washington - After dancing at inaugural balls well into the night, President Barack Obama and wife Michelle were up early Wednesday morning for a broad interfaith prayer service that included leaders from four different faiths.
The pallette of ethnic and religious identities went beyond the 220-year-old tradition of the post-inaugural service, with remarks from Uma Mysorekar of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, two Jewish Rabbis and several Christian pastors.
Obama had requested the broadened service at the National Cathedral, an Episcopal church that is seen as the spiritual home of the country. He even included "non-believers" in his inaugural speech Tuesday.
"Our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness," Obama said. "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers."
Reverend Carol Wade, a canon at the cathedral, told the Washington Post that the prayer service was updated to include Obama's embrace of religious liberalism.
"We felt it was time to take a fresh look at the prayers," she said.
By all expectations, the new president will need all the spiritual help he can get as he grapples with a year-long recession and two wars. Later Wednesday, he was to meet with his economic advisors even as his nominee for Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, underwent confirmation hearings in the Senate.
Just hours after his inauguration, Obama ordered the suspension of prosecutions at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, following up on his promise to phase out the controversial prison that is a lightning rod for criticism at home and abroad.
Also later Wednesday, the White House was to open its doors to ordinary people who responded to an e-mail from Obama's inaugural committee offering the privilege.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, tourists may no longer enter the White House except on a very strictly controlled basis. In the early days of the country, the doors were opened to everyone with food and drink after the inauguration. But after Abraham Lincoln's 1865 inaugural, guests stole silver and draperies, and the practice had faded out.
Obama began the day with 10 minutes alone in the Oval office, where outgoing president George W Bush had left him the traditional letter, in an envelope marked "To: #44, From: #43," Obama's press secretary Robert Gibbs said in an emailed statement.
The numbers refer to the fact that Obama is now the nation's 44th president.
Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel then discussed Wednesday's schedule of events, followed by a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama at 9:10 am, Gibbs said.
Michelle's inaugural wardrobe, designed by little-known, young, foreign-born designers, has already sent a message to the country and the world.
The yellow sheath and matching coat which she wore to the swearing-in and parade was designed by Isabel Toledo. The Cuban-born designer told CNN she didn't know the first lady would choose her outfit until she got a call from Michelle's mother, Marian Robinson, telling her to turn on the television and watch Michelle emerging for Tuesday morning's church service.
Jason Wu, 26, who was born in Taiwan, designed the ivory one-strap gown of silk chiffon which Michelle wore to the ten inaugural balls.
The choices have fashion writers scrambling - the New York Times put the story on its front page - and comparing the statuesque Michelle, who is 1.79 metres tall, and her influence on the fashion community, to that of the late Jackie Kennedy, the first lady in the early 1960s.
Michelle's wardrobe also signalled confidence in the American fashion industry.
All told, Tuesday was a long day for the Obamas and their daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, who wore J Crew outfits to the inauguration. The girls' dresses and coats created such a stir that the retailer's website crashed Tuesday night as shoppers tried to grab duplicates, MSNBC reported.
After the first couple walked part of the way in icy wind with the post-inaugural parade to take up residence in the White House, the family started watching the show from a special enclosure in front.
But with individual bands or floats from each of the 50 states, night fell on the four-hour-long parade and the daughters disappeared shortly after reaching the White House.
Michelle and Barack Obama, however, stayed until the very end, smiling and waving like royalty.