Obama Express Pulls Into Home Station

President-elect chats with invited guests on last leg of whistle-stop tour.

ByABC News
January 15, 2009, 6:46 PM

Jan. 17, 2009— -- Three speeches and 137 miles later, President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden ended their symbolic, nearly nine-hour whistle-stop train tour at Washington, D.C.'s Union Station this evening, arriving one step closer to the presidency.

On the last leg of the journey, from Baltimore to the nation's capital, the Obamas kicked back and joked with their companions on the train.

When Michelle Obama hyped her husband's inauguration speech, Obama replied: "That's not what you're supposed to say in front of the press! ... You're supposed to say it'll be all right!"

The Obamas and Bidens were at the time talking to some of the 16 special invited guests and their family members, people whose personal stories of struggle touched them during the campaign.

"You're never too old to toot the horn," Obama told the car full of eager invited guests. "You pull it and 'Choo, choo.'"

He also recalled his April 2008 train tour fondly, saying that his campaign "wasn't going that well at that point" but it was "liberating," he said, to stand on the train and watch the landscape pass by.

"It was actually one of my favorite times on the campaign," Obama added.

When someone asked Michelle what she was looking forward to the most during the inaugural festivities, Obama replied, "She wants to hear the swearing-in. She's heard me speak before. She wants to hear some of the concerts."

In Baltimore, where the last public event of the day was held, the president-elect came full circle in the final and most important speech of the tour. He invoked the founding fathers and the U.S. struggle for independence in a speech attended by thousands of people. The president-elect hit on many of the same themes he had expressed at the start of his train tour this morning in Philadelphia.

"We are here today not simply to pay tribute to those patriots who founded our nation in Philadelphia or defended it in Baltimore, but to take up the cause for which they gave so much. The trials we face are very different now, but they're severe in their own right. Only a handful of times in our history has a generation been confronted with challenges so vast," Obama said to an audience in which many tears could be seen.

Repeating some passages from his earlier speech, Obama called for "perseverance and idealism" and the need for a "new declaration of independence."

"What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives and in our own hearts -- from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry -- an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels," Obama said against the cold backdrop of Baltimore's historic War Memorial Plaza.

Counterbalancing a tone of cautious optimism, the president-elect warned of challenges ahead and that things could get worse before they got better -- a point he has made in many recent addresses.