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  Obama: Challenges Real, But 'They Will Be Met'January 20, 1998 12:04 Barack Obama delivered a sobering assessment of where America stands and a hopeful vision of what it can become during his inaugural address as the nation's 44th president.

"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time," Obama told those gathered on the National Mall -- a crowd estimated at about 2 million -- and millions more watching on television and the Internet.

"But know this, America -- they will be met," he said.

Obama acknowledged the "nagging fear" of an imminent decline of the U.S. He firmly asserted that Americans were up to reversing the trends spawning that fear, whether they be social, economic or political.

"Greatness is never a given. It must be earned," he said, further proclaiming that people who question the scale of U.S. ambitions "have forgotten what this country has already done."

His administration will "begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan," Obama said, adding that he intends to engage the Muslim world in a "new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."