Then it was back to business as usual: the dissemination of widely divergent views on what people had just seen for themselves.
ABC, CBS and NBC, along with the cable news networks, cast aside regular programming on Monday to carry the ceremonial swearing-in and Obama's inaugural address. It didn't carry the same sense of history that Obama's first inauguration did. In 2009, even ESPN and MTV covered the swearing-in. This year, ESPN stuck to talk about the upcoming Super Bowl, and MTV aired "Catfish: The TV Show."
Until the ceremony actually began, the networks were all challenged with the television equivalent of vamping for time. On MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell interviewed singer John Legend, who noted that one of his songs was on Obama's Spotify playlist. NBC discussed first lady Michelle Obama's new hairstyle.
"Well, what else are we going to talk about?" anchor Brian Williams said apologetically.
Obama's inaugural address lasted about 18 minutes, seemingly only slightly longer than the inaugural poem and definitely shorter than the evaluations of on-air pundits paid to dissect it.
CBS veteran Washington hand Bob Schieffer, sifting through a transcript of Obama's speech after it was delivered, said he "didn't hear a line that kind of sums it all up.
"I felt during much of the speech, I felt like I was listening to a Democratic Ronald Reagan," said ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl. "Where Reagan was unabashedly conservative, Obama was unabashedly progressive."
While Karl's colleague, conservative commentator George Will, said too much of the speech reprised campaign themes, he found links in language used by Obama and inaugural addresses by Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.
On CNN, historian and Obama biographer David Marannis said Obama's address was much more positive and active than his first inaugural speech four years ago. "I could feel his heart beating this time," he said.
Chris Matthews said on MSNBC that parts of the speech were "going to drive the right crazy." A click away on the TV remote at Fox News Channel, analyst Charles Krauthammer was proving it.
"I found this sort of unrelenting," Krauthammer said. "You get a sense of a man who said, 'Alright, I've won my second election. I never have to face the electorate again. I'm going to be who I want to be, and I'm going to change the ideological trajectory of this country. That's my job, and that's why I'm here historically.'"
Fox's Brit Hume drew a joking rebuke from a colleague when the camera showed a picture of Beyonce, and he said, "She looks stunning, doesn't she?"
"Watch out," Chris Wallace quickly said. "Brent Musburger got in trouble for that, my friend." After the recent college football national championship, ESPN announcer Musburger was scolded by his bosses for lingering on the beauty of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron's girlfriend, the 2012 Miss Alabama USA.
Beyonce "is an incredibly beautiful woman, and there's nothing wrong with pointing it out," Fox's Megyn Kelly said.
When the inauguration festivities moved indoors and cameras panned over politicians circling through the crowd, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow struck a note that a regular cable news viewer might question as too hopeful.
"I think the ceremony is cool, and the usual celebration is cool," she said. "It is also really nice to see Republicans and Democrats, and liberals and conservatives, chatting very casually with each other without talking politics."
As she spoke, the cameras focused on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts smiling but standing alone.