When President Obama announced his candidacy on the steps of the Old State Capital in Springfield, Illinois, only two years ago, he admitted to the assembled audience, "I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness - a certain audacity - to this announcement."
At the time, there certainly was. Few believed he could beat a formidable cast of primary contenders, let alone win in a general election. Few people, that is, except for Obama himself, ever-confident, and his circle of friends and advisers.
Over the past eighteen months, as Americans watched Obama run an unusually smooth, near-flawless presidential campaign, and an equally efficient transition period, most observers have been struck by his seemingly preternatural confidence, his ability to remain calm and collected beneath the world's harshest spotlight.
President Obama's unflappable character is about to be tested over the next four years. If there's any job to make a person crack under pressure, he's got it.
From his predecessor, former president George W. Bush, Obama has inherited a recession, two wars, a broken health care system, an eroded respect for the environment and civil liberties, and the ill-will of countless nations that have seen the United States impose its will with impunity across the globe for nearly a decade.
Faced with such grave problems, Obama made a public show during the transition of studying the experiences of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lincoln, the two presidents who shepherded the country through its darkest post-revolutionary times.
Perhaps taking his cue from them, in recent speeches Obama has been careful to warn that the country's problems are too big to be solved in a year, or even in several, while in the same breath seeking to bolster American confidence just at a time when people need reassurance the most.
The inauguration address offered more of the even-keeled same, sprinkled in with some important breaks from Bush administration policy, most notably Obama's direct call for a new era of friendship with the greater Muslim world.
The moment offered a hint of the president Obama would like to become: efficient, open-minded and, of course, self-assured. With so much at stake, hopefully President Obama will rise to the occasion.