Obama says got "choked up" leaving Chicago

ABOARD A U.S. AIR FORCE JET (Reuters) - Barack Obama is not afraid to admit it -- he got a little emotional before leaving Chicago for Washington where he will soon become the next president of the United States.

President-elect Barack Obama steps aboard a military plane at Chicago Midway Airport January 4, 2009 before flying to Andrews Air Force Base near Washington. Obama is moving to Washington 16 days before being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States on January 20. REUTERS/Jason Reed

“I’ve got to say that I choked up a little bit leaving my house today,” said Obama, who will become the nation’s first black president when he takes office on January 20.

Obama, who will soon be dealing with a major economic crisis, two wars and renewed Middle East violence, took a moment to reflect before shutting the door of his house and heading off for his new life.

He said it hit him as he flipped through a photo album for his 10-year-old daughter Malia, which was given to her by one of her oldest friends.

“I just looked through the pages. The house was empty. It was a little tough. It got me,” he told reporters after boarding the Air Force Boeing 757 that would take him to Washington.

But after his sentimental farewell to their home, Obama headed to the airport to fly to Washington and join his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha, 7.

They arrived in Washington on Saturday to settle in to a hotel without the media entourage that follows Obama everywhere. Malia and Sasha start school on Monday.

Asked if he was excited about the move, Obama alluded to the grueling presidential campaign when he said: “Yeah, although living in a hotel for two weeks -- we kind of did that for two years.”

The Obamas will stay at the luxury Hay Adams Hotel across a park from the White House until January 15 when they move into Blair House, which serves as the official guest house and residence for presidents elect for several days before the inauguration.

Obama was already beginning to experience what it will be like to be a president.

He traveled aboard the military aircraft often used to fly Vice President Dick Cheney around.

Although the airplane was not called Air Force One because Obama is not yet president, it had all the trappings of the real thing: the presidential seal at the front of the plane, name cards with the presidential seal and cups and plates emblazoned with “Air Force One.”

Reporting by Deborah Charles, Editing by Jackie Frank