Don't Stop Believin'

Obama plots liberal 'journey' for America in partisan second inaugural address

Obama inauguration / AP
January 21, 2013

An invigorated President Barack Obama presented a roadmap to remake America during his second inaugural address on Monday.

Obama swore his second and final oath of office before a noticeably smaller, yet still eager, crowd of hundreds of thousands who crowded across the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Obama took to the podium following several musical performances and speeches to address what he said are America’s myriad and ongoing crises.

Global warming, the ailing middle class, the social safety net, and healthcare all received mentions in Obama’s second inaugural address, which highlighted the president’s left-of-center second term agenda without offering any concrete proposals.

"We, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it," Obama said.

"We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class," he said. "We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship."

Obama concentrated on civil rights and inequality, arguing on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that America remains unjust on many fronts.

"Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law—for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well," Obama said.

"Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country," he said.

"Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm," Obama said.

The president also vowed to strengthen the country’s social safety net, reminding Americans that their reliance on government-sponsored programs does "not make us a nation of takers."

"We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity," Obama said. "We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future."

"The commitments we make to each other—through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security—these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us," Obama said. "They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great." Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security threaten to consume the entirety of the federal budget if nothing is done to reduce the cost of health care.

Global warming also received a prominent mention in the president’s speech.

"We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations," Obama said.

"Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms," he said. "The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it."

Failure to properly address global warming could harm the nation’s economy, Obama said.

"We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries—we must claim its promise," he said. "That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure—our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God."

Obama claimed to favor peace and promised to support burgeoning democracies across the globe, including the Middle East.

"We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war," Obama said. "Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty."

"The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm," he said. "But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well."

America will "support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom," Obama said.

Obama claimed early on that "a decade of war is now ending" and that "an economic recovery has begun."

There was no mention of America’s possible intervention in Syria’s bloody civil war, Iran’s nuclear arms program, the developing crisis in Mali, or the deadly hostage standoff in Algeria.

Prior to Obama’s address an assortment of musicians and politicians entertained the crowd.

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir provided a rousing rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, which earned them plaudits across Twitter and elsewhere.

Aging songster James Taylor offered a less enthusiastic performance of America the Beautiful.

Monday’s ceremony marked the 57th presidential inauguration.

Beyoncé Knowles performed the national anthem after the president's address.