In a less high-flown more pragmatic speech than he delivered four years ago, President Obama urged Americans during his second inaugural speech on Jan. 21 to take collective action to solve the nation’s myriad problems.
Under a clear blue sky, with temperatures hovering in the mid-40s, hundreds of thousands of men and women gathered on the west side of the U.S. Capitol to see their president sworn in for a second term. The picture of poise and confidence, Obama took the opportunity to encourage Americans to unite in a mission to improve their nation.
Though the debate over gun control rages on Capitol Hill and the nation barely avoided the dire consequences that would have resulted from a failure to compromise on tax hikes and spending cuts, on the occasion of the 57th Inauguration, the commander-in-chief sought to rally the nation to work together.
“Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people,” he said.
A generation of Americans had, together, been “tested” by various crises, he said. And, it was only as one people that the nation could overcome and thrive.
“A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention.
“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together,” the president said.
In the relatively short, 18-minute speech, made just minutes after he took the oath of office for the second time, the president focused on the themes of meeting the requirements of democracy and citizenship. But, he also referenced some of the issues to be taken up in his second term and his guiding principles in addressing those concerns.
The economy continues to be a principal focus and the nation must make “hard choices” to reduce the debilitating cost of health care and the crippling federal deficit, the president said. “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 president also directly addressed climate change—an issue that saw little to no legislative progress during Obama’s first four years in the White House. “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” he said.
The president also referenced immigration and gun control and his continuing commitment to ending the wars in the Middle East and to advancing the use of diplomacy in U.S. foreign policy.
Americans “still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war,” he said, adding that his administration would “show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.”
The teeming crowd, which stretched out along the National Mall, cheered loudest, however, when Obama said the nation's journey remained incomplete "until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts," and "until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law."