President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after delivering his inaugural address during the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 21, 2013. (Photo : Reuters)
President Barack Obama's second inaugural address spoke to troubled times and a government bound by partisan bickering.
His remarks sought a way above the fray, pointing out the challenges he faces in his second term in office without pointing fingers at his political opponents.
He spoke of unity and camaraderie, of common dreams and hopes.
"Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action," he said. "For the American people can no more meet the demands of today's world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we'll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people."
He added, "My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it - so long as we seize it together."
While Obama avoided hard numbers and facts, he did offer glimpses of policies he hopes to pursue over the next four years, assuming he can get any traction with Republicans in Congress.
"We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect," said Obama, in a not-so-subtle dig at conservative obstructionists.
The president reaffirmed his support for the social safety net, but left open the possibility of reforming it.
"We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own," he said.
"We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher."
Obama called out the programs of the New Deal and acknowledged the burden of health care costs, while addressing the accusations of fiscal conservatives and the Tea Party.
"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. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great."
The president also mentioned climate change, noting it as scientific fact. "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. 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.
He also called for equality for gays and lesbians, as well as the legalization of same-sex marriage.
"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."
He called for equal pay for women. "Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts."
And he called for immigration reform. "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."
And he ended his address with a call for Americans to exercise not only the rights but the responsibilities of citizenship, a word choice that may hint at his plans for immigration reform in the future.