CARS HOMES JOBS

Obama: Time to act

Energy use, gay rights invoked at inauguration

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Text Size: A | A

President Barack Obama waves after his speech while Vice President Joe Biden applauds at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013.
President Barack Obama waves after his speech while Vice President Joe Biden applauds at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013.

— Turning the page on years of war and recession, President Barack Obama summoned a divided nation Monday to act with “passion and dedication” to broaden equality and prosperity at home, nurture democracy around the world and combat global warming as he embarked on a second term before a vast and cheering crowd that spilled down the historic National Mall.

“America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands,” the 44th president declared in a second inaugural address that broke new ground by assigning gay rights a prominent place in the wider struggle for equality for all.

In a unity plea to politicians and the nation at large, he called for “collective action” to confront challenges and said, “Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time — but it does require us to act in our time.”

Elected four years ago as America’s first black president, Obama spoke from specially constructed flag-bedecked stands outside the Capitol after reciting the oath of office that all presidents have uttered since the nation’s founding.

The events highlighted a day replete with all the fanfare that a security-minded capital could muster — from white-gloved Marine trumpeters who heralded the arrival of dignitaries on the inaugural stands to the midwinter orange flowers that graced the tables at a traditional lunch with lawmakers inside the Capitol.

The weather was relatively warm, in the mid-40s, and while the crowd was not as large as on Inauguration Day four years ago, it was estimated at up to 1 million.

It was big enough that he turned around as he was leaving the inaugural stands to savor the view one final time.

“I’m not going to see this again,” said the man whose political career has been meteoric — from the Illinois Legislature to the U.S. Senate and the White House before marking his 48th birthday.

On a day of renewal for democracy, everyone seemed to have an opinion, and many seemed eager to share it.

“I’m just thankful that we’ve got another four years of democracy that everyone can grow in,” said Wilbur Cole, 52, a postman from suburban Memphis, Tenn., who spent part of the day visiting the civil rights museum there at the site where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

King’s Bible

The inauguration this year shared the day with King’s birthday holiday, and the president used a Bible that had belonged to the civil rights leader for the swearing-in, along with a second one that been Abraham Lincoln’s. The president also paused inside the Capitol Rotunda to gaze at a dark bronze statue of King.

Others watching at a distance were less upbeat than Cole. Frank Pinto, 62, and an unemployed construction contractor, took in the inaugural events on television at a bar in Hartford, Conn. He said because of the president’s policies, “My grandkids will be in debt and their kids will be in debt.”

The tone was less overtly political in the nation’s capital, where bipartisanship was on the menu in the speechmaking and at the congressional lunch.

“Congratulations and Godspeed,” House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, said to Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he presented them with flags that had flown atop the Capitol.

Outside, the Inaugural Parade took shape, a reflection of American musicality and diversity that featured military units, bands, floats, the Chinese American Community Center Folk Dance Troupe from Hockessin, Del., and the Isiserettes Drill & Drum Corps from Des Moines, Iowa.

The crowds were several rows deep along parts of the route, and security was intense.

More than a dozen vehicles flanked the president’s limousine as it rolled down Pennsylvania Avenue, and several agents walked alongside on foot.

As recent predecessors have, the president emerged from his car and walked several blocks on foot. His wife, Michelle, was with him, and the two held hands while acknowledging the cheers from well-wishers during two separate strolls along the route.

A short time later, accompanied by their children and the vice president and his family, the first couple settled in to view the parade from a reviewing stand built in front of the White House.

A pair of nighttime inaugural balls completed the official proceedings, with a guest line running into the tens of thousands.

In his 18-minute speech, Obama did not dwell on the most pressing challenges of the past four years. He barely mentioned the struggle to reduce the federal deficit.

He spoke up for the poor — “Our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it” — and for those on the next-higher rung — “We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.” The second reference echoed his calls from the presidential campaign that catapulted him to re-election

“A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun,” said the president who presided over the end to the U.S. combat role in Iraq, set a timetable for doing the same in Afghanistan and took office when the worst recession in decades was still deepening.

“We 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,” he said in a relatively brief reference to foreign policy.

 
Share story: print print email email facebook facebook reddit reddit

comments

Log-in to post a comment.
 

columnists & blogs


Log into Dailygazette.com

Forgot Password?

Subscribe

Username:
Password: