President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington Monday during the inaugural parade after his ceremonial swearing-in on Capitol Hill during the 57th presidential inauguration.
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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama urged Americans on Monday to reject political "absolutism" and partisan rancor as he kicked off his second term with a call for national unity, setting a pragmatic tone for the daunting challenges he faces over the next four years.
Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice,
members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional -- what makes us American -- is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
?We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.?
Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they?ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. (Applause.) The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
And for more than two hundred years, we have.
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life?s worst hazards and misfortune.
Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society?s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.
But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. 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. (Applause.)
This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. (Applause.) An economic recovery has begun. (Applause.) 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. (Applause.)
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. (Applause.) We believe that America?s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. 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. 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. (Applause.)
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So 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, reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.
We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. 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. (Applause.) For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.
We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. (Applause.) They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. (Applause.)
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. (Applause.) 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.
The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That?s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That?s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. (Applause.) Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. (Applause.) 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. 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.
We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully ?- not because we are na?ve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. (Applause.)
America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. 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. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice ?- not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths ?- that all of us are created equal ?- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. (Applause.)
It is now our generation?s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law ?- (applause) -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. (Applause.) 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 -- (applause) -- until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. (Applause.) 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.
That is our generation?s task -- to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. 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. (Applause.)
For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. (Applause.) We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today?s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction. And we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.
They are the words of citizens and they represent our greatest hope. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country?s course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time -- not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals. (Applause.)
Let us, each of us, now embrace with solemn duty and awesome joy what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.
Thank you. God bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.
Obama's ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol was filled with traditional pomp and pageantry, but it was a scaled-back inauguration compared to the historic start of his presidency in 2009 when he swept into office on a mantle of hope and change as America's first black president
With second-term expectations tempered by lingering economic weakness and the political realities of a divided Washington, Obama acknowledged the difficult road ahead even as he sought to build momentum from his decisive November re-election victory.
"We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate," Obama said as he stood in the wintry cold atop a giant makeshift platform on the Capitol steps overlooking the National Mall.
Looking out on a sea of flags, he spoke to a crowd of up to 700,000 people, less than half the record 1.8 million who assembled four years ago.
Obama arrived at his second inauguration on solid footing, with his poll numbers up, Republicans on the defensive and his first-term record boasting accomplishments such as a U.S. healthcare overhaul, ending the war in Iraq and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
But battles are looming over budgets, gun control and immigration, with Republicans ready to oppose him at almost every turn and Obama still seemingly at a loss over how to engage them in deal-making.
SECOND TIME TAKING OATH
When Obama raised his right hand and was sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, it was his second time taking the oath in 24 hours - but this time with tens of millions of people watching on television.
The president beamed as chants of "Obama, Obama!" rang out from the crowd.
Obama had a formal swearing-in on Sunday at the White House because of a constitutional requirement that the president take the oath on Jan. 20. Rather than stage the full inauguration on a Sunday, the main public events were put off until Monday.
A second inauguration marked another milestone of political passage for Obama, the Hawaiian-born son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas. An electrifying speech at the 2004 Democratic convention as a little-known Illinois state legislator lifted him to the national stage, putting him on a rapid trajectory to the U.S. Senate and a few years later the White House.
Obama, 51, his hair visibly grayed over the past four years, sought to reassure Americans at the mid-point of his presidency and encourage them to help him take care of unfinished business. His wide-ranging speech touched on a variety of issues, including climate change and Middle East democracy uprisings.
Obama, who won a second term by defeating Republican Mitt Romney after a bitter campaign, opened round two facing many of the same problems that dogged his first term: persistently high unemployment, crushing government debt and a deep partisan divide. The war in Afghanistan, which Obama is winding down, has dragged on for over a decade.
From Politico, the 10 top lines from the president's speech:
- “We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago.”
- “For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”
- “We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.”
- “My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.”
- “But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.”
- "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."
- “But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.”
- “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.”
- “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
- “You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.”
Some facts about presidential inaugurations
President Barack Obama will celebrate his public inauguration ceremony on Monday as he starts his second term in office. Here are some facts about U.S. presidential inaugurations.
Obama is taking the oath of office twice.
His first, official, swearing-in took place in a short ceremony at the White House on Sunday, the constitutionally mandated date of Jan. 20. Because that date fell this year on a weekend, when courts and public offices were closed, the grander, public ceremony at the U.S. Capitol will be held on Monday.
Obama was sworn in twice in 2009 because Chief Justice John Roberts fumbled one of the words in the public ceremony. The two men recited the oath again in the White House the following day, to dismiss any questions whether Obama had been properly sworn in.
On Monday, Obama will become the first president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to be sworn in four times. Roosevelt was elected president four times - in 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944 - before the U.S. president was limited to two terms. Roosevelt died in office in 1945.
Obama will place his left hand on two Bibles when he is being sworn in on Monday. As he did in 2009, he will use a Bible once owned by President Abraham Lincoln. This year Obama is adding another one: the "traveling Bible" used by civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in 1968.
First lady Michelle Obama will hold the Bibles, one on top of the other. Barack Obama will use a Bible from his wife's family when he is officially sworn in at the White House on Sunday. For his swearing-in ceremonies, Vice President Joe Biden will use a Bible with a Celtic cross on the front; the book has been in his family for 120 years.
The high temperature in Washington on Monday is expected to be in the low 40s Fahrenheit, with mostly sunny skies. That's considerably warmer than the temperature for the coldest inauguration on record, for Ronald Reagan in 1985. Temperatures plunged to 7 Fahrenheit (-14 Celsius) with a wind chill of -20 F (-29 C), forcing Reagan to take the oath of office indoors, in the U.S. Capitol. The inaugural parade along Pennsylvania Avenue was canceled that year.
In one of the most bizarre moments of an inauguration, actor and rodeo trick rider Montie Montana, dressed as a cowboy, rode up on a horse and lassoed President Dwight Eisenhower, who was watching his 1953 inaugural parade from the reviewing stand near the White House. Eisenhower stood with the rope around him, smiling awkwardly.
Obama will ride in a presidential limousine bearing Washington, D.C., license plates that have the phrase "Taxation Without Representation." The motto is part of a long-running protest campaign by the city (population about 618,000). Despite paying federal taxes, Washington residents are represented in Congress only by a non-voting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives. Until now, Obama's limousine has carried less politically sensitive Washington license plates, stamped only with the website address of the District of Columbia government.
In 1961, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and city workers used flamethrowers and other equipment to clear heavy snow from John F. Kennedy's inaugural parade route.
In a nod to the tough economic times, Obama's second inauguration will feature just two official balls, rather than the 10 that were held in 2009. Both will take place at the Washington Convention Center on Monday night.
More than 35,000 guests are expected to attend the bigger ball, where Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Katy Perry and Mexican rock band Mana will perform. The other ball is for 4,000 military members, their families and veterans.
It will not be an austere inauguration for some. Wealthy guests can stay four nights during inauguration weekend in the presidential suite of the Mandarin Oriental hotel for $60,000. The price includes 24-hour butler service and a private dining room.
Near the White House, the Hay-Adams hotel is renting its largest suite for $7,900 a night. Before the 2009 inauguration, Obama and his family occupied a wing of the hotel before he was able to move into his new residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Lyndon B. Johnson was the only president who took the oath of office on an airplane, on Nov. 22, 1963. He was aboard Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas, about to fly back to Washington after President John F. Kennedy's assassination earlier that day. The casket containing Kennedy's body also was aboard the plane.
Washington officials expect up to 800,000 people to attend the inauguration on Monday, less than the estimated 1.8 million who attended in 2009.