In contrast to the jubilance that surrounded the first time he swore the oath of office, the tenor surrounding President Barack Obama’s second inauguration ceremony was reserved and somber, a tone which was reflected in his remarks to the thousands outside the steps of the capital.
Today’s ceremony, which started at around midday, was purely for a formality for the public. Both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were both officially sworn into office yesterday, at a small ceremony inside the White House.
However, the reelected commander in chief still used the event as a platform, to present the socially progressive agenda he hopes to implement over his final four years in the Oval Office.
On the same day that the nation celebrates the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr., the 44th President of the United States focused his speech on the same idea the famed civil rights activist fought for nearly fifty years earlier: equality for all Americans.
Obama opened his remarks by echoing the oft-repeated words written by the country’s forefathers in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal.
“Today we continue a never ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time,” Obama said. “For history tell us, that while these truths may be self evident, they are not self executing. That while these freedoms may be a gift from God, they must be secured by his people here on Earth.”
Obama spoke on reducing the economic gap between the super wealthy and lower income households, in hopes of leveling the playing field for all citizens. The president said that he hoped that one day, a young girl from an impoverished neighborhood could have the same opportunities as someone with a more privileged background.
“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 shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that American thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work.”
Obama’s message of justice wasn’t limited to just the state of one’s economic status. The president also called for equal treatment for gay and lesbian citizens and immigrants, two groups which still lack many social rights compared to other Americans.
“That is our generation’s task, to make these words, these rights, these values, of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, real for every American,” he said.
Obama also called for greater action on climate change, another important social issue. Addressing skeptics of the phenomenon, Obama said that the overwhelming evidence of global warming from the scientific community, in addition to the increase of forest fires and destructive superstorms in recent years, compel the nation to act on the behalf of future generations.
“The path toward sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult,” he said. “But American must not avoid this transition. It must lead it.”
Though he kept his message broad and clear of partisan talking points, the Democrat did make a subtle jab at Congress, whose membership has been in intense debate in recent weeks over the raising of the nation’s debt ceiling.
“For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay,” Obama said. “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name calling as reasoned debate. We must act.”
One subject that Obama didn’t broach in his remarks today was that of gun control, one week removed from his signing of 23 executive actions to address the issue in light of last month’s Sandy Hook massacre.
The shift in tone from Obama’s remarks this year compared to four years is reflective of the radical changes the country has undergone between the two. On the brink of economic ruin in 2008, the US job market is now on the mend. Stuck in two wars in 2008, the US has completely exited Iraq and is in the process of pulling out of Afghanistan.
Despite these changes, the president still called upon a similar theme that many of his predecessors have done on the same platform: a call for unity in the nation’s spirit, regardless of differences in political ideology.
“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment,” Obama said. “We can sieze it, as long as we sieze it together”
<em>Ted Yoakum is the political reporter for the Western Herald. He can reached via <a href=”mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”>email</a>, <a href=”http://www.twitter.com/therealgyokes”>Twitter</a>, or by phone at 269-588-1040.</em>