Obama: ‘The Power to Set This Country’s Course’

Photograph by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The 57th inauguration of an American president. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

President Barack Obama, rallying an aspiring post-war nation with a call for harmony at home, infused his inaugural address with soft-pedaled challenges for political adversaries and a strong reaffirmation of his party’s causes in his final term.

“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,” Obama said in his second inaugural address before the U.S. Capitol on a chilly and overcast day in Washington.

“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,” he said. “Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.”

“A decade of war is now ending,” he said. “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 issued a thinly veiled challenge to Republican leaders of Congress pressing for cuts in social welfare programs in the balancing of the federal budget:

“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.  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.”

He addressed a challenge that few in Washington are confronting today:

“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.  The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.”

He spoke of a post-war vision:

“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 naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.”

He spoke of a long quest for freedom and rights:

“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.”

“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.  Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.  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 spoke of one of the toughest battles he faces in the months ahead:

“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.”

He closed with a challenge for all:

“You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course,” the president said. “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.”

 

 

 

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