Washington, DC – President Barack Obama took the ceremonial oath of office on the steps of the US Capitol today (January 21) for his second term as US president and commander in chief, followed by watching the ceremonial parade and attendance at inaugural balls later in the evening.
The President told the American people to “seize the moment” in his inaugural address from Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, saying America’s possibilities were limitless as it emerged from a decade of war and a long economic crisis.
Obama, 51, who is the 44th US president, was sworn in for his second term by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
Nearly a million people attended the ceremony on the National Mall while former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, along with dozens of lawmakers and other dignitaries, attended the event.
On the domestic front, which has been plagued with political schisms during his first term, Obama said, “We, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”
Defending costly programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the president said, “These things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us.”
Without going into details, Obama outlined his policy statement for the next term, saying that the US must overhaul the tax code, reform its education system, revamp the voting system, ease immigration regulations and address climate change.
“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,” said the president.
“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 noted on the need for climate change policies.
On the gun violence which takes a deadly toll on innocent Americans, Obama said, “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,” referring to the town in Connecticut where 20 children and 6 adults were massacred in a shooting at a primary school last month.
The president affirmed the nation’s resolve to defend its people and uphold its values through both the “strength of arms and rule of law” – and with an arm extended to its friends as well as adversaries to help lay conditions for long-term peace.
“We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear,” he said.
Meanwhile, “America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe,” he said. “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.”
Obama urged the nation to put partisanship aside and come together to support their universal ideals. “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,” he said.
The United States will support democracy around the world, “because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom,” Obama said.
“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.”
Acknowledging the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan and the ramping down of more than a decade of conflict, Obama offered high praise during his inaugural address for U.S. service members, their contributions and sacrifices.
“Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage,” he said. “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.”
There was a significant emotional pause as the president stopped and looked back to take in the moment after his address. Before going into the Capitol, he looked back at the sea of humanity on the National Mall and said, “I want to take a look,” adding, “I’m not going to see this again.”