Obama: Time for lawmakers, nation to act

President calls for equality in second inaugural address



Updated: January 21, 2013, 7:12 PM


 Photo Gallery: 57th Presidential Inauguration

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Click here to read the transcript of Obama's speech or watch the speech at the bottom of this story.

On Inauguration Day, Republicans are bystanders

WASHINGTON — It was not exactly a day for Republicans.

Their most recent standard-bearer remained out of sight, home in California. Their two most recent presidents were home in Texas.

And as President Barack Obama took the oath of office, those that were there sat stone-faced, barely meriting a mention as the president laid out the kind of liberal agenda they have long feared.

“I would have liked to see more outreach,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who sat stoically behind a pair of dark aviator sunglasses, offering little reaction as Obama spoke. “There was not, as I’ve seen in other inaugural speeches, an ‘I want to work with my colleagues.’ ”

After famously declaring that their top priority was making Obama a one-term president, Republicans begin his second term deeply split over how to regain power and unsure how to engage the opposition over the next four years.

An early indication will come Wednesday, when the House holds a key vote on a new GOP proposal to extend the government’s borrowing authority until May.

Some Republicans said what the party needs is an agenda that offers more of a positive vision for the middle class, to prove they’re not just for those who have already made it.

Obama’s speech Monday, however, left some Republicans wondering if Obama even wants more conciliation in his second term.

In his speech, Obama said deficits must be cut — but offered a spirited defense of the social safety net programs Republicans believe must be cut.

And he issued a call to arms to stop climate change, which many Republicans believe is a hoax.

The one place Monday where Republicans truly had a role came in the luncheon held immediately after the oath of office. House Speaker John Boehner sat at the head table next to Michelle Obama, one seat away from the president.

Boehner and his top lieutenant, Majority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., — with whom Obama privately clashed in 2011 — presented the Obamas and Vice President Joe Biden and his wife with gifts to commemorate the day.

— The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — 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 mid-winter 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.

Big enough that Obama 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.

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 had 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 speech-making 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.

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.

Obama addressed cheering crowds at the Commander in Chief Ball, speaking by video to thank a group of troops in southern Afghanistan. Then he introduced his “date,” Michelle Obama, who danced with her husband in a ruby chiffon and velvet gown while Jennifer Hudson sang “Let’s Stay Together.”

In his brief, 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, a fight that has occupied much of his and Congress’ time and promises the same in months to come.

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.”