Obama inaugural address: ‘We are made for this moment’
By Natasha KoreckI Political Reporter @natashakorecki January 21, 2013 7:30AM
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama share a dance during the Commander-In-Chief Inaugural ball at the Washington Convention Center during the 57th Presidential Inauguration Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Inauguration at a Glance
Crowd estimate: 500,000 to 700,000, down from the 1.8 million who showed up in 2009.
Barack Obama is the: 44th president
This is the: 57th presidential inauguration
Number of inaugural balls the Obamas made plans to attend: Two
Temperature during speech: 40 degrees
Length of inaugural speech: About 18 minutes
Number of times Obama received applause during speech: 25
Words in inaugural speech: 2,141
Number of times Obama used the word:
• Free or freedom: 11
• Together: 7
• Equal or equality: 7
• War: 3
• Opportunity: 2
• Economy: 1
• Tax: 1
• Gay: 1
• Guns: 0
• Debt: 0
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Updated: February 23, 2013 6:15AM
WASHINGTON — As he was ceremonially sworn in for a second term on Monday, President Barack Obama made it clear he would embrace a progressive agenda that would likely push for further reforms in immigration, gun safety, climate change and gay rights.
He pushed for unity, repeating “We, the people,” his voice echoing to the back of the National Mall. He repeated the phrase, referencing the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.
“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment,” the president said in remarks that lasted about 18 minutes. “And we will seize it as long as we do it together.”
Obama spoke to a crowd a fraction the size of that in 2009, but the day was marked by fewer crowd snafus and far warmer weather.
In his remarks, Obama argued that political philosophical differences should not get in the way of action.
“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,” he said.
In the symbolic swearing in on Monday — the federal holiday to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. — Obama spoke from the west steps of a U.S. Capitol bedazzled with inaugural decor, with a military band playing on a platform below him.
First lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha sat near the president. Also on hand were a cadre of dignitaries, including former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and members of Congress.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Bill Daley — Obama’s former chiefs of staff — had prime seats for Obama’s second inaugural, as did Obama’s top strategist, David Axelrod, and former press secretary Robert Gibbs. Noticeably absent was former President George W. Bush.
A Who’s Who of pop music past and present set the tone, performing the nation’s most patriotic tunes.
Strumming an acoustic guitar, James Taylor sang “America, the Beautiful.” Kelly Clarkson and the United States Marine Band belted out “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” And Beyonce closed with “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The president’s recurring themes were the need to work together and realizing the Declaration of Independence’s promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in modern America — from providing full rights to gay Americans to treating immigrants fairly.
“It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began,” Obama said, referring, in part, to King. “For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.
The first president to use the word “gay” in an inaugural speech, Obama, who last year changed his stance to support same-sex marriage, went further than he previously had to reach out to the group. It earned him among the most enthusiastic of crowd responses.
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” he said to loud cheers. “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.”
Obama said that his oath “was an oath to God and country, not party or faction.”
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn called the speech “inspiring.”
“President Obama laid out a bold, progressive agenda that will make our country better and economically stronger,” Quinn said. “We want to do that here in Illinois.”
Despite Obama’s calls for bipartisanship, the president didn’t shy away from essentially putting Republicans on notice about issues on which they disagree. He spoke of climate change, immigration policy and debates over the role of government.
He warned the nation cannot succeed when a “shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”
Alluding to the partisan divide in Congress, Obama said. “We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect.”
The events coinciding with Martin Luther King Day gave the day special significance for many in the crowd huddled together to hear the ceremonial swearing-in, after the quieter, official oath on Sunday. The day began with the president, first lady as well as Vice President Joe Biden and his wife visiting St. John’s Episcopal Church. The inaugural ceremony was followed by a formal luncheon and the official Inaugural Parade, through the streets of downtown Washington, D.C., teeming with tight security.
In the ceremony, Obama used two Bibles, one that belonged to King and one that belonged to Abraham Lincoln. An estimated 600,000 people — down from 2009’s record-breaking 1.8 million — packed the National Mall, waving a sea of red, white and blue flags, cheering and occasionally chanting “Obama!”
Though it was his second inaugural, it was still historic to Charles Smith of Milwaukee.
“I had to come, because I’ll probably never see a black president again, not in my lifetime,” said Smith, an African American.
Michelle Watts, who lives outside of Milwaukee, did visit Washington, D.C., in 2009 — but she was among those trapped in what she called “the purple tunnel of doom,” referring to a snafu that meant hundreds were stuck in a tunnel with no exit. Those visitors missed the inaugural.
“The highlight today was I actually made it in to see it,” said Watts.
In addition to using a Bible that belonged to King, Obama referred to the slain civil rights leader in his address.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson told the Sun-Times that it was King’s sacrifice that made the day possible.
“It’s a huge source of pride and accomplishment,” Jackson said of Obama’s second term.
Jackson said Obama — and the nation — owed it to King for breaking “down walls”
“Dr. King’s sacrifice made today’s ceremony possible,” Jackson said. “Dr. King died a very hated man. Barack is a very beloved man.”