After a bitter, hard fought election and the continued legislative battles with Congress, President Barack Obama urged Americans to come together as a people and set aside differences to achieve prosperity during his second inaugural address on Monday.
“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,” Obama said to the massive crowd that braved the cold temperatures on the U.S. Capitol grounds and National Mall.
Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office publicly to Obama for the second time. On Sunday, he administered it privately because, constitutionally, the president of the United States must be sworn in to office prior to Jan. 20. Four years ago, Roberts flubbed the oath of office in a public inauguration ceremony.
In a speech lasting 19 minutes, shorter than President Bill Clinton’s second inaugural address and longer than President George W. Bush’s second inaugural address, Obama stressed that a prosperous and self-reliant America rests on the shoulders of everyone. “For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” he said.
Since defeating Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Nov. 6, many speculated what a Obama second term would look like legislatively, and Obama touched on some of those in the speech, including climate change, renewing international alliances, tax reform, gay rights and work to reduce the deficit, equal voting rights, but did not mention entitlement reform.
“The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great,” he said.
Among the dignitaries present included former President Clinton with his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Chicago, Ill. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was Obama’s chief-of-staff from 2008-2010, musical artists Jay-Z, Beyonce, James Taylor and Kelly Clarkson, among a slew of members of Congress.
Congressional battles ahead
Gun control, immigration reform, and the national debt will define the first few months of his second term and expect battles with the Republican-led House on any pieces of legislation Obama and Democrats want to try to pass. However, a few Republican members of Congress sent their regards to the president on Inauguration Day.
“I congratulate President Obama on his inauguration, and I join the country in celebrating this American tradition… We may disagree on matters of policy. But today we remember why we take those matters so seriously???because we seek the public good. It???s our highest duty???one that we share???and one for which we???re grateful,” said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) tweeted his congratulations to both Obama and Biden during the ceremony.
Following the address, the president signed four nominations to his second-term Cabinet: John Owen Brennan to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Charles Timothy Hagel to be secretary of defense, John Forbes Kerry to be secretary of state and Jacob J. Lew to be secretary of the Treasury.
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shineski was the designated Cabinet member who did not attend the day’s inaugural events in case of a national emergency.