U.S. President Barack Obama is calling for united action by a divided America to address a host of domestic problems as he starts his second term in the White House.
Obama was publicly sworn into office Monday on the steps of the U.S. Capitol as hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the Mall, waving American flags and cheering the nation’s 44th president.
In his inaugural address, Obama invoked the enduring rights of the U.S. Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence’s statement that Americans are entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But he said the country needs to adapt to new challenges so that every citizen has a “basic measure of security and dignity.”
“We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit,” Obama told the crowd. “But 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.”
Obama also said that the U.S. does not believe that “lasting peace” in the world requires “perpetual war.”
“We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war,” the president said. “Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. 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. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.”
The president said the U.S. would support democracy across the globe.
“America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe;” he promised, “and 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. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.”
Swearing In ceremony
Obama took the two-century-old oath from Chief Justice John Roberts. Obama promised to “preserve, protect and defend” the U.S. Constitution “to the best of my ability.”
Earlier, the president attended a church service and then headed to the West Front of the U.S. Capitol building for his public inaugural.
Monday’s crowd, while numbering in the hundreds of thousands, was smaller than at Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, when nearly two million people came to see the swearing-in of the nation’s first black president.
Obama was officially sworn in Sunday in a private ceremony at the White House, to meet the dictates of the U.S. Constitution that the country’s president be sworn in on January 20. But with the date falling on a Sunday this year, the major public inaugural activities are on Monday, including Obama’s inaugural address from a podium on the West Front of the Capitol overlooking the teeming masses on the Mall.
Obama took the oath Monday using two historic Bibles – one owned by 19th-century president Abraham Lincoln, and the other by civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in 1968.
After the ceremony Monday, Obama and his wife, Michelle, dined inside the Capitol with congressional leaders. They plan to ride in the inaugural parade, returning to the White House in a motorcade. They likely will get out of the car and walk part of the way, as they did four years ago.
Later, the Obamas will attend two official Inaugural balls, in contrast to the 10 balls that were held in 2009.
Vice President Joe Biden, who retook his own oath again Monday, joined the president Sunday for a traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery and attended church with him on Monday.
Both leaders also took part in a National Day of Service on Saturday as part of several days of events related to the inauguration.