WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama has taken a ceremonial oath of office in front of the U.S. Capitol, heralding his second term as commander-in-chief.
As required, Chief Justice John Roberts administered Obama's official oath of office on Sunday, Jan. 20. Monday's ceremonial repeat of the oath is a matter of tradition and an opportunity for the President to lay out his agenda for the next four years.
Barack Obama's speech began with allusions to the symbolism of his taking the oath on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He said that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.
President Barack Obama emphasized three prongs of civil rights, declaring, "We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths -- that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still."
He went further, with direct mentions of equality regardless of race, gender and sexual orientation. He referenced both Selma and Stonewall -- landmark events for black and gay Americans, respectively -- and talked of our country finally seeing its wives and mothers earning an "equal living" for the work that they do.
"It is our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began," he said.
He focused significantly on the economy and the gap between the rich and poor. He said the nation "cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it."
The president said "hard choices" need to be made to reduce the deficit and the costs of health care.
He also touched on the topics of sustainable energy, immigration and climate change.
He says that failing to respond to the threat of climate change would be a betrayal of the nation's children, and of future generations.He said that while some might deny the "overwhelming judgment of science" -- a reference to those who say they don't believe in global warming -- no one can escape extreme weather like raging fires, drought and storms.
Obama tried and failed in his first term to get a climate change bill through Congress.
The inaugural speech was sentimental in looking at the past and forward to the future of the nation's children.
"We remember the lessons of our past ... we do not believe in this country that freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few," Barack Obama said. "We the people still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves but to all posterity."
Republicans offered sentiments of bipartisanship and expressed an interest in working together. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says the day shows that "our major political parties can disagree with civility and mutual respect." He wishes Obama well on the next four years.
McConnell says the second term represents a "fresh start when it comes to dealing with the great challenges of our day," including federal spending and debt. He said Republicans believed that "divided government provides the perfect opportunity to do so."
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's running mate, notes that he and Obama were "political opponents" and had "strong disagreements over the direction of the country -- as we still do now." But Ryan says that on Inauguration Day, "we put those disagreements aside" and "remember what we share in common."
Earlier in the day, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery.
Together Obama and Biden placed the wreath on a stand, then placed their hands on their hearts as a bugler played taps.
Obama and his family also attended services Sunday morning in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. at the historic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, which celebrates its 175th anniversary this year.
The same church hosted prayer services before the inauguration of former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.
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