Obama bares agenda in public inaugural address
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – President Barack Obama said gay rights, climate change, immigration reforms and gun control are among his second term priorities during his public inaugural address at the Capitol Monday noon.
Shortly after taking the oath from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. at 11:50 a.m., Obama, 51, delivered his speech from atop the Capitol steps overlooking the National Mall, where a crowd estimated to be up to 700,000 people braved winter temperature.
Members of Congress and other VIPs, including former president Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, former president Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter, were also the inaugural stage.
Obama urged the nation to make sure that gay men and lesbians were treated equally like anyone else under the law.
In his second inaugural speech after becoming the first black American president in 2009, Obama said the U.S. must lead the transition to sustainable energy sources to preserve the planet.
“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” he said.
Obama repeated calls for gun control legislation and a revamping of the nation’s immigration system to allow millions of illegal immigrants to become citizens.
“Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm,” he said, referring to measures curbing gun violence.
On immigration, he said that “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 also promised “hard choices” to reduce the federal deficit and called for a revamping of the tax code and a remaking of government.
Before ending his speech, Obama called for an end to the political partisanship that marked much of his first term in the White House in bitter fights over the economy with Republicans.
“Progress,” he said, “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.”
Obama’s swearing-in fell on the same day as the national holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. He took the oath with his hand on two Bibles: one owned by President Abraham Lincoln and the other owned by King.
Up on the grand inaugural stage, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor administered the oath of office to Biden at 11:47 a.m.
After the inauguration speech, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama sat down as guests of honor at a traditional luncheon at the Capitol. About 200 high-level officials, including Supreme Court justices, Cabinet officials and congressional leaders joined the Obamas.
At 3:46 p.m., the first couple strolled down Pennsylvania Avenue and waved to the crowd lining the road and cheering them.
At 9 p.m., the inaugural celebration will end with the Obamas and a select group of friends, family and supporters at an exclusive gathering at the White House.
Inauguration day started with the Obama family attending services at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill Biden, joined the first couple at the service. After the service, the presidential limousines returned to the White House before continuing down Pennsylvania Avenue just before 11 a.m. to be at the Capitol.
The inaugural celebrations included two official inaugural balls in Washington’s sprawling convention center, where musical stars like Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, Katy Perry, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder performed. Beyoncé sang the national anthem on Monday afternoon.