Barack Obama delivers inaugural address
By correspondent Jill Colgan, wires
US president Barack Obama has vowed to pursue an ambitious agenda after being sworn in for his second term in office at a public inauguration in Washington, DC.
Words from past presidents
Look back at some of history’s most memorable inauguration speeches.
More than half a million people thronged to Capitol Hill to watch history in the making as Mr Obama, the country’s first African American president, was sworn in for his second and final four-year term.
Flanked by his wife and two daughters, he took his oath of office in front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands.
Mr Obama told Americans that a new era was beginning.
“A decade of war is now ending and economic recovery has begun,” he said.
The country’s 44th president was officially sworn in on Sunday (local time) in a small private ceremony at the White House, but the inauguration was the American public’s opportunity to witness the official beginning of his second term.
Mr Obama appealed for national unity to face difficult challenges ahead on immigration, gun control and economic recovery.
“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together,” he said.
He promised “hard choices” to reduce the federal deficit and called for a revamping of the tax code and a remaking of government.
Mr Obama repeatedly used the “We the People” preamble to the US Constitution to suggest how to reconcile America’s founding truths and the current discord and dysfunction of its embittered political system.
Decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay… we must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect.Barack Obama
“Decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay,” he said.
“We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.
“We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect.”
Though his speech was watched across the globe, Mr Obama sketched over foreign policy, disdaining “perpetual war” and promised diplomacy of engagement backed with military steel – though did not dwell on specific crises like Iran.
“We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïveabout the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear,” he said.
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.Barack Obama
In an apparent bid to frame his legacy, Mr Obama said America must shield the weak, the poor and those lacking health care and demanded equality for all races and gay rights, and security from gun crime for children.
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” he said.
“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,” he said, signalling a policy drive on a deeply contentious issue.
“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.”
Mr Obama also vowed to meet the threat of global warming, despite scepticism on climate change among some Republicans and daunting political and economic barriers to taking meaningful action.
His most emphatic Republican foes welcomed his reach for unity but like the president, hinted at deep ideological divides.
“The president’s second term represents a fresh start when it comes to dealing with the great challenges of our day; particularly, the transcendent challenge of unsustainable federal spending and debt,” Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said.
Defeated Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan congratulated Mr Obama on his inauguration and said for the occasion that they would put their differences aside because “we serve the same country, one that is still in need of repair”.
I thought it was an excellent speech… I didn’t hear any conciliatory remarks associated with it, but that’s his privilege.John McCain
Republican senator John McCain damned the address with faint praise.
“I thought it was an excellent speech, delivery was obviously excellent,” he said.
“I didn’t hear any conciliatory remarks associated with it, but that’s his privilege.”
The inauguration was made all the more poignant, coinciding with the nation’s commemoration of slain black civil rights leader Martin Luther King Junior.
The president embraced the symbolism, taking the oath with his hand on two Bibles: one that belonged to president Abraham Lincoln, who ended slavery, and the other that was owned by King.
After his speech Mr Obama dined on bison and lobster with VIP members of Congress, before heading back to the White House on the inaugural parade route.