Asserting "America's possibilities are limitless," President Barack Obama declared on Monday that a decade of war is ending and the nation's economy is recovering as he launched into a second term before a flag-waving crowd of hundreds of thousands on the National Mall.
"My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together," Obama said, moments after taking the oath of office on a crisp day in the nation's capital.
The president didn't dwell on any first-term accomplishments but looked to hard work ahead in a country still grappling with a sluggish economy.
"We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit," he said. 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."
Hundreds of thousands of people fanned out across the Mall, and millions more watched on television, as Obama took the oath of office to begin his second term.
Sandwiched between the bruising presidential campaign and looming fiscal fights, Monday's inaugural celebrations marked a brief respite from the partisan gridlock that has consumed the past two years.
Standing in front of the flag-bedecked Capitol, he implored Washington to find common ground over his next four years. And seeking to build on the public support that catapulted him to the White House twice, the president said the public has "the obligation to shape the debates of our time."
"Not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals," Obama said.
Looking ahead to his second-term agenda, the president said the nation must "respond to the threat of climate change" and tackle the comprehensive immigration reform that has eluded Washington for years.
"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.
Moments earlier, Obama placed his hand on two Bibles — one used by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the other used by Abraham Lincoln — and recited the brief oath of office. Michelle Obama held the Bibles, one on top of the other, as daughters Malia and Sasha looked on.
Vice President Joe Biden was also sworn in for his second term as the nation's second in command.
Monday's oats were purely ceremonial. The Constitution stipulates that presidents begin their new term at noon on Jan. 20, and in keeping with that requirement, Obama was sworn in Sunday in a small ceremony at the White House.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
President Obama's Inaugural Address
Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional -- what makes us American -- is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. (Applause.) The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
And for more than two hundred years, we have.
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.
But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people. (Applause.)
This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. (Applause.) An economic recovery has begun. (Applause.) 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. (Applause.)
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. (Applause.) We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own. (Applause.)
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.
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. 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. (Applause.) 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.
We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. (Applause.) They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. (Applause.)
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. (Applause.) Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.
The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. (Applause.) Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. (Applause.) 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.
We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully –- not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. (Applause.)
America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. 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. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice –- not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.
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; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. (Applause.)
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law –- (applause) -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. (Applause.) 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 -- (applause) -- until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. (Applause.) 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.
That is our generation’s task -- to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress 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. (Applause.)
For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. (Applause.) We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction. And we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.
They are the words of citizens and they represent our greatest hope. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time -- not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals. (Applause.)
Let us, each of us, now embrace with solemn duty and awesome joy what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.
Thank you. God bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America. (Applause.)
President Barack Obama is promising to uphold the Constitution in a public swearing in ceremony that signals the beginning of his second term in office.
Placing his hand on two Bibles -- one used by President Abraham Lincoln at his first Inauguration and one used by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- Obama took a public oath of office on Monday, after he was sworn in during a private ceremony on Sunday. The Constitution requires presidential terms to begin on Jan. 20.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered Obama's private swearing in on Sunday and the public ceremony Monday. He also swore Obama in during his first inauguration in 2009.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Hundreds of thousands of people are getting ready to gather on the National Mall today to witness the swearing in of President Barack Obama and his inaugural address.
Obama is expected to ask lawmakers to find common ground when they can, and preview his second term goals, including comprehensive immigration reform, stricter gun control laws, and an end to the war in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama took the oath of office Sunday in an intimate swearing-in ceremony at the White House, the leader of a nation no longer in the throes of the recession he inherited four years ago but still deeply divided.
The president, surrounded by family in the ornate White House Blue Room, was administered the brief oath of office by Chief Justice John Roberts. With Obama's hand resting on a Bible used for years by Michelle Obama's family, the president vowed "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States," echoing the same words spoken by the 43 men who held the office before him.
About a dozen family members were on hand to witness Obama's swearing in, including the first lady, daughters Malia and Sasha, the president's sister Maya Soetoro-Ng and her family. Mrs. Obama's mother Marian Robinson, and the first lady's brother, Craig Robinson and his family. A few reporters also were in the room.
Sunday's smaller ceremony was a function of the calendar and the Constitution, which says presidents automatically begin their new terms at noon on Jan. 20. Because that date fell this year on a Sunday - a day on which inaugural ceremonies historically are not held - organizers scheduled a second, public swearing-in for Monday.
The mood in the nation's capital was more subdued during this year's inaugural festivities than it was four years ago, when Obama swept into office on a wave of national optimism, becoming the first black man to hold the nation's highest office. Since then, he has endured fiscal fights with Congress and a bruising re-election campaign - and has the gray hair and lower approval ratings to show for it.
Ahead of his swearing on Sunday, Obama, along with Vice President Joe Biden, solemnly honored the nation's fallen soldiers during a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. On a crisp, sun-splashed morning, Obama and Biden placed a large wreath adorned with red, white and blue ribbon, in front of Arlington's Tomb of the Unknowns. Placing their hands over their hearts, the two leaders stood motionless as a bugler played "Taps."
From Arlington, Obama joined his family at a church service celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. The president's public swearing-in on Monday coincides with the national holiday marking the fallen civil rights leader's birthday, and Obama has invoked King's memory throughout the lead-up to the inauguration.
The Rev. Jonathan V. Newton, an assistant pastor at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, prayed for God to prepare Obama for battle, "because sometimes enemies insist on doing it the hard way."
Biden took the oath of office earlier in the morning, surrounded by family and friends for a brief ceremony at the Naval Observatory, his official residence in northwest Washington. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, appointed by Obama as the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court, administered the oath of office to Biden, who placed his hand on a Bible his family has used since 1893.
Among the 120 guests on hand to witness the vice president's second swearing-in were Attorney General Eric Holder, departing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and several Democratic lawmakers.
A crowd of up to 800,000 people is expected to gather on the National Mall to witness Obama's second swearing-in, which will take place on the Capitol's red, white and blue bunting-draped west front. Roberts, who famously flubbed the oath of office that Obama took in 2009, will administer the oath on Monday.
Once the celebrations are over, Obama will plunge into a second-term agenda still dominated by the economy, which slowly churned out of recession during his first four years in office. The president will also try to cement his legacy with sweeping domestic changes, pledging to achieve both an immigration overhaul and stricter gun laws despite opposition from a divided Congress.
But for one weekend at least, Washington was putting politics aside. Obama called the nation's inaugural traditions "a symbol of how our democracy works and how we peacefully transfer power."
"But it should also be an affirmation that we're all in this together," he said Saturday, as he opened a weekend of inaugural activities at a Washington elementary school.
Obama and Biden were to address supporters Sunday evening at an inaugural reception.
The president planned to save his most expansive remarks for Monday's inaugural address to the crowd gathered on the Mall and millions more watching across the country and the world. Obama started working on the speech in early December and was still tinkering with it into the weekend, aides said.
Local officials were busy touching up Washington for all the hundreds of thousands of guests arriving for Monday's swearing-in. Work crews were trimming overgrown grass and trash from walkways along city underpasses, erecting first aid tents and setting up traffic detours. Swarms of tourists easily roamed city streets Sunday ahead of the pedestrian gridlock sure to come with Monday's full inaugural program.
The president's address will set the stage for the policy objectives he seeks to achieve in his second term, including speeding up the economic recovery, passing comprehensive immigration and gun control measures and ending the war in Afghanistan. Aides said Obama would save the specifics of those agenda items for his Feb. 12 State of the Union address.
The president launched a weekend of inaugural activities Saturday by heading up a National Day of Service. Along with his family, Obama helped hundreds of volunteers spruce up a Washington area elementary school.
Obama wore rubber gloves, picked up a paint brush and helped volunteers stain a bookshelf.
Obama added the service event to the inaugural schedule in 2009 and is hoping it becomes a tradition followed for future presidents.
Mrs. Obama, speaking to volunteers Sunday, espoused the importance of giving back in the midst of the weekend of pomp, circumstance and celebration.
"The reason why we're here, why we're standing here, why we're able to celebrate this weekend is because a lot of people worked hard and supported us, and we've got a job to do and this is a symbol of the kind of work that we need to be doing the next four years," Michelle Obama said at Burrville Elementary.
President Barack Obama takes the oath of office Sunday surrounded by family in an intimate inauguration ceremony at the White House.
The subdued swearing-in is a function of the calendar and the Constitution, which says presidents automatically begin their new terms at noon on Jan. 20. Because that date fell this year on a Sunday -- a day on which inaugural ceremonies historically are not held -- organizers scheduled a second, public swearing-in for Monday.
A crowd of up to 800,000 people is expected to gather on the National Mall to witness the second inauguration.
Vice President Joe Biden will also be sworn in Sunday in a small, early morning ceremony at the Naval Observatory, his official residence.