Obama renews oath for second term
Posted on: 22 Jan 2013
Washington: Barack Hussein Obama renewed his oath of office at midday on Monday, ceremonially marking the beginning of another four years in the White House, calling for 'fidelity to our founding principles' while also embracing 'new responses to new challenges.'
Crowds that were expected to reach about 600,000 people assembled on the National Mall in front of the Capitol, eager to witness the start of the president's second term. Obama, 51, was formally sworn in during a small private ceremony at the White House residence on Sunday, the date constitutionally mandated for inauguration.
Obama declared that the country was 'made for this moment,' but said that the nation must confront the needs of a rising middle class. And he acknowledged that the often divisive and combative politics of today have sometimes fallen short of the size of the country's problems.
'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,' Obama said. 'We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect.' (Full text of Obama's speech) | (Rate Obama's speech)
Security in Washington was tight as Obama, the nation's first black president, delivered his second Inaugural Address from the Capitol just after noon. Speaking on the day the nation sets aside to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Obama took his oath with his hand on two Bibles: one once owned by King and another once owned by Abraham Lincoln.
The president and Michelle Obama started the morning at a church service at St. John's Episcopal Church, just across Lafayette Square from the White House. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, joined the first couple at the service.
During the service, the Rev. Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., said Obama should be called 'pastor in chief' for his role in soothing the nation after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. He also talked about what people should do in a position of power.
'You leverage that power for the benefit of other people in the room,' Stanley said, adding that he prayed that Obama would 'continue to leverage this influence for the sake of our nation and the sake of the world.'
Later, the president's Twitter account sent out a message from Obama: 'I'm honored and grateful that we have a chance to finish what we started. Our work begins today. Let's go. -bo.'
When the presidential limousines returned to the White House from the church service, Malia Obama, 14, sneaked up to surprise her father, shouting 'Boo!' as he emerged. 'You scared me!' he told her, according to reporters who witnessed the exchange.
Obama's motorcade rolled slowly along Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol just before 11 am, prompting cheers of 'Obama!' from crowds lined up along the road. At the same time, members of Obama's Cabinet began assembling in the bleachers behind the president's lectern.
Later in the day, the Obamas will lead the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue toward an elaborate reviewing stand constructed in front of the White House. Celebrations are scheduled to continue late into the night at two official inaugural balls in Washington's sprawling convention center, with performances by musical stars like Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, Katy Perry, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder. Beyonce will sing the national anthem Monday afternoon.
As people started gathering for the inauguration, some chose to start the day at the monument to King.
'It's not a novelty this time,' said Holly Wieland, 57, of Reston, Va., who also attended Obama's first inauguration. 'It's like the first time you say 'maybe it's an aberration.' But it's for real now.'
Four years ago, a huge crowd of about 1.8 million people jammed into the grassy area between the Capitol and the Washington Monument as Obama hailed the choice of 'hope over fear.' That day, the new president declared the country to be 'in the midst of crisis,' citing the economic collapse that was still unfolding and wars that continued to rage in Iraq and Afghanistan.
'In this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words,' Obama said in his 18-and-a-half minute speech in 2009. 'With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come.'
As he delivers his second Inaugural Address, Obama is presiding over an economy that has improved and warfare that has receded. But the world remains a dangerous place, the economy is still fragile, and many of the gauzy promises of action and progress from his first address have given way to the cold realities of politics and compromise and bitter gridlock.
After taking his first oath, the new president proclaimed 'an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.' And he predicted that his election was a signal to the cynics in America, who he said did not understand that 'the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.'
But in the wake of a cliffhanger tax deal and facing more fiscal showdowns with a Republican-led House in the coming weeks, Obama continues to struggle to deliver on the promise he made in his first inaugural speech to bring a new, more united kind of politics to Washington.
That promise will be tested again soon as Obama seeks to push a new agenda through Congress. That agenda will include the biggest push for gun-control legislation in a generation and a revamping of the nation's immigration system that he hopes will give millions of illegal immigrants a path toward citizenship.
The president has already unveiled his proposals to reduce gun violence amid fierce opposition from gun owners, the National Rifle Association and many Republican lawmakers. Aides say Obama will soon begin the immigration fight as well, perhaps as soon as next month, when he delivers his State of the Union speech.
Obama used his first Inaugural Address to foreshadow a foreign policy agenda that he pledged would be different from that of his predecessor, George W. Bush. He rejected what he called the false choice between 'our safety and our ideals.'
In the speech in 2009, the president spoke directly to the nation's adversaries, warning terrorists that 'we will defeat you,' telling dictators that 'we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,' and reaching out to the Muslim world by saying that the United States sought 'a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.'
As he enters his second term, Obama has taken the fight to al Qaeda, killing its leader, Osama bin Laden, and using drones to target the ranks of its top members. The United States has left Iraq and is exiting the decade-long war in Afghanistan.
But Iran remains unwilling to 'unclench' its fist as it continues developing what Western nations believe is a nuclear weapons program. Unrest in the Middle East and North Africa has made more difficult Obama's promise of a new way forward with the Muslim world. And the threat of terrorism remains in places like Algeria, where Islamists held hostages just days before Obama's inauguration.
Before sunrise on Monday, Washington's subway, which opened an hour early, at 4 a.m., began filling up as people made the ride into the city's downtown area in the hopes of getting a good spot from which to view Obama's swearing-in and the afternoon parade.
Several subway stops were closed or restricted as thousands of police officers, many from surrounding states, enforced a secure perimeter that extended from the White House to the Capitol. Buses were parked across some streets to block access by automobiles, and fences created checkpoints for pedestrians. Military vehicles idled at other intersections.
The early morning temperature was slightly above freezing, a welcome relief for the president and his wife, who braved temperatures that hovered in the high 20s on Inauguration Day four years ago.
On Monday, Obama will have taken the oath four times, matching the record set by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but for different reasons.
Obama took the oath twice in 2009, first in front of the public on January 20, and then again on the next day after White House lawyers concluded that having stumbled through it the first time, he should do it again 'out of an abundance of caution.'
This year, he was to take it twice again because the official start of his second term landed on Sunday. The Constitution says the president's term expires on January 20 at noon.
The New York Times