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Inaugural address calls for Americans to look past partisan politics and move forward

Megan Doyle | Monday, January 21, 2013

WASHINGTON – In a moment of incredible partisan divide on Capitol Hill, newly reelected President Barack Obama called the United States to abandon conflict for compromise during his inaugural address Monday morning.

“America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive, diversity and openness, of endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention,” he said.

“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together.”

Much of Obama’s rhetoric challenged Americans to work beyond the impasse of partisan politics, a welcome message to many. He called his oath of office one to “God and country, not party and faction.”

“For now, 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. We must act knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act knowing that today’s victories will only be 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.”

Despite this call to compromise, the president spoke with a tone that was both unapologetic for the decisions of his first four years in office and unwavering on the goals of his second.

Largely bypassing the economic debates that have thrown Capitol Hill into turmoil over recent weeks, the president highlighted some of the other areas he would take to bat in the future. He challenged the nation to be a leader in sustainable energy and climate change research, which were issues largely ignored in election debates.

“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,” Obama said. “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But American cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.”

Obama spoke directly on gay rights, which became more and more a part of the national conversation during this election. Three more states – Maryland, Washington and Maine – voted on referendums to legalize gay marriage in November, and Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

“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.

He also championed Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, making a case for their place in government.

“They do not make us a nation of takers,” he said specifically of these programs. “They free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

While the president and legislature turn to immigration as one of its next orders of business, Obama briefly targeted his desire to see action on immigration reform in this term.

“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, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.”

Even as the president spoke strongly on these issues, the approximately 18-minute address constantly returned to the phrase “We the people.” This idea of unity, of working together, will be a critical component to Obama’s successes – and failures – in the next four years. And beneath the hopeful speechwriting, his words spoke to a national desire to move forward as one.

“You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course,” he said. “You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time, not only with the votes we cast, but the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideas.

“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 the precious light of freedom.”