President Barack Obama kicked off his second term today with a speech that covered a plethora of progressive issues, including same-sex marriage, preserving the middle class, sustainable energy and climate change.
On the issue of climate change, the President vowed to ignore naysayers and address the problem:
We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. 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 is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped 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.
During his speech, Obama called out divisive partisan politics, saying it's time for more work and less rhetoric.
"Decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay," said the President. "We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate."
Preservation of the middle class and addressing the gender wage gap were also mentioned in Obama's 18-minute speech. Additionally, Obama was the first U.S. president to discuss same-sex marriage in an inaugural speech.
"Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts,” the President said. “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."
Obama also touched on the work of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the nation observes the MLK holiday.
"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," Obama said.
The Latino community was also given several nods during today's ceremonies with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor swearing in Vice-President Joe Biden, making her the first Latino to ever give an inaugural oath. Cuban American poet Richard Blanco also took part in the ceremonies today as the nation's fifth inaugural poet. Blanco, who read his poem 'One Today', is the first Latino to have such a role as well as the first openly gay person to do so. When he chose Blanco to read at the inaugural ceremony, Obama said the poet's work reflects "the strength of the American people and our nation’s great diversity." Cuban American Rev. Luis Leon of St. John's Church was named to do the morning benediction and closing prayer for the inaugural ceremonies. This morning, Rev. Leon touched on several important issues during his benediction.
"We pray for your blessing because without it, we will see only what the eye can see," Leon said. "But with the blessing of your blessing we will see that we are created in your image, whether brown, black or white, male or female, first generation or immigrant American, or daughter of the American Revolution, gay or straight, rich or poor."
Obama discussed immigration reform during his speech, saying "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."
The President discussed several other progressive issues like reforming the tax code, improving education, and preserving the middle class, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security:
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. 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.
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. 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, and 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. 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. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.
The hot topic of gun control made it into Obama's speech as well, with the President saying the nation's "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."
What do you think of Obama's inaugural speech? Will Obama be able to address the progressive issues he outlined as priorities? If so, which ones? If not, why?
Image: AP/Pat Benic/Pool/Sipa USA/dapd