(Washington, D.C.) In the second and final inaugural address of his presidency, President Obama today called on Americans to continue fighting to fulfill the “promise” of American democracy, by pursuing age-old Constitutional values while adapting to the realities of the modern age.
Mr. Obama, standing before a crowd of hundreds of thousands outside of the U.S. Capitol, spoke of the ongoing struggle to make principles of equality and justice an actuality in American society.
“Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time,” Mr. Obama said, after quoting the Declaration of Independence. “For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.”‘
Fidelity to the nation’s founding principles, he argued, “requires new responses to new challenges.”
“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,” he said. “When times change, so must we.”
Reflecting on themes familiar to his first term, Mr. Obama argued that America isn’t living up to its constitutional principles while disparities between the rich and poor continue to grow.
“Our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” he said. “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.”
Lightly touching on a handful of policy-oriented ideas — from responding “to the threat of climate change” to improving the nation’s education system — the president outlined the many changes he believes must be made on the road to American progress.
“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,” he said. “Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. 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.”