WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama took the oath of office for a second term in a ceremony at the US Capitol yesterday.
Obama was formally sworn in at the White House on Sunday but he repeated the oath again — led by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts — at his largely symbolic public inauguration yesterday.
In a relative short speech that lasted less than 20 minutes, Obama emphasized quality among all Americans regardless of their ethnic background, name or race. He cast inequality and the lack of social mobility as a threat to individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
He also said Americans should not make the distinction between past and present generations.
“We reject that we must choose between the generation that built this country and the generation that will build its future,” said.
His address also needled the Republican Party’s position on entitlements, such as Medicare, Social Security and unemployment benefits, for Americans.
“These things do not make us a nation of takers,” he said.
Obama faced a smaller crowd, estimated to be about 600,000, and a more subdued country, as America’s first black president marks the beginning of his second term and repeats the oath he took in a private ceremony the day before. In his inaugural address to millions watching in Washington and on television, Obama urged lawmakers to find common ground and look forward to goals over the next four years, including comprehensive immigration reform, stricter gun control laws and an end to the war in Afghanistan.
“What the inauguration reminds us of is the role we have as fellow citizens in promoting a common good, even as we carry out our individual responsibilities that, the sense that there’s something larger than ourselves, gives shape and meaning to our lives,” Obama said during brief remarks to donors at a reception Sunday night.
The politician who rose improbably from a history as a community organizer in Chicago and a professor of constitutional law to the pinnacle of power faces a nation riven by partisan disunity, a still-weak economy and an array of challenges abroad.
Obama also faced a less charmed standing on the world stage, where expectations for him had been so high four years ago that he was given the Nobel Peace Prize just months into his presidency. “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” the Nobel announcement in 2009 read. The president, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia began the day at St. John’s Episcopal church, which was built in 1812 and is known as the church of presidents. Obama later had coffee at the White House with congressional leaders, who play major roles in how the country is governed.
Yesterday’s events, including parades and fancy dress balls, are expected to have less of the effervescence of four years ago, when the 1.8 million people packed into central Washington knew they were witnessing history. Obama is now older, grayer and more entrenched in the politics he once tried rise above.
Obama is expected to follow the recent tradition of walking at least part of the way back to the White House, surrounded by cheers.
In the briefest of ceremonies Sunday, with family gathered in the White House, Obama took the oath of office shortly before noon, as required by law. With his left hand on a family bible held by his wife, the 44th president raised his right hand and repeated the time-honored words read out by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
The intimate swearing-in met the legal requirement that presidents officially take office on Jan. 20. Because that date fell on a Sunday this year, the traditional public ceremonies surrounding the start of a president’s term were put off to Monday, which coincides this year with the birthday of revered civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Obama made no special remarks at Sunday’s ceremony. “I did it,” he said quietly to his youngest daughter, Sasha, before wrapping her in a hug. The oath went smoothly, unlike four years ago, when Roberts made mistakes while trying to recite the oath from memory and had to do it again with Obama later.
As he enters his second term, Americans increasingly see Obama as a strong leader, someone who stands up for his beliefs and is able to get things done, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The survey shows him with a 52 percent job approval rating, among the highest rankings since early in his presidency. His personal favorability, 59 percent, has rebounded from a low of 50 percent in the 2012 campaign against Republican Mitt Romney.
When the partying is done on Monday, it’s back to business for a president who is leading a nation that is, perhaps, as divided as at any time since the Civil War 150 years ago. That conflict put down a rebellion by southern states and ended slavery.