The 57th inauguration of our nation’s president dawned Monday morning with a fiery red sun that illuminated the dome of the U.S. Capitol building in a rich amber hue.
President Barack Hussein Obama was ceremonially sworn in by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts at 10 minutes before noon Eastern time on the west steps of the seat of the country’s legislative branch under what had become an overcast sky replete with a biting January wind.
The actual oath of office was administered in a private ceremony the day before on the official Inauguration Day of Jan. 20.
“I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Obama said as he repeated the words offered to him by the Chief Justice.
“So help you God?” Roberts asked at the conclusion of the oath.
“So help me God,” Obama replied with a confident smile.
Immediately thereafter the Marine Corps Band played Pomp and Circumstance — the presidential theme — as a full 21-gun salute echoed from a wooded hillside to the immediate southwest of the inaugural site.
Obama was enthusiastically welcomed to his second term by a sea of humanity that stretched at least as far down the National Mall as the Washington Monument more than one mile away.
Spontaneous chants of ‘Obama, Obama’ erupted from the crowd with the words themselves taking on a life of their own as they could be heard physically moving through the crowd.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” Obama said early in his inaugural address. “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The president spoke of the responsibility of each successive generation of Americans to take the ideals behind the words of the Founding Fathers and make them applicable to the existing era.
“For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing,” Obama said. “That while freedom is a gift from God it must be secured by His people here on Earth.”
Obama threw his administration’s backing squarely behind equality for homosexuals and re-emphasized its commitment to the same for women.
“For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts,” Obama 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.”
The president responded to Republican assertions that those who voted for him are people who are out to get something for nothing.
“The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us,” Obama said. “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
Obama also touched on climate change and the need for proactive solutions; the nation’s foreign policy as a force for peace even as it stands ready to defend itself and its allies; and responsible answers to the problems associated with the national debt and the high cost of health care.
“Our 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,” Obama said in his only reference to recent administration efforts to get comprehensive gun control legislation passed by Congress and plans to update some rules and regulations through executive action.
Obama then tied his policy positions into the theme of Faith in America’s Future.
“That is our generation’s task — to make these words, these rights, these values — of life, and liberty and the pursuit of happiness — real for every American,” Obama said. “Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time - but it does require us to act in our time.”
Obama called on all sides of the political spectrum to work together for the common good of the nation and its people.
“For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay,” Obama said. “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only 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.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), as chair of the Congressional Inaugural Committee, began the formal remarks segment of the ceremony and analogized the work by President Abraham Lincoln to finish construction of the Capitol Dome during the Civil War in the face of a financial shortfall to the task that faces the United States at the beginning of Obama’s second term.
“The improbable completion of the Capitol Dome and the Statue of Freedom at its top goes back to 1863 when the half-finished dome had become a public eyesore,” Schumer said. “Lincoln wanted to see it completed as soon as possible even though his advisers said that money was limited due to the war effort. Lincoln ordered construction to continue and said that if people see that the work on the dome is going on, then the country also will go on.
“In recent years we have had some of our own unfinished Capitol Domes,” Schumer said. “One of the great things about Americans is that we always have been optimistic about the future and still are.”
Vice President Joseph Biden was ceremonially sworn in by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor immediately before Obama’s swearing-in.
Musical guests included James Taylor, who sang ‘America the Beautiful;’ Kelly Clarkson singing ‘America;’ and Beyonce singing the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ the latter two accompanied by the U.S. Marine Corps Band.