President Barack Obama used his inauguration speech Monday to ask Americans to come together to tackle the country’s toughest challenges, including immigration reforms, protecting voter rights, and gun law changes.
"My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together," Obama told a crowd of an estimated 800,000 who gathered on the National Mall to see the 57th Inauguration amid overcast skies and chilly winds.
Obama's speech focused on the power of Americans to solve the nation's hardships together. The country, he said, had come through a Civil War that helped end slavery; worked together to build railways and highways; built schools; regulated the free market; and cared for the vulnerable.
"But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action," Obama said. "Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people."
In 18 minutes, Obama stuck to broad concepts of citizenship and stayed away from details. Near the end, however, he used one sweeping stanza to touch on a range of issues that are taking shape as the most pressing issues of his second term—including immigration, gun control, and voting rights. In a broad sense, he said, he said it was this generation's task to carry on the idea of freedom from the pioneers.
"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.
"Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote," Obama said. "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," Obama continued.
"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.
Obama also called on Americans to respond to the threat of climate change, saying "that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations." Americans "cannot afford to delay," he said, and should move forward with "common effort and common purpose."
In recent weeks, Obama has offered proposals on gun law reforms, and has made overtures that immigration could become a centerpiece of his second term.
Photograph of inauguration day crowd on the National Mall by Diego M. Radzinschi, National Law Journal