Obama Enters Second Term on Historic Note
Published: Monday, January 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, January 21, 2013 21:01
Barack Obama took the oath of office on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building Monday, beginning his second term as president of the United States before a sea of hundreds of thousands gathered at the National Mall.
Obama placed his hand at 11:50 a.m. on a battered Bible used by Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War president who delivered perhaps the most famous second inaugural address. Speaking for 19 minutes, Obama made reference to Martin Luther King Jr., whose national holiday was being celebrated on the same day as the first black president returned for four more years in the Oval Office.
The Mall was packed from the Capitol to the Washington Monument, with large screens available for the many attendees of the proceedings. A considerable number of Georgetown students were among the crowd, many of whom arrived early the night before to stake out a prime perspective in the audience. Some received tickets from members of Congress, which allowed them to stand closer to the inaugural stage.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were each sworn in privately Sunday in accordance with the Constitution’s Jan. 20 inauguration date, and Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sonia Sotomayor were again on hand Sunday to administer the public oaths to Obama and Biden, respectively. Whereas Obama and Roberts famously stumbled through the oath in 2009, the event this year was blip-free from start to finish.
The one-hour event also included opening remarks from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), performances from singers James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce Knowles, and a poem from Richard Blanco. Absent were former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, the latter of whom was in the hospital earlier this month. Also missing Monday was 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Thousands of audience members on the southwest side of the Capitol were captive to anti-abortion protests from one man who climbed to the top of a nearly 50-foot tree and shouted continuously for five hours before and during the event. Police attempted to talk the protester, who was later identified as having participated in similar large-scale demonstrations, down from his perch but were unable to make an arrest before the inauguration had ended.
In his speech, Obama balanced unifying rhetoric with a broad outline of policy ambitions for his second term. One of the most applause filled passages from the speech detailed the quest for equality for women, gays and lesbians, and immigrants.
Obama also alluded to the imminent fight over gun legislation in Congress, saying, “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 closed his speech with a flourish, seizing the optimistic moment as he enters what is expected to be another four years of challenging partisan debate.
“The oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction. … They are the words of citizens and represent our greatest hope.”