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Obama inaugural speech: a sharp call to action

Obama began his second inaugural speech by citing the Constitution and the collective strength it affords America. Then he segued into a second-term agenda sure to raise some political hackles, calling for action on climate change, women’s rights, immigration, gay rights, and gun control.

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President Barack Obama delivers his Inaugural address at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

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President Obama’s second inaugural speech, highly anticipated at a time of great partisan polarization, has entered history. And it is likely to be remembered more as a call to action for the president’s agenda than a call to national unity.

Still, Mr. Obama began his 15-minute address Monday with an emphasis on America’s founding document, the Constitution, and the collective strength it lends a nation that values its exceptional status in the world.

“America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention,” Obama said, addressing the crowded National Mall and TV viewers around the nation and world.

“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.”

But in a possible preview of the State of the Union address that the reelected and thus emboldened president will deliver on Feb. 12, Obama made pointed references to a second-term policy agenda that is sure to raise hackles among his political opponents. He issued a call to action on climate change, women’s rights, immigration, voting rights, gay rights, and gun control.

And he couched it all in the first three words of the US Constitution’s preamble, using “We the People” as a refrain.

“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; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth,” Obama said.

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