During President Obama's inauguration speech,
he unveiled his agenda for the second term. He vowed to tackle unfinished business. While the national debt at $16.4 Trillion and a dipping economy is the immediate challenge, Obama also addressed immigration reform, gun control, action on climate change and gay rights.
His speech started with reference to the US constitution
, which describes why the US is exceptional:
We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.”
In his quest for re-election, President Obama campaigned on the widening gap between the rich and the remainder of society. Making reference to the patriots of 1776, he addressed that challenge
for today's' and future generations:
The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
He acknowledged that a free market is a requirement in a free society, however it cannot thrive without rules. While the challenges may be many, he reiterated that " we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together."
While making hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and reducing the nations deficit, Obama said that Americans still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. He said that the commitments we made to each other do not sap our initiative, but rather strengthen us, He debunked Mitt Romney's famous gaffe about the 47% by adding that these programs do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.
Addressing entitlement programs, immigration, equal pay for equal work and gay rights, Obama hinted that he will move to fight on those issues.
For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. 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. 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. 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.
The president addressed the American people directly during his speech and unlike previous inauguration speeches, he did not appear to hand an olive leaf to the other side. Some Republican pundits described the speech as the most partisan they had ever heard.
Dr. Charles Krauthammer, a FOX News contributor, described the speech
as showing President Obama unbound. Krauthammer said that the speech was a direct rebuke of Reagan's 1981 statement,which said government is not the solution, but that government was the problem.
While Republican congressional leaders took a muted approach to ward the presidents speech, categorizing it as a fresh start, Senate Republican Leader said:
"The president's second term represents a fresh start when it comes to dealing with the great challenges of our day; particularly, the transcendent challenge of unsustainable federal spending and debt,"
Rank and file Republicans were a little more blunt in their assessment of the speech, stating that while Obama started his speech with "We the People," it ended with "We the government, by the government for the government.
What does the future hold
While the president preached civility in debates and cooperation, he has indicated that he is prepared to use the bully pulpit, shaming the Republicans into adopting his agenda. This approach will not garner any results. President Obama needs the cooperation of the Republican House in order to move ahead with his agenda and this won't happen if both sides dig in their heels.
The first big test will come on Wednesday when the House introduces a bill that will kick the can down the road for the debt ceiling debate. The bill will raise the debt ceiling with the rider that the Senate pass a budget, which they haven't done in 1330 plus days, or face the stoppage of Senators pay until a budget is passed.
It will be incumbent on the president to bring the two sides together. As a last note, leadership is defined as he art to influence others to do willingly what you want them to do. Can President Obama pass that test?