Gun control, terrorism, gay rights and climate change: Obama sets out his bold battle plan for the next four years

President’s uncompromising address threw down gauntlet to the Republicans

Washington

His left hand barely removed from the two Bibles chosen for his ceremonial swearing-in, Barack Obama used his second inaugural address boldly to urge his fellow citizens to make the most of the new hour - the end of two wars and the start of an economic recovery - to honour a shared vision of prosperity, peace and equality.

“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together,” Mr Obama asserted in a speech that echoed the creeds he campaigned on last year, ranging from protecting the poor and disadvantaged to gay marriage, from healthcare reform to climate change. As such, he threw down the gauntlet to Republicans; there will be no backing down from the principles he believes in.

He spoke on a crisp day in Washington before a crowd of hundreds of thousands on the National Mall that briefly broke out into chants of “Obama, Obama” as he rose to speak. Not dwelling directly on the rancour of his first term, or delving too deeply into policy details for his second, Mr Obama sought to strike a tone of optimism and hope.

“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,” he proclaimed.

The pomp on the West Steps of the Capitol was leavened with a rendition of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ by Beyoncé who was accompanied to her seat by her rapper husband Jay-Z; as royals of music, they threatened almost to steal the show.

Mr Obama took the oath of office using Bibles that had belonged to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. Later, the inaugural festivities turned to the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue with the first couple leading and, of course, the tux-and-gowns inaugural balls at the Washington Convention Centre in the evening.

When the oath of office ceremonials were almost done and Mr Obama was being led off the make-shift platform to return inside the Capitol, he turned around and for perhaps half a minute surveyed the ocean of Americans below on the Mall absorbing the history of the moment and, perhaps, his achievement in earning a second term.

Streaming into the Mall earlier – some even before sunrise – supporters of the re-elected President seemed tempered in their hopes for his second term. “I want civility,” offered Peggy Higgins, a Maryland social worker tired of bad blood in Washington. “And I want stricter controls on guns,” she added, paraphrasing what she said she had heard comedian Chris Rock say on the television: “Give ‘em all the guns they want but charge $5,000 for every bullet”.

While he omitted to mention gun control directly, Mr Obama spoke of the need to protect all Americans from danger including in the “quiet lanes of Newtown”, the Connecticut town struck by last month’s school shooting. They need to “know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm,” he said.

Though adorned by familiar rhetorical flourishes, Mr Obama’s address was also blunt as he sought to remind Republicans who was in charge after his dispatch of Mitt Romney in the elections, while at the same time saying that only compromise will make progress in Washington possible. In a direct swipe at the Republican right flank, including Tea Party members, he intoned: “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”

Mr Obama’s confidence was evident as he touched on divisive issues, such as preserving Medicare even while tackling the deficit. “We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of healthcare and the size of our deficit,” he said. “But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.”

Nor he did he shy from his promises to pursue solutions to threats to global security and climate change. “Failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” he declared.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...