Inauguration Day: Obama signals little compromise

  • 21 January 2013
  • From the section US & Canada
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President Barack Obama delivers his second inauguration speech

If the cheers of the crowd were anything to go by, Beyonce stole the show with her rendition of the national anthem.

There was enough pomp and enough pop to go around, but what struck me was the very political purpose of the inauguration speech.

Before the biggest audience he will ever have, President Barack Obama made a bold attempt to link his vision with that of the founding fathers, to put his plans for the next four years in a philosophical framework.

For a man accused by his opponents of turning America into a different land, it is an important message.

He took as a theme the Declaration of Independence and its stress on the rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Breaking a taboo, he spoke of the initial limits to those concepts.

"Through blood drawn by lash, and blood drawn by sword, we noted that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half slave and half free."

He made clear his view that today, too, progress towards greater freedom and happiness does not just happen on its own.

"For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they've never been self-executing," he says. "That while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on earth."

He said that American greatness could only be achieved by Americans acting together - helping each other through the agency of government.

"We, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it," he said.

"We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few.

"We recognise that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss or a sudden illness or a home swept away in a terrible storm.

"The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative.

"They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great."

There was little of compromise in this speech. He went out of his way to mention issues which enrage those who voted against him - climate change, immigration, gun control and gay rights.

"Abroad" hardly got a look-in beyond a brief mention as America as an "anchor" in world affairs, and a big cheer for his talk of ending the wars.

For now the celebrations continue, but for Mr Obama there will be no backing down from his agenda, in all its controversial detail.