Inauguration Day: Obama signals little compromise

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."

President Barack Obama delivers his second inauguration speech

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.

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He went out of his way to mention issues which enrage those who voted against him”

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"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.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings. For there is none worthy of the name but God, whom heaven, earth and sea obey".

    So spoke King Canute the Great, the legend says, seated on his throne on the seashore, waves lapping round his feet. Canute had learned that his flattering courtiers claimed he was "So great, he could command the tides of the sea to go back".

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    11. pfbulmer are you referring to O bin Ladin? The person who initiated the 9/11 attacks? Do you feel the same way about the killing of Admiral Yamamoto during WW II?

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    After another 4 years of Barry, America will make Greece look like Switzerland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Yonder politico has a bit of pomp and ceremony and makes great speech.
    You have to wonder what time will bring?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    The one who hopes the Republicans will fade away to oblivion, is really asking for a one-party State. Personally, I like choice. One party rule was tried by the Germans in the 1930s and by the Soviets. I believe it is because of this choice we are here, and they have faded into oblivion. A Democrat-only State would ruin us all just as a Republican-only State would. Don't kid yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    We can only hope that President Obama gets gun control through a recalcitrant Congress and that the next four years results in a more equitable America and the rest of the world.

    Obama = Hope

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Reasoned American@9"The President's biggest test may come from his own constituency when serious budget cuts are made..."

    Actually, I think you'll find that the President's constituency is considerably more willing to accept their share of the burden than those who oppose him.

    Unlike those opponents, we still believe in the concepts of the common good, collective effort and shared sacrifice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Your title "Obama signals little compromise" is the opposite of reality and sounds like Republican or IDU propaganda. Obama has compromised excessively, has kept on numerous Republican cabinet appointments far to the right of the values of the people who elected him. The Republicans only claim otherwise as a hypocritical strategy which you echo. As for cults, the Repu

  • Comment number 13.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Obama's second inauguration felt much more powerful this time. It sets in stone the new reality of the US. I'm 32, female, bisexual, black, own a business, from the South, and married to a white man. I feel my life represents this new reality. My father was forced to take a test to vote, now we have a black president again. Only in the US. I stood in line for 4+ hours to vote. Worth every second.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The media must stop judging this man by what he says , including the niave Mr Mardell , this is man who has taken out adverts bragging about an unlawful assasination of an armed man infront of his wife and children , who instigiated a Libyan policy that has killed an American ambassador and has set the whole of North Africa aflame, and has a 100 trillion deficit to deal wiith ?

  • Comment number 10.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    On Climate Change, President Obama can do many things without Congressional approval and through executive orders, etc. Unsure if the President needs to do anything concerning gay rights as the courts are already providing gay activists the wins that they desire. The President's biggest test may come from his own constituency when serious budget cuts are made and they will be made...soon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    don't think this man has got a clue to be honest he's the american president so get things done and stop just talking a good story

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Seize the moment !!!

    ...then watch it slip through your fingers as the bankers and politicians conspire against you...

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I disagree with the premise that President Obama won't be able to get anything meaningful through Congress. I believe his chances on getting an Immigration bill passed is very high as is a gun control law. On immigration, the Republicans can NOT afford to further alienate the Hispanic population. On gun control, the President will get a bill passed even if it does not contain everything he wants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Mark, Do you realise the beeb have closed down almost all of their comments threads to accommodate you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Good for Obama! Republicans need to reconcile with science on Global warming and stop playing to the rich and the Rush ditto heads that live vicariously through them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    We all know that Obama is the master of rhetoric - unfortunately the political landscape in the USA means even if he is good to his word his chances of getting meaningful things through Congress are slim to zero.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    The Republicans in Congress, indeed all Americans, should begin to realise that a blind commitment to an ideology, while ignoriing or denying the practical realities of America today, is no way to govern. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is not what governments do, it is what people do.


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