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'America's possibilities are limitless'

By David Espo

AP Special Correspondent

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 05:03 p.m. HST, Jan 21, 2013


WASHINGTON » Turning the page on years of war and recession, President Barack Obama summoned a divided nation today to act with "passion and dedication" to broaden equality and prosperity at home, nurture democracy around the world and combat global warming as he embarked on a second term before a vast and cheering crowd that spilled down the historic National Mall.

"America's possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands," the 44th president declared in a second inaugural address that broke new ground by assigning gay rights a prominent place in the wider struggle for equality for all.

In a unity plea to politicians and the nation at large, he called for "collective action" to confront challenges and said, "Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time — but it does require us to act in our time."

Elected four years ago as America's first black president, Obama spoke from specially constructed flag-bedecked stands outside the Capitol after reciting oath of office that all presidents have uttered since the nation's founding.

The events highlighted a day replete with all the fanfare that a security-minded capital could muster — from white-gloved Marine trumpeters who heralded the arrival of dignitaries on the inaugural stands to the mid-winter orange flowers that graced the tables at a traditional lunch with lawmakers inside the Capitol.

The weather was relatively warm, in the mid-40s, and while the crowd was not as large as on Inauguration Day four years ago, it was estimated at up to 1 million.

Big enough that he turned around as he was leaving the inaugural stands to savor the view one final time.

"I'm not going to see this again," said the man whose political career has been meteoric — from the Illinois Legislature to the U.S. Senate and the White House before marking his 48th birthday.

On a day of renewal for democracy, everyone seemed to have an opinion, and many seemed eager to share it.

"I'm just thankful that we've got another four years of democracy that everyone can grow in," said Wilbur Cole, 52, a postman from suburban Memphis, Tenn., who spent part of the day visiting the civil rights museum there at the site where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

The inauguration this year shared the day with King's birthday holiday, and the president used a Bible that had belonged to the civil rights leader for the swearing-in, along with a second one that been Abraham Lincoln's. The president also paused inside the Capitol Rotunda to gaze at a dark bronze statue of King.

Others watching at a distance were less upbeat than Cole. Frank Pinto, 62, and an unemployed construction contractor, took in the inaugural events on television at a bar in Hartford, Conn. He said because of the president's policies, "My grandkids will be in debt and their kids will be in debt."

The tone was less overtly political in the nation's capital, where bipartisanship was on the menu in the speechmaking and at the congressional lunch.

"Congratulations and Godspeed," House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, said to Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he presented them with flags that had flown atop the Capitol.

Outside, the Inaugural Parade took shape, a reflection of American musicality and diversity that featured military units, bands, floats, the Chinese American Community Center Folk Dance Troupe from Hockessin, Del., and the Isiserettes Drill & Drum Corps from Des Moines, Iowa.

The crowds were several rows deep along parts of the route, and security was intense. More than a dozen vehicles flanked the president's limousine as it rolled down Pennsylvania Avenue, and several agents walked alongside on foot.

As recent predecessors have, the president emerged from his car and walked several blocks on foot. His wife, Michelle, was with him, and the two held hands while acknowledging the cheers from well-wishers during two separate strolls along the route.

A short time later, accompanied by their children and the vice president and his family, the first couple settled in to view the parade from a reviewing stand built in front of the White House.

A pair of nighttime inaugural balls completed the official proceedings, with a guest line running into the tens of thousands.

Obama addressed cheering crowds at the Commander in Chief Ball, speaking by video to thank a group of troops in southern Afghanistan. Then he introduced his "date," Michelle Obama, who danced with her husband in a ruby chiffon and velvet gown while Jennifer Hudson sang "Let's Stay Together."

In his brief, 18-minute speech, Obama did not dwell on the most pressing challenges of the past four years. He barely mentioned the struggle to reduce the federal deficit, a fight that has occupied much of his and Congress' time and promises the same in months to come.

He spoke up for the poor — "Our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it" — and for those on the next-higher rung — "We believe that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class." The second reference echoed his calls from the presidential campaign that catapulted him to re-election

"A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun," said the president who presided over the end to the U.S. combat role in Iraq, set a timetable for doing the same in Afghanistan and took office when the worst recession in decades was still deepening.

"We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom," he said in a relatively brief reference to foreign policy.

The former community organizer made it clear he views government as an engine of progress. While that was far from surprising for a Democrat, his emphasis on the need to combat global climate change was unexpected, as was his firm new declaration of support for full gay rights.

In a jab at climate-change doubters, he said, "Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms." He said America must lead in the transition to sustainable energy resources.

He likened the struggle for gay rights to earlier crusades for women's suffrage and racial equality.

"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," said the president, who waited until his campaign for re-election last year to announce his support for gay marriage.

His speech hinted only barely at issues likely to spark opposition from Republicans who hold power in the House.

He defended Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as programs that "do not make us a nation of takers; they free is to take the risks that made this country great."

He referred briefly to making "the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit," a rhetorical bow to a looming debate in which Republicans are seeking spending cuts in health care programs to slow the rise in a $16.4 trillion national debt.

He also cited a need for legislation to ease access to voting, an issue of particular concern to minority groups, and to immigration reform and gun-control legislation that he is expected to go into at length in his State of the Union speech on Feb. 12.

But his speech was less a list of legislative proposals than a plea for tackling challenges.

"We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect," he said, and today's "victories will only be partial."

There was some official business conducted during the day.

Moments after being sworn in, the president signed nomination papers for four new appointees to his Cabinet, Sen. John Kerry for secretary of state, White House chief of staff Jacob Lew to be treasury secretary, former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel for defense secretary and White House adviser John Brennan to head the CIA.

___

Associated Press writers Larry Margasak, Darlene Superville, Donna Cassata, Alan Fram, Andrew Taylor, Stephen Ohlemacher, Jim Kuhnhenn, Julie Pace, Tom Ritchie and Tracy Brown, in Washington; Adrian Santz in Memphis, Tenn., and Stephen Singer in Hartford, Conn., contributed to this story.







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FAB4WOOFIES wrote:
WHAT'S UP? NO RESPECT..CROWDS EXPECTED AT WAY LESS THAN HALF OF FIRST TIME. INAUGERAL BALL TICKETS UNSOLD..GOING FOR 50% OFF. ...FAME IS FLEETING AS THE CHICKENS COME HOME TO ROOST
on January 21,2013 | 05:32AM
HD36 wrote:
You're right. There are consequences when a government goes into debt beyond 100% of its GDP. There are consequences when central banks print trillions of dollars out of thin air. And there are consequences when politicians give free money to the majority who elect them. We've seen this movie before starring the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the French Bourban Monarchy. Unfortunately, we don't have a crystal ball and can't mark the date on our calender when the government will have to default or the day the world loses confidence in the dollar. Could be next week, next month, or next year.
on January 21,2013 | 07:01AM
MalamaKaAina wrote:
Comment sent for review!
on January 22,2013 | 02:49AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Didn't this dude just win the election! Get over it.
on January 21,2013 | 10:09AM
HD36 wrote:
Some will take a stand, others like you will kneel forever.
on January 21,2013 | 03:39PM
Grimbold wrote:
He won because already there are more takers than givers.
on January 21,2013 | 07:48PM
frontman wrote:
What's she doing???? Digging her nose with that little finger???
on January 21,2013 | 04:14PM
loquaciousone wrote:
Checking for boogers
on January 21,2013 | 04:36PM
Mythman wrote:
Pres should stop making things contentious and join with Washington in fixing the mess instead of saying Washington is to blame for the same mess. Congress can help clean up the mess using law and appropriations of tax payer and federal government revenues. States can help by fixing their own messes. The wars are over, for now - God Bless America
on January 21,2013 | 06:49AM
st1d wrote:
limitless? not with obama promising core democratic voters that their entitlement benefits will continue.
on January 21,2013 | 07:27AM
st1d wrote:
sad. get some help.
on January 21,2013 | 06:14PM
Waterman2 wrote:
I was taught that if you can't say anything good about someone don't say anything. Well, I got nothing to say.
on January 21,2013 | 08:28AM
Kawipoo wrote:
Possibilities are not limitless with the debt burden.
on January 21,2013 | 08:32AM
pastormatt wrote:
Although this should be a story of great joy, it is filled with despair as we look forward to more failed leadership, blame, division, and hate come from the highest office of our land. My prayers are for our country and that Obama might have learned and may even change his destructive ways. God help America at this time.
on January 21,2013 | 08:56AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I guess this means we will finally see the end of people blaming stuff on Bush.
on January 21,2013 | 09:12AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Boohoohoohoo, wah,wah,wah, mommy,mommy,mommy....
on January 21,2013 | 09:37AM
tsboy wrote:
i don't believe it. no Obama supporters defending him here. and who can blame them? you can't believe anything this president says. he sounds great when he's saying it, but then does nothing or just the opposite.
on January 21,2013 | 09:53AM
IAmSane wrote:
Yeah, I mean, posting comments on the Internet is serious business, after all.
on January 21,2013 | 10:31AM
iansuen wrote:
Or maybe because as-you-know internet comments rarely reflect reality? If I were to judge the president based on the stuff I see online I would be forced to conclude that the majority of the American public detests the president. However he won re-election so...what?
on January 21,2013 | 10:46AM
tsboy wrote:
nearly half that voted, voted agianst Obama. so....what?
on January 21,2013 | 11:36AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
"nearly half" vs. "more than half"... that's a win.
on January 21,2013 | 01:54PM
iansuen wrote:
Do I need to repeat myself?
on January 21,2013 | 03:24PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
But more than half voted for Mr. Obama. And by larger margins of victory in the electoral college AND the popular vote than former President Bush tallied in 2000 and 2004. That translates to "he won"...decisively.
on January 21,2013 | 03:41PM
Pacej001 wrote:
If by "decisively" you mean the outcome is clear, you're correct. If you mean that he gained some sort of magical mandate, you're not. The House is still a better barometer of the national mood and it stayed Republican and, if the history of off-year elections is a guide, it will remain Republican through the remainder of his term. So, divided government it is and the President, a rigid ideologue if there ever was one, will have to finally learn to lead and govern if he hopes to accomplish anything beyond stalemate.
on January 21,2013 | 05:13PM
HD36 wrote:
That's because the majority that voted for him are usually watching reality shows instead of reading the news.
on January 21,2013 | 03:43PM
IAmSane wrote:
And the Republicans accuse the president of dividing the nation. Bunch of hypocrites.
on January 21,2013 | 04:38PM
iansuen wrote:
Bravo. Ad-hominem attacks and no sources to back up your claim. Next time think of something better than insulting voters.
on January 21,2013 | 04:54PM
AhiPoke wrote:
He divides our country like no other president and now he calls upon us to act with "passion and dedication" to put it back together but only under his terms and conditions? I consider myself an independent as I have voted for democrats, republicans and none of the above. Having said that I think obama is the worse president in my lifetime. Previously I thought carter and bush were bad but they don't come close to obama. The only good thing is we have at most "only" four mores years of him. I hope we survive.
on January 21,2013 | 12:37PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I wonder how many realize that our unemployment rate today is the same as it was when Obama first took office? Four years, trillions in debt, debased dollar, wild spending and here we are.....the same as his first day.
on January 21,2013 | 12:50PM
gari wrote:
"limitless " What do you call someone who only says nice things...and does not have to remember what was said Leader ?cheer leader ?candy man ?some one who cares ?
on January 21,2013 | 01:44PM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Tea Party Member
on January 21,2013 | 03:31PM
HD36 wrote:
The only thing limitless is the amount of money they will print.
on January 21,2013 | 03:43PM
Skyler wrote:
Gosh, what a face, Michelle...
on January 21,2013 | 01:59PM
false wrote:
They make a handsome family for the celebration of Liberty for All. Now let's get behind these leaders and get something done. The whole "lot" of them represent us.
on January 21,2013 | 02:42PM
64hoo wrote:
his speech talking about preventing global warming for future generations there is no global warming. the important thing he did not mention in his speech was about the economy and unemployment and other ills happening in this country that's what we have to fix for future generations not that phony global warming. if people want to believe that global warming is the main issue they should look at this economy first.
on January 21,2013 | 04:05PM
false wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on January 21,2013 | 04:29PM
false wrote:
Looks from the picture that her hands are frozen and she is not "practiced" at giving the Shaka. So what!? She tried and publicly struggled to participate. What's your problem? She's authentic as a public person. We don't need your disdain to color her efforts.
on January 21,2013 | 04:56PM
false wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on January 21,2013 | 05:13PM
IAmSane wrote:
You're replying to your own comments... You mental or what?
on January 21,2013 | 05:41PM
Snator wrote:
The first lady looks like a little kid struggling to 'make a shaka'.
on January 21,2013 | 06:21PM
Grimbold wrote:
'America's possibilities are limitless' He means no limit on spending , making debt and tax us like heck and "redistribute" our money..
on January 21,2013 | 07:47PM
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