In an aggressive address that called for action on climate change, gay rights, immigration and the nation’s partisan divide, Obama urged the country to come together to reaffirm its founding principles.
“The point is, when a president gives an inaugural address, he should and did lay out what requires our attention,” she said.
The president made the case that the nation needs to come together to do things people cannot do on their own — from training teachers to building roads to providing for the nation’s defense.
The president made special mention of the civil rights struggles that helped lead to his becoming the first African-American president. He tied that struggle — and the coincidental fact that the inaugural ceremony was being held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day — to new battles for civil rights, including gay rights, immigration, and pay equity for women.
“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,” Obama said. He added: “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.”
In a nod to his gun control agenda, the president mentioned the Dec. 14 Newtown, Conn., massacre and said the country must make sure that children in urban, suburban and inner cities “know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.”
On the deficit fights that have swallowed much of the past two years, the president called for reform that still preserves entitlement programs.
“The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
The mention of “takers” came from Obama’s 2012 campaign against GOP nominee Mitt Romney, whose campaign lost momentum when a tape surfaced of him referring to the “47 percent” of Americans who don’t pay income tax. The reference was one of many moments when the president challenged his political opponents to soften their resistance compromising with him.
“We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect,” he said. “We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.