Barack Obama, the President of the United States, was inaugurated for his second term Jan. 21.
The 20th Amendment to the Constitution requires that all presidents being inaugurated since October 1933 begin their new terms on Jan. 20 at noon, but since Jan. 20 fell on a Sunday this year, President Obama had two swearing-ins: the official one, which was private at the White House, and a public one the next day at the Capitol.
In his inauguration speech, President Obama focused on many domestic issues he plans to address in his second term as president, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, climate change, immigration reform, and gun control.
President Obama linked to moments in America’s past, such as Seneca Falls, to call for change in the future.
He also cited parts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as a call for equality among all people of the United States and as an acknowledgement of the current state of the American political system.
In addition, President Obama referenced speeches given by important leaders of American history, such as John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr., noting Americans need to work together to make great accomplishments for the future, both domestic and foreign.
There was great emphasis put on the idea that humans are judged by how they treat the lowest in their midst, and everyone deserves to be treated with great respect.
“President Obama’s speech connected the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. to an overarching theme of equality in the philosophy that empowers American government,” said Wyatt Huppert ’14, president of F&M College Democrats.
“Obama’s repeated reference to the Declaration of Independence reaffirmed the place held in his administration by the principle that all men are created equal.”
However, some thought President Obama’s speech was more polarizing than accepting.
“Two years ago, Chris Mathews asked Fummers, ‘What does Obama stand for; what would he lose an election over?’ After a four-year presidency and a lengthy election, Americans are no closer to answering these questions,” said Kevin Shields ’13, vice president of the F&M College Republicans. “Rhetoric like the president’s recent inaugural address only gives more mixed signals.”
While Huppert agreed President Obama seemed to go against some of the conservative ideals, he also thought the speech attempted to display a sense of unity.
“His speech seemed to be, in the first half, a rebuking of the conservative argument on the nature of government, capitalizing on his re-election as a confirmation that policy ought to be driven by the sense that ‘we are all in this together,’” Huppert said.
“In the second half it seemed to be the construction of a platform of priorities for the next four years. What remains to be seen is how much of this is rhetoric and how much will translate into policy.”
Shields agreed there was a lot of pure rhetoric in the speech, saying, “In 2008, President Obama ran on a lot of promises. However, despite his party’s super-majority in both houses of Congress — for just under half his term — many of those promises went ignored. PolitiFact alone has listed six pages of Obama’s broken promises. Thus, I didn’t know how seriously to take his words at face value.”
Shields explained this speech was considered a very liberal speech in many respects.
“I get that Republicans are viewed as obstructionist to the President’s goals,” Shields said. “However, what I don’t get is why Congress is seen as ‘out of line’ when compared to a president who ran on a platform of bipartisanship, only to give an inaugural address that has been widely regarded as his most liberal speech as president.”
In addition, Shields felt that this speech was not meant to be an olive branch between the Republicans and Democrats.
“For me — someone who loves finding the middle ground — I was shocked to hear of no mention of ‘bipartisanship,’” said Shields. “No mention of ‘tough choices,’ no mention of ‘difficult work.’”
“That’s not inviting for compromise and hardly realistic to fixing our nation’s complex divide. To quote one of our great founders, Benjamin Franklin, ‘Well done is better than well said.’ So far, all I have seen is more words, while America continues to struggle in this terrible economy.”
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