Barack Obama

Seize the moment, Obama tells US in inaugural speech

President calls for national unity as he takes oath of office for second time in 24 hours

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 January, 2013, 12:01pm

US President Barack Obama declared yesterday that a decade of war was ending, the nation's economy was recovering and "America's possibilities are limitless" as he launched into a second term before a flag-waving crowd of hundreds of thousands.

Laying out a massive programme for his coming four years, the president used his inaugural address to urge the country to join him in tackling a vast array of problems.

"My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together," Obama said, moments after taking the oath of office.

Trumpets blew fanfares and cannons fired as the country watched the president take the oath of office as the world's most powerful elected leader.

Obama's address touched on the broad gifts that bring the country together, and pointed to the work ahead.

"We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit," he said. "But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future."

With second-term expectations tempered by lingering economic weakness and the political realities of a divided Washington, Obama acknowledged the difficult road ahead even as he sought to build momentum from his re-election victory.

"We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate," Obama said.

Obama's speech was noticeably liberal - calling for protection for the weak, the poor and those lacking health care, and obliquely including a call for gay rights and protection against gun crime for children.

The president also said that American security did not require "perpetual war" and promised to base American global leadership on dialogue, firm alliances but not to cede the threat of the use of force.

Obama also vowed to meet the threat of global warming, despite scepticism on climate change from some Republican foes.

While he was officially sworn on Sunday, as required by law, the glitter of Inauguration Day still enlivened staid Washington. The celebration was pushed to yesterday because January 20 fell on a Sunday this year. That placed the grand ceremony on the US holiday marking the birthday of revered civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

Though the mood was festive, Obama's second inauguration lacked the sense of historic promise and hope that greeted his first term in 2009.

One Obama supporter, the Reverend Ruddie Mingo, 54, donated time and money to the president's campaign against Republican Mitt Romney, and said inaugural festivities were less mobbed than four years ago. "My hope is that his next four years we can get more stuff accomplished on both sides," he said. Hazel Carter, 90, of Springfield, Ohio, attended the last inauguration and wasn't going to miss this one.

"I prayed, God, just let me keep breathing until the inauguration," she said. "It's a little more subdued, but beautiful. Beautiful. I love it."

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse