President Obama’s second inaugural address, January 21st, 2013.
PBS NewsHour
As we wrote back in November, history was made with the US election. It was solidified on Sunday, January 20th when President Obama was sworn in for his second term as US President in a private ceremony at the White House (the Constitution requires that a president begins his term by noon on January 20th). Oddly enough, after taking the oath of office publicly again on Monday, President Obama is, along with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only president to have been sworn into office four times. Obama was also sworn in twice for his first term, as Chief Justice John Roberts made a mistake in the oath of office, and so they repeated it shortly afterwards “out of an abundance of caution.”
Inaugural speeches are often bipartisan and full of hope for the future while recalling elements of the past. In that sense, Obama’s speech was no different, but he made history in another way. Seemingly small but very meaningful, President Obama said

We the people declare today that the most evident of truth that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

In referencing the suffrage movement (the Seneca Falls convention) and the black civil rights movement (the Selma to Montgomery marches), President Obama lent real political weight to the gay rights movement by including the Stonewall riots, which are generally considered the start of the modern gay rights movement. In mentioning Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech, President Obama effectively said that enough is enough, and reminded people of another famous quote from Dr. King:

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

Obama went on to directly mention our need for gay rights, but he did not limit his speech to that. He also mentioned climate change, immigration, and the Newtown shooting. Through a speech filled with platitudes, on Monday the President set out his goals for his final term in office. Simply speaking, those goals are equality and fairness for all, safety and security for all, and the right to health and a healthy environment. Now, he’s back to business, trying to make those things happen.
-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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