Alexa

Obama launches 2nd term; firmly defends government

 FILE - In this combination of file photos, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at a peace rally in New York on April 15, 1967, left, and President...
 Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor after taking the oath of office during the 57th Presidential Inau...
 Vice President Joseph Biden, Jr. takes the oath of office, administered by Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the residence of the Vi...
 President Barack Obama is officially sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Blue Room of the White House during the 57th Presidential Inaugura...
 President Barack Obama is officially sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Blue Room of the White House during the 57th Presidential Inaugura...
 President Barack Obama embraces daughter Malia as first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha, right,  and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts,...
 President Barack Obama is officially sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Blue Room of the White House during the 57th Presidential Inaugura...
 Chief Justice John Roberts arrives in the Blue Room of the White House during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013...
 Vice President Joe Biden, left, places his hand on the Biden Family Bible held by his wife Jill Biden, center, as he takes the oath of office from Su...
 President Barack Obama is officially sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts, not pictured, in the Blue Room of the White House during the 57th Presid...
 President Barack Obama waves after being officially sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Blue Room of the White House during the 57th Presid...
 President Barack Obama gets a kiss from first lady Michelle Obama as daughter Malia watches after Obama was officially sworn-in by Chief Justice John...
 President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive to speak to supporters and donors at an inaugural reception for the 57th Presidential Ina...
 President Barack Obama kisses first lady Michelle Obama as they speak to supporters and donors at an inaugural reception for the 57th Presidential In...
 President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden, speak to supporters and donors at an inaugural recepti...
 President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama speak to supporters and donors at an inaugural reception for the 57th Presidential Inauguration ...
 President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden before they speak to supporters and donors at an i...
 Vice President Joe Biden hugs his wife Jill Biden after taking the oath of office during and official ceremony at the Naval Observatory, Sunday, Jan....
 President Barack Obama pauses after placing a wreath at Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
 President Barack Obama smiles as he arrives at St. John's Church in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, for a church service during the 57th President...
 President Barack Obama, accompanied by his daughters Sasha and Malia, first lady Michelle Obama and mother-in-law Marian Robinson, waves as they arri...
 A ceremonial Coast Guard honor guard stands in front of the U.S. Capitol before the ceremonial swearing-in of President Barack Obama during the 57th ...
 President Barack Obama supporters wave American flags on the National Mall in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21,  2013, prior to the start of President Bar...
 Flanked by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden arrive at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol...
 President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama react as they watch their daughters as the first family arrives at St. John's Church in Washingt...
 President Barack Obama, followed by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, arrives on t...
 President Barack Obama arrives on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, for the Presidential Barack Obama's ceremonial ...
 President Barack Obama greets people on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 in Washington, after the president's cerem...
 President Barack Obama leaves with his family following the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in W...
 First lady Michelle Obama listens to her daughter Sasha at the ceremonial swearing-in for President Barack Obama at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th ...
 President Barack Obama walks through the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, to the West Front an his ceremonial swearing-in ceremony durin...
 President Barack Obama greets singer Beyonce on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, after she sang the National Anthe...
 President Barack Obama waves after his speech while Vice President Joe Biden applauds at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57...
 President Barack Obama kisses his wife Michelle after the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Was...
 President Barack Obama, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, waves after being sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on the West ...
 President Barack Obama delivers his Inaugural address at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in ...
 President Barack Obama is sworn by Chief Justice John Roberts at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inaugura...
 President Barack Obama speaks at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan....
 President Barack Obama speaks at his ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan....
 President Barack Obama gestures as he gives his inauguration address during a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony during the 57th Presidential Inaugurati...
 President Barack Obama speaks at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan....
 President Barack Obama waves after his ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Ja...
 President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama applaud, as Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaug...
 President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden listen to the benediction at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presi...
 President Barack Obama greets people on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 in Washington, after his ceremonial sweari...
 Vice President Joe Biden, left and President Barack Obama wait for their ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inau...
 President Barack Obama looks behind him on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, prior to his ceremonial swearing-in ce...
 President Barack Obama applauds singer Beyonce after she sang the National Anthem on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 20...
 President Barack Obama and the first family leave after the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in W...

King Holiday Inauguration

FILE - In this combination of file photos, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at a peace rally in New York on April 15, 1967, left, and President...

Inaugural Swearing In Biden

Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor after taking the oath of office during the 57th Presidential Inau...

Inaugural Swearing In Biden

Vice President Joseph Biden, Jr. takes the oath of office, administered by Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the residence of the Vi...

APTOPIX Inaugural Swearing In Obama

President Barack Obama is officially sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Blue Room of the White House during the 57th Presidential Inaugura...

Inaugural Swearing In Obama

President Barack Obama is officially sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Blue Room of the White House during the 57th Presidential Inaugura...

Inaugural Swearing In Obama

President Barack Obama embraces daughter Malia as first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha, right, and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts,...

Inaugural Swearing In Obama

President Barack Obama is officially sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Blue Room of the White House during the 57th Presidential Inaugura...

Inaugural Swearing In Obama

Chief Justice John Roberts arrives in the Blue Room of the White House during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013...

APTOPIX Inaugural Swearing In Biden

Vice President Joe Biden, left, places his hand on the Biden Family Bible held by his wife Jill Biden, center, as he takes the oath of office from Su...

Inaugural Swearing In Obama

President Barack Obama is officially sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts, not pictured, in the Blue Room of the White House during the 57th Presid...

Inaugural Swearing In Obama

President Barack Obama waves after being officially sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Blue Room of the White House during the 57th Presid...

Inaugural Swearing In Obama

President Barack Obama gets a kiss from first lady Michelle Obama as daughter Malia watches after Obama was officially sworn-in by Chief Justice John...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive to speak to supporters and donors at an inaugural reception for the 57th Presidential Ina...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama kisses first lady Michelle Obama as they speak to supporters and donors at an inaugural reception for the 57th Presidential In...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden, speak to supporters and donors at an inaugural recepti...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama speak to supporters and donors at an inaugural reception for the 57th Presidential Inauguration ...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden before they speak to supporters and donors at an i...

Inaugural Swearing In Biden

Vice President Joe Biden hugs his wife Jill Biden after taking the oath of office during and official ceremony at the Naval Observatory, Sunday, Jan....

Inaugural Obama Arlington

President Barack Obama pauses after placing a wreath at Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama smiles as he arrives at St. John's Church in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, for a church service during the 57th President...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama, accompanied by his daughters Sasha and Malia, first lady Michelle Obama and mother-in-law Marian Robinson, waves as they arri...

Inaugural Swearing In

A ceremonial Coast Guard honor guard stands in front of the U.S. Capitol before the ceremonial swearing-in of President Barack Obama during the 57th ...

Inaugural National Mall

President Barack Obama supporters wave American flags on the National Mall in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, prior to the start of President Bar...

Inaugural Swearing In

Flanked by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden arrive at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama react as they watch their daughters as the first family arrives at St. John's Church in Washingt...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama, followed by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, arrives on t...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama arrives on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, for the Presidential Barack Obama's ceremonial ...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama greets people on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 in Washington, after the president's cerem...

Inaugural Swearing In

President Barack Obama leaves with his family following the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in W...

Inaugural Swearing In

First lady Michelle Obama listens to her daughter Sasha at the ceremonial swearing-in for President Barack Obama at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th ...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama walks through the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, to the West Front an his ceremonial swearing-in ceremony durin...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama greets singer Beyonce on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, after she sang the National Anthe...

Inaugural Swearing In

President Barack Obama waves after his speech while Vice President Joe Biden applauds at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57...

APTOPIX Inaugural Swearing In

President Barack Obama kisses his wife Michelle after the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Was...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, waves after being sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on the West ...

Inaugural Swearing In

President Barack Obama delivers his Inaugural address at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in ...

APTOPIX Inaugural Swearing In Obama

President Barack Obama is sworn by Chief Justice John Roberts at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inaugura...

Inaugural Swearing In

President Barack Obama speaks at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan....

Inaugural Swearing In

President Barack Obama speaks at his ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan....

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama gestures as he gives his inauguration address during a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony during the 57th Presidential Inaugurati...

APTOPIX Inaugural Swearing In

President Barack Obama speaks at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan....

Inaugural Swearing In

President Barack Obama waves after his ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Ja...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama applaud, as Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaug...

Inaugural Swearing In

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden listen to the benediction at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presi...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama greets people on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 in Washington, after his ceremonial sweari...

Inaugural Swearing In

Vice President Joe Biden, left and President Barack Obama wait for their ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inau...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama looks behind him on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, prior to his ceremonial swearing-in ce...

Inaugural Obama

President Barack Obama applauds singer Beyonce after she sang the National Anthem on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 20...

Inaugural Swearing In Obama

President Barack Obama and the first family leave after the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in W...

President Barack Obama issued a powerful defense of government in his second inaugural address on Monday, laying down a detailed challenge to the deeply conservative political opposition in Congress and demanding moderation from those who "mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics."
Looking down from the U.S. Capitol on a flag-waving crowd of hundreds of thousand on the National Mall, the first African-American president asserted his determination to keep in place the social safety net for the poor, the ailing and the elderly.
As he launched his second term, Obama spoke with fire for the center-left political agenda that first carried him into the White House four years ago. Gone was the need to carefully walk the political center line as he looked to re-election. Back was a readiness to confront the conservative Republicans who regained majority control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 congressional election.
The battle lines have been drawn between Republicans who to reduce the spiraling U.S. deficit and debt by cutting government programs and Obama and congressional Democrats who insist that those programs must be maintained, if modified, and supported by higher taxes.
The president said Americans must make hard choices to reduce the deficit and debt. "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," he said.
The Republican opposition wants to target spending cuts on the federal Medicare health insurance for Americans at age 65 and Social Security pensions for older citizens _ programs created by Democratic presidents and cherished by the party.
Inaugural speeches are often short on specifics and polarizing issues and instead appeal to broad values. In laying out an ambitious program 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, from slowing climate change to honoring the dignity of men, women and children around the globe.
"My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together," Obama said. He also marked a new direction in foreign policy as the U.S. prepares to pull troops from Afghanistan, ending the country's longest war.
"We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war," the president said outside the Capitol, looking out across a huge crowd of people jammed should to shoulder on the National Mall below.
He challenged those who favor aggressive use of the powerful U.S. military, calling them to remember the policies of presidents past.
"We are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well," said Obama, who is under heavy pressure from the right-wing leadership of U.S. ally Israel and powerful voices in Congress to launch military strikes against Iran's nuclear program.
Obama, who has become increasingly outspoken in favor of gay rights and same-sex marriage, referenced the gay-rights riots of 1969 in his inaugural address, classing them as a civil rights watershed along with key moments in the struggles for blacks and women. He said the nation's journey is not complete "until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law."
While he was officially sworn in Sunday, as required by law, the glitter of Inauguration Day _ the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House, the night of balls, the ceremonial beginning of a new four-year presidential term _ still enlivened staid Washington. The celebration was pushed to Monday because Jan. 20 fell on a Sunday this year. That placed the grand ceremony on the U.S. holiday marking the birthday of revered civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Obama _ the politician who rose improbably from a history as a community organizer in Chicago and a professor of constitutional law to the pinnacle of power, faces a nation riven by partisan disunity _ a still-weak economy and an array of challenges abroad.
The president also faces a less charmed standing on the world stage, where expectations for him had been so high four years ago that he was given the Nobel Peace Prize just months into his presidency. "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the Nobel announcement in 2009 read.
Monday's events had less of the effervescence of four years ago, when the 1.8 million people packed into central Washington knew they were witnessing history. Obama is now older, grayer and more entrenched in the politics he once tried rise above. Officials said crowds were about half what they were four years ago.
After the traditional post-inaugural lunch in the Capitol Rotunda, Obama and the first lady climbed aboard the president's armored limousine at the head of what will be a parade that stretches from inauguration site then along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. Screaming crowds lined the route to the VIP reviewing stand in front of the Executive Mansion where the Obama family, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, and invited guests will watch the parade. Temperatures were well above freezing and the sun was shining as Obama and the first lady stepped from the limousine to walk part of the route.
As he enters his second term, Americans increasingly see Obama as a strong leader, someone who stands up for his beliefs and is able to get things done, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The survey shows him with a 52 percent job approval rating, among the highest rankings since early in his presidency. His personal favorability, 59 percent, has rebounded from a low of 50 percent in the 2012 campaign against Republican Mitt Romney.
When the partying is done on Monday, it's back to business for a president who is leading a nation.
In light of the nation's troubled racial history, Obama's election to the White House in 2008 as the first black president was seen by many as a turning point. In his first inaugural address, Obama vowed to moderate the partisan anger engulfing the country, but the nation is only more divided four years on.
Obama guided the country through many crushing challenges after taking office in 2009: ending the Iraq war, putting the Afghan war on a course toward U.S. withdrawal and saving the collapsing economy. He won approval for a sweeping health care overhaul.
Yet onerous problems remain, and his success in resolving them will define his place in history.
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