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Obama inaugural speech defends liberal goals

 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...

Barack Obama launched his second term as U.S. president by confronting conservative opponents in Congress, declaring in an inaugural address before a nearly a million spectators that he will tackle climate change, protect America's social safety net and pursue other decidedly liberal goals.
The president _ often criticized by supporters for being too quick to compromise in his first term only to get little in return from Republicans _ spoke with fire for the center-left political agenda that first carried him into the White House four years ago.
He defended spending on social programs for the poor, the ailing and the elderly. He promoted immigration reform and gay marriage. And he unexpectedly gave one of his most impassioned calls for action on climate change, an issue that has not been at the forefront of the political debate.
The first African-American president starts his second term emboldened by a decisive re-election victory, an improving _ though still weak _ economy and the winding down a decade of wars. But he faces a political landscape as divided as before: Republicans control the House of Representatives and his fellow Democrats run the Senate.
He tried to make clear that he will not stand for the partisan fighting that often marked his first term, thwarting his efforts to pass aggressive plans for jobs creation and deficit reduction. Without mentioning Republicans or Democrats, he demanded moderation from those whose refusal to compromise twice brought the nation to the brink of fiscal crisis.
"We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate," Obama said, "We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today's victories will be only partial."
It was an acknowledgement that not only Republicans, but also the president and his Democratic Party must compromise. Yet the speech was a far cry from the more conciliatory tone he tried to set in his first inaugural address four years ago.
Then a lightly experienced first-term senator, Obama entered the presidency vowing to stem the partisan anger that engulfed the country. He appeared to be taken aback by the ferocity of Republican resistance, which gave birth to the conservative tea party movement in 2009. The limited government, anti-tax conservatives forced him to pass his health care overhaul without a single Republican vote, and fueled huge Democratic setbacks in the 2010 congressional elections.
Obama's decisive win in November and Republican setbacks in Congress chastened the opposition a bit, but Republicans still adamantly oppose the president's tax-and-spend policies. That poses the central challenge to his hopes for an ambitious second-term agenda.
The Republican opposition wants to target spending cuts on the federal Medicare health insurance for Americans at age 65 and other programs to slow the rise in a $16.4 trillion national debt.
Obama defended such programs with an overt jab at the Republican presidential candidate he defeated, Mitt Romney, who during the campaign infamously criticized the 47 percent of American voters "who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims." Romney's running, Congressman Paul Ryan, declared during the campaign that the U.S. was a welfare state creating more "takers" than "makers."
Programs like Medicare, Obama said, "do not make us a nation of takers; They free us to take the risks that make this country great."
"Our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it," Obama said outside the Capitol, looking out at the crowd of people jammed should to shoulder on the National Mall.
His demand for action on climate change also flipped around an accusation that some Republicans leveled at him during the campaign: That his administration was weakening the country by trying to lead the world "from behind."
"The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it," Obama said. "We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries - we must claim its promise."
He offered an impatient warning for global warming doubters. "Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms," he said.
Obama also cited a need for immigration reform and gun-control legislation. Both efforts will bring bitter partisan wrangling, especially the gun debate in the raw aftermath of the Connecticut school shooting that left 20 young children dead.
Obama marked a new direction in foreign policy as the U.S. prepares to pull troops from Afghanistan, ending the country's longest war. 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 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.
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.
Obama's re-election as the nation's first black president deepens his place in history. But his handling of a hostile U.S. House, as one fiscal crisis gives way to the next, will help determine the luster of his legacy.
____
Associated Press writers David Espo and Nedra Pickler contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-06-15 18:57 GMT+08:00