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January 21, 2013

Term II: U.S. must help poor, elderly, Obama says

With no pressure to run again, president speaks more freely

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Declaring “our journey is not complete,” President Barack Obama took the oath of office for his second term before a crowd of hundreds of thousands Monday, urging the nation to set an unwavering course toward prosperity and freedom for all its citizens and protect the social safety net that has sheltered the poor, elderly and needy.  

“Our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” Obama said in his relatively brief, 18-minute address. “We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class,” he added, echoing his calls from the presidential campaign that catapulted him to re-election.

The president declared that a decade of war is ending, as is the economic recession that consumed much of his first term. 

The inaugural fanfare spread across the capital Monday, including a traditional lunch with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Before departing the Capitol, Obama paused in the Rotunda in front of a bust of Martin Luther King Jr., the slain civil rights leader whose birthday holiday coincided with the inaugural festivities. 

From the Capitol, the president and first lady Michelle Obama climbed into the black armored limousine that ferried them down crowd-lined Pennsylvania Avenue for the inaugural parade. Thousands cheered them along. Later, the Obamas were to attend glitzy balls expected to draw up to 40,000 people. 

Before diving into the afternoon celebrations, Obama previewed an ambitious second-term agenda, devoting several sentences in his address to the threat of global climate change and saying that failure to confront it “would betray our children and future generations.” Obama’s focus on climate change was notable given that he barely dealt with the issue in his first term. 

In an era of looming budget cuts, he said the nation has a commitment to costly programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. “These things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us,” he said. 

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