President Obama's inauguration speech on Monday, Jan. 21, touched upon a number of heavy-hitting topics, including gender equality, gay marriage, guns, immigration, and the economy, but the underlying message was clear: We are all in this together.
The president, who looked solemn before an eager crowd of nearly 1 million gathered at the Capitol's west front, began his speech with a reference to the Constitution and a look back at the core values of its words and the spirit of its authors.
"Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution," he began. "We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names."
"What makes us exceptional, what makes us America is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
Obama, 51, then launched into a powerful speech about the importance of taking action — as a nation — to ensure that America's freedoms are protected, "for history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they've never been self-executing. That while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on earth."
The president also stood firm on his views and didn't shy away from a few subtle digs at opponent Mitt Romney's proposed tax policies from the 2012 debates.
"For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it," he noted, adding that the nation was bound by "an oath to God and country, not party or faction."
A big part of moving forward, Obama explained, would be understanding that change would be necessary not just in government policies, but in individual mindsets as well.
"For we have always understood that when times change, so must we, that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges, that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action," he explained.
"It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began, for our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts," he urged in one of the most memorable moments of his speech. "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well."
The president ended his address with a nod to the challenges of the next four years and a few words of encouragement about the "endless possibilities" of change if the nation would only come together.
"You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country's course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time, not only with the votes we cast, but the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideas," he concluded. "With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom."
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