If there was a sentence or sentiment that will be carved in marble and remembered by history, it was not evident Monday. President Obama's second inaugural address was hampered by the fact that he governs in one of American history's most divided moments, grounded by the memory of promises he made four years ago to reform Washington.
The nation's 44th president, just the 17th to deliver a second inaugural address, Barack Hussein Obama called a bitterly partisan nation to "collective action," knowing his second-term agenda will be too ambitious for many and too meek for others.
And yet the address had a muscular undercurrent: Obama tied his left-of-center agenda to the nation's founding principles, the uniquely American ideal of reinvention and renewal in the face of what he called "outworn programs [that] are inadequate to the needs of our times." The deficit, health care, income equality, climate change, immigration, gay rights, women's rights, and the right to vote are part of the nation's long arc toward justice, Obama said.
"You and I as citizens, have an obligation to shape the debate of our time," Obama said. "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."