CHICAGO — President Barack Obama began his second term early Wednesday morning by briefly offering a token olive branch to the targets of his campaign-trail vitriol, while also hinting at some of the left-leaning policy initiatives that he plans to pursue.
“We are an American family, and we rise or fall together as one nation, one group,” he said in Chicago, adding that Americans have a “responsibilities,” including “love and charity and duty and patriotism.”
With a statistically narrow victory in hand after a mostly negative campaign, Obama promised to work with his political opponents in Congress, despite having spent much of the last year-and-a-half running against a “do-nothing Congress.”
He used his speech to gin up his supporters for another campaign, perhaps a 2014 effort to end the GOP’s House majority. More immediately, it was likely a call to support him throughout negotiations with congressional leaders regarding the upcoming “fiscal cliff.”
The election “doesn’t mean your work is done,” he told the crowd. “America’s never been about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government. That’s the principle we were founded on.”
Throughout his speech, he emphasized collective action. “Tonight, you voted for action, not politics as usual,” he said.
“I believe we can seize this future together, because we are not as divided as our politics suggest. … We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions,” he insisted.
His speech included nods to goals fervently supported by the Democratic base, such as a path to legal status for illegal immigrants, industrial regulation to shift the globe’s climate and elevation of homosexuality’s status to match that of heterosexuality.
His supporters cheered loudly when he cited immigration and climate change.
“I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting,” he said in a fierce ending to his speech.
In the first moment of his speech, he offered a few conciliatory words to Mitt Romney.
“The Romney family has chosen to give back through public service, and that is a legacy we honor and applaud tonight. … I also look forward to sitting down with Gov. Romney to talk about moving this country forward,” he said, five days after he urged his supporters to vote against Romney out of “revenge.”