Politics
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 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) 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 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)  

Obama’s speech lauds government, dismisses opponents

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s second inauguration speech promised a sharply ideological second term where “the people” will use government to accomplish the tasks that he declared cannot be accomplished by individuals.

“No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores,” he declared in a 2,103-word speech that included numerous campaign-style jabs at his political opponents.

“Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people,” said Obama, whose progressive ideology was highlighted in the short speech.

Obama repeatedly suggested that economic and social success is a matter of luck, not skill or diligence. “We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few,” he claimed.

Obama extended that claim of individual helplessness to lay out his progressive vision of a society led by government experts — rather than independent individuals and non-government groups.

“Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers,” he declared shortly after reprising President Abraham Lincoln’s 1865 Inauguration Day promise to win the Civil War regardless of the cost.

“We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more and reach higher,” he announced, because “our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American.”

He acknowledged the need to make “hard choices” to reduce the national debt and the cost of health care, but insisted that social programs are still worthwhile government duties.

“The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us.”

His mention of the entitlement programs included a campaign-style dig at his GOP opponent in the 2012 race. The programs “do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great,” he claimed.

He also revived a controversy that he downplayed during the election race.

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” he said.

“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 claimed.

Throughout the speech, he dismissed Americans who believe in free-markets, individual action and non-government groups such as companies and families.

“For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics or treat name-calling as reasoned debate,” he insisted.

“We, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” he said.

“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together,” he declared.

Follow Neil on Twitter