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WASHINGTON (AP) - 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 shrinking few do
very well and a growing many barely make it," Obama said in a 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
The president declared a decade of war is ending, as is the economic recession that consumed much of his first term.
He previewed an ambitious second-term agenda, he
devoted several sentences to the threat of global climate change and
said that failure to confront it "would betray out 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, Obama 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.
Sandwiched between the bruising presidential
campaign and continuing fiscal fights, Monday's inaugural celebrations
marked a brief respite from the partisan gridlock that has consumed the
past two years.
Standing in front of the flag-bedecked Capitol, he
implored Washington to find common ground over his next four years. And
seeking to build on the public support that catapulted him to the White
House twice, the president said the public has "the obligation to shape
the debates of our time."
"Not only with the votes we cast, but with the
voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring
ideals," Obama said.
Moments earlier, Obama placed his hand on two
Bibles - one used by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the other used
by Abraham Lincoln - and recited the brief oath of office. Michelle
Obama held the Bibles, one on top of the other, as daughters Malia and
Sasha looked on.
Vice President Joe Biden was also sworn in for his second term as the nation's second in command.
Monday's oats were purely ceremonial. The
Constitution stipulates that presidents begin their new term at noon on
Jan. 20, and in keeping with that requirement, Obama was sworn in Sunday
in a small ceremony at the White House.