Obama lays out 2nd-term agenda

In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama says enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. But he said the U.S. will defend itself through 'strengths of arms and rule of law.' (Jan. 21)

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walked for several minutes along the inauguration parade route this afternoon to the cheers of thousands of people lining the sidewalks in the capital.

The first couple were flanked by security personnel as they walked the route toward the review stand where they will view the inaugural parade. They got back in their limousine after several minutes. The Obamas made the same gesture four years ago.

Earlier, Obama kicked off his second term with an impassioned call for a more inclusive America that rejects partisan rancor and embraces immigration reform, gay rights and the fight against climate change.

Obama's ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol was filled with traditional pomp and pageantry, but it was a scaled-back inauguration compared to the historic start of his presidency in 2009 when he swept into office on a mantle of hope and change as America's first black president

Despite expectations tempered by lingering economic weakness and a divided Washington, Obama delivered a preview of the second-term priorities he intends to pursue, declaring Americans “are made for this moment” and must “seize it together.”

His hair visibly gray after four years in office, Obama called for an end to the political partisanship that marked much of his first term in the White House in bitter fights over the economy with Republicans.

“We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate,” Obama said from atop the Capitol steps overlooking the National Mall.

Looking out on a sea of flags, Obama addressed a crowd estimated to be up to 700,000 people - less than half the record 1.8 million who assembled four years ago.

Speaking in more specific terms than expected in a nearly 20-minute inaugural address, he promised “hard choices” to reduce the federal deficit and called for a revamping of the tax code and a remaking of government.


"Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time -- but it does require us to act in our time," Obama said, shortly after taking the oath from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. 

For the first time ever, an inaugural address mentioned the rights of gay Americans, as Obama declared that America’s "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 also insisted on the need to "respond to the threat of climate change," a subject he largely avoided after a stinging loss in Congress early in his first term.

"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 said. 

"The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.

"That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God."

Obama wove those specific policy pledges, along with brief reminders of his proposals for gun control and immigration reform, into a text that, overall, amounted to a strong reaffirmation of the core of liberal, Democratic politics and its belief in the positive role that government can play in the nation’s life.

In a nod to those who do not share that outlook, he noted that Americans "have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone."

But, he said, "preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action."

Obama's swearing-in fell on the same day as the national holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. -- and the president embraced the symbolism.

He took the oath with his hand on two Bibles: One from President Abraham Lincoln, who ended slavery, and the other from King. Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights figure Medgar Evers, was given the honor of delivering the invocation at the ceremony.


From dawn until dusk, Sen. Dick Durbin is scheduled to be among the constant companions of President Barack Obama, whom he joined starting with an early-morning church service near the White House.

After the swearing-in, Durbin, the No. 2 official at the Senate, said he found Obama's inaugural speech "beautiful."

"I thought he president really captured what the election was about, what the people were saying, we needed to come together -- 'We the People' and to really address the issues that are challenging our nation," said Durbin, a fellow Democrat.

After the inauguration speech, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama sat down as guests of honor at a traditional luncheon at the Capitol. Durbin was there, along with about other 200 high-level officials, including Supreme Court justices, Cabinet officials and congressional leaders.

At 9 o'clock tonight local time, Durbin said, he'll return to the White House to join the Obamas and a select group of friends, family and supporters at an exclusive celebration.

He indicated the timetable was fluid, since a similar party following the balls in 2009 didn't get going until about 11:30 p.m.

Will he make Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's late-night blues party with guitarist Buddy Guy? That runs from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. "Hope to stay awake long enough," the senator said.

Durbin, 69, a 30-year veteran of Congress, is up for re-election in 2014. He was an early supporter of Obama leading up to his 2008 run, when Democrats had to choose between candidates Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Spencer Gould and his wife, Ardenia, of Chicago, arrived at the Capitol early enough to get seats on the front row of their section, directly center of where the president took the oath of office.

For about a minute, Gould said, he considered staying at home in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood, but quickly realized that he could be no place else but here. Four years ago, he said, he wanted to be part of the historical moment. This time, he came to show his support.


Hundreds of thousands congregated on the National Mall on Monday, many bundled in gloves and scarves against the cold. Some stopped in front of street vendors to buy buttons with President Obama’s face on them, inaugural coffee mugs or wool hats with Obama spelled in glass beads.

Some had driven all night Sunday to make it to the ceremony by this morning.


The American fashion industry held its breath on Inauguration Day for a series of Big Reveals.

Word came within minutes that the navy check coat and dress Michelle Obama wore to the morning prayer service at St. John's church was by American designer Thom Browne, to which she added a belt for the ceremonial swearing-in. Her shoes and accessories were J.Crew. Her necklace was by Cathy Waterman.Former Obama pastor in town


The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the president's former Chicago pastor whose sermons touched off a firestorm in the 2008 political campaign, urged today that Barack Obama heed the words of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and transform the country into the world's "No. 1 purveyor of peace."

Wright, in the capital today but skipping the inauguration, recalled a speech by King during the Vietnam war, when the civil rights leader denounced the U.S. as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world."

Tribune reporters Dahleen Glanton, Katherine Skiba, Reuters and the Los Angeles Times contributed.

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