‘Nobody disputes the quality of the First Lady’: President Obama pays loving tribute to wife Michelle as she appears in stunning red dress at the Inauguration Ball
The President and First Lady attend two inauguration balls at the Washington Convention Center
First Lady chose another dress by designer Jason Wu – who made the gown for 2008 ball
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden sworn in at grand ceremony at the Capitol on Monday
Ceremony was attended by 700,000 supporters – a million fewer than at his first inauguration in 2009
By Louise Boyle and Lydia Warren
PUBLISHED: 02:12 GMT, 22 January 2013 | UPDATED: 06:51 GMT, 22 January 2013
Barack Obama made an emotional tribute to wife Michelle last night as America’s first couple held each other close and danced at the inauguration balls to celebrate the beginning of the President’s second term.
The Obamas appeared on stage at the Washington Convention Center to wild cheering and thunderous applause from thousands of people. First Lady Michelle’s choice of dress was finally revealed – a dramatic, red chiffon and velvet gown by Jason Wu. The designer had also created her dress for the 2008 ball.
Obama paid tribute to his wife saying that although he was often criticized as President, ‘nobody disputes the quality of the First Lady’. The couple then danced as Jennifer Hudson sang Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together.
Let’s stay together: President Obama and First Lady Michelle celebrate at his second inauguration ball at the Washington Convention Center on Monday night as Jennifer Hudson sang an Al Green classic
Glamor: President Obama paid a glowing tribute to First Lady Michelle on Monday evening as she wowed in a striking red dress by designer Jason Wu
First Lady in red: President Barack Obama kisses his wife Michelle Obama at the Commander-in-Chief Ball in Washington
Enduring love: President Obama and wife Michelle danced closely at the first of two Inauguration Balls
May I have this dance? An elegant Michelle dances with Michelle as thousands cheered at the Washington convention center
Honored: Barack and Michelle dance with service members during the ball to celebrate his second term
Got the moves: The couple took a spin around the dance floor on the day Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States
Hold me close: The Obamas slow dance to the Al Green classic as sung by Jennifer Hudson at the Inauguration Ball
Ravishing: Michelle Obama looked radiant in another gown by Jason Wu who also designed the dress she wore at the 2008 inauguration ball
Taking centre stage: Singer Jennifer Hudson – who won an Oscar for best supporting actress in the film Dreamgirls – sung as the couple danced
The Obamas were scheduled to attend two glitzy occasions on Monday evening. That’s far fewer than the ten they attended after the 2009 inauguration, though this year’s events are still expected to draw around 40,000 people.
The President spoke briefly and offered his deep gratitude to the military, saying: ‘I have no greater honor than being your commander-in-chief’.
He then spoke to troops in Afghanistan via video-link, telling them: ‘You will be on our minds tonight and every single night until our mission in Afghanistan is completed.” He promised them they would get the equipment and support they need.’
Obama then turned his focus to Michelle to whom he paid glowing tribute as First Lady and his wife.
Sing along: Barack and Michelle sway along to the music as Jennifer Hudson serenaded the first couple
Four more years: The Obamas celebrate the beginning of a second term in the White House in front of thousands of supporters
Beaming: President Obama looked incredibly proud as he danced with wife Michelle to celebrate his second term in the White House
The world is watching: Thousands attended the Inauguration Ball in Washington which was viewed by millions on Monday evening
Appreciation: The Obamas expressed their deep gratitude for all the Armed Forces during the glitzy Washington event
Diva: Jennifer Hudson looked slender in a tight-fitting black gown with draped neckline as she sang Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together while the Obamas danced
A crowd-pleaser: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama clap after Jennifer Hudson finishes singing at the Inaugural Ball
Flawless: The First Lady, Michelle Obama, teamed her Jason Wu dress, with shoes by Jimmy Choo
He continued: ‘I’ve got a date with me here. She inspires me every day. She makes me a better man and a better president. The fact that she is so devoted to taking care of our troops and our military families is just one more sign of her extraordinary love and grace and strength. I’m just lucky to have her.’
The First Lady’s choice of the same dress designer surprised many as she had returned to Wu, whose career was made by her decision four years ago. She teamed the red gown with shoes by Jimmy Choo and a diamond ring by Kimberly McDonald.
Wu told Women’s Wear Daily that he was completely surprised by the First Lady’s decision to wear another of his designs. He said: ‘Mrs Obama likes to keep her secrets. She fooled me again.’
The Inaugural Ball saw performances from Alicia Keys, Black Violin, Brad Paisley, Far East Movement, FUN., members of the Glee cast, John Legend, Katy Perry, Maná, Smokey Robinson, Soundgarden, Stevie Wonder and Usher.
Stunning: Jill Biden looked fabulous in a blue silk creation by Vera Wang alongside a dapper VP Joe
Double act: VP Joe Biden and wife Jill react to the crowd as they appear at the Inaugural ball on Monday evening in D.C.
Smooth operator: Joe Biden dances with wife Jill while Jamie Foxx sings Ray Charles I Can¿t Stop Loving You
Applause: VP Biden thanks Jamie Foxx after he sang at the Inaugural Ball on Monday night
Duet: Singer Jamie Foxx performs during the during the Commander-In-Chief’s Inaugural Ball
Celebrity friends: Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden wave goodbye after actor and musician Jamie Foxx sang while they danced at the Inaugural Ball
Warm words: President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden spoke briefly at the Inauguration ball and offered their deep gratitude to American troops
Military moves: Joe Biden dances with Army Staff Sgt. Keesha Dentino as Jill Biden dances with Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Figueroa
The Commander-In-Chief’s ball for members of the Armed Forces were entertained by Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, Chris Cornell, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson and Marc Anthony.
The President’s second inauguration sees the lowest number of official balls in 60 years. Obama cut back this year’s festivities to two balls and a concert honoring military families as an effort to reduce government spending in line with current economic conditions.
Alicia Keys took to the stage in a backless, floor-length, sequined gown where she sang an altered version of her hit Girl On Fire for President Obama. Her performance was followed by Mexican band Mana.
Jennifer Hudson who sang Al Green classic Let’s Stay Together to the first couple looked slender and glamorous in a form-fitting black gown with plunging neckline and sparkling platforms.
Gratitude: Obama shakes the hands of (left to right) Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler; Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Micheal Barrett; Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens; Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Roy and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Michael Leavitt
Star attraction: Alicia Keys performs at the Inaugural Ball in front of tens of thousands
Hitting the right keys: Alicia Keys performs during The Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington
Glittering performance: Alicia Keys leaves the stage after she sang an altered version of her hit Girl On Fire in honor of the President
Vice-President Joe Biden appeared with his wife Jill who was glamorous in a blue silk dress by Vera Wang. The couple danced as Jamie Foxx sang the Ray Charles’ song I Can’t Stop Loving You before pairing off with young members of the military.
Earlier today, President Obama urged Americans to stand together to secure prosperity and freedom for the entire nation as he was sworn in to his second term as president at his spectacular inauguration ceremony in Washington D.C.
Canons fired and hundreds of thousands of elated supporters cheered after Obama was sworn into office by Chief Justice John G. Roberts as the president’s proud wife Michelle and two daughters, 11-year-old Sasha and 14-year-old Malia, looked on.
And as he left the celebrations, Obama was seen turning back towards the crowds and taking a moment to reflect on the vast sea of people before him.
Time for country: Singer Brad Paisley was one of the first performers at the Commander-In-Chief’s ball in Washington
Rocking out: The Mexican pop rock band Mana performs during the Inaugural Ball
Rocking celebration: Fun perform during the 57th Inauguration ball on Monday evening
Fiery performance: Marc Anthony struts his stuff as he performs at the Commander-in-Chief’s ball in Washington
‘I want to look out one more time because I’m not going to see this again,’ he said to someone next to him as he took in the spectacular view.
The president appeared just as grateful for the support as he walked hand-in-hand with his wife along Pennsylvania Avenue, waving to the crowds as part of the Inauguration Parade as it snaked through the streets after the ceremony.
The walkabout came after Obama addressed the crowd of supporters in an impassioned speech and urged the country to work together.
‘Our individual freedoms requires collective action,’ he said. ‘We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few… We must act together, as one nation and one people.’
‘We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity… Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. 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.’
He also announced his aims for his coming term, vowing to lead the fight against climate change and maintaining the country’s strong alliances across the globe. And in a particularly progressive move, he became the first president to address gay rights in his inauguration speech.
Proud: President Obama and his wife Michelle wave to the thousands of supporters along the inauguration parade route after he was sworn into office on Monday
Joyous: The Obamas wave after emerging from the presidential limousine during the inaugural parade from the Capitol to the White House
Swearing in: Obama’s wife and daughters, Sasha and Malia, look on as he is sworn into office by Chief Justice John G. Roberts
Ceremony: Obama and Vice President Biden listen to an invocation by Myrlie Evers-Williams during the 57th Presidential Inauguration ceremonial swearing-in
We the people: Hundreds of thousands gathered on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington
Party time! The Obama girls dance as Michelle and Barack look more serious as they watch the parade from the presidential box
Photobomb! Malia Obama pulls a silly face i n front of her parents’ kissing as her sister Sasha snaps it on her smartphone
Captivating: Beyonce sings the U.S. National Anthem as President Obama and Senator Charles Schumer listen during swearing-in ceremonies
Thankful: Singer and Obama supporter Beyonce is greeted by the president after her performance
Fans: The Obamas cheer and laugh with Beyonce after she finishes her spectacular performance at the inauguration ceremony
Friends: First lady Michelle Obama greets singer Beyonce after she performs the National Anthem on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol
‘Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,’ he said. ‘For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.’
And perhaps in a jab at his critics in the recent gun debate and wrangling over fiscal cliff bill, he added that ‘name-calling is not reasoned debate’ and lawmakers ‘cannot substitute spectacle for politics’.
Under the Constitution the president officially begins his new term on January 20, but because the date fell on a Sunday this year, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were sworn in at a mostly private ceremony yesterday and the nation will celebrate with the president today.
As many as 700,000 people gathered to watch the day’s celebrations, brandishing flags and wearing patriotic hats and pins. Despite the enormous outpouring of support on display in the capital, there were one million fewer people in the crowds than at Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.
Passionate: Kelly Clarkson sings My Country ‘Tis of Thee during swearing-in ceremonies on Monday morning in the nation’s capital
Starstruck: Kelly Clarkson is greeted by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden following her performance
The crowd erupted into cheers as the grinning president took to the stage on Monday morning, following his wife Michelle, former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senators and other officials.
President Obama embraced members of the crowd and greeted his wife and daughters, Sasha and Malia, who were dressed smartly in brightly-coloured winter coats, before the ceremony got underway at 11.30 a.m.
Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, delivered the invocation at the opening of the ceremony, delivering a message of hope and unity for the country as Obama bowed his head in prayer.
‘May all your people, especially the least of these, flourish in our blessed nation,’ she said before the crowd.
‘We celebrate the spirit of our ancestors, that has allowed us to move from a nation of unborn hopes and disenfranchised hopes to today’s expression of a more perfect union.
‘We are strong, fierce in our strength, and ever vigilante in our pursuit of freedom.’
Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic woman to sit on the Supreme Court, then swore in Joe Biden as Vice President, using the Biden family bible.
After performances by musical stars Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor, the ceremony concluded and the Obamas, Biden and his wife Jill, left for a congressional luncheon.
Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were both at the Capitol, yet the Bushes were not in attendance.
Mass celebration: The Mall continues to fill with supporters to watch President Barack Obama be sworn in as the 45th U.S. President at the U.S. Capitol
Message of hope: Obama speaks after he was ceremonially sworn in for a second term as the 44th President of the United States
Determined: Obama’s speech called for the American people to work together to secure a future of equality for the entire country
Second term: Vice President Joe Biden takes his oath using the family bible as his wife Dr. Jill Biden and his son Beau Biden look on
This afternoon, an inaugural parade featuring floats by 60 organisations took off at 2.30 p.m. to pass the Washington Memorial and the White House, before it concludes at 5.30 p.m. in time for the inaugural ball at 6 p.m.
Barack and Michelle Obama stepped from their motorcade as it drove along a jam-packed Pennsylvania Avenue and walked hand-in-hand as they waved to cheering supporters.
The trappings for today’s ceremony were in place early this morning. The flag-draped stands were ready outside the Capitol, while tables have been set inside for the traditional lunch with lawmakers.
Across town, a specially made reviewing stand rested outside the White House gates for the president and guests to watch the traditional inauguration parade march down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Celebrated: Former President Jimmy Carter arrives at the ceremony with his wife Rosalynn to massive cheers from the crowds
Arrival: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is joined by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, as she arrives at the inauguration
First family: Malia and Sasha Obama arrive at the Capitol building followed closely by their maternal grandmother
Proud: The girls burst into giggles as the crowd cheered when their names were announced. They joined their mother Michelle on stage
The weather forecast was encouraging. High temperatures are predicted for the lower 40s during the day, with scattered snow showers during the evening, when two inaugural balls will conclude the official proceedings.
More than 2,000 police officers were drafted from across the country to patrol alongside the D.C. police, Secret Service, FBI and other agencies.
As the day dawned, Washington was in security lockdown, with thousands of police and National Guard troops across the city and Humvee military vehicles blocking major intersections.
Even though the atmosphere lacked the buzz of Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, many of his supporters celebrated through the night.
‘Yes, I can sense the inauguration is not as big as last time, but there is nonetheless excitement,’ Carrie Solages told the Chicago Tribune as she attended a pre-inaugural ball on Sunday. ‘We are still here to be a part of history.’
Before heading to the festivities, President Obama attended a church service at St. John’s Episcopal Church with wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia for a moment of reflection.
Signature: President Obama signs a proclamation to commemorate the inauguration, entitled a ‘National Day of Hope and Resolve’, flanked by Biden and House Speaker John Boehner
Watching over: From left, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Sen. Charles Schumer, Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
Extravagant: The President and guests gather for the Inaugural Luncheon in Statuary Hall following the swearing-in ceremony
Together: President Obama and Michelle sit beside Speaker of the House John Boehner and his wife Deborah Gunlack at the luncheon
Good humoured: Vice President Biden shares a joke with Senator Lamar Alexander as his wife Dr. Jill Biden stands to his left
He reminded the crowd that ‘what we’re doing is celebrating each other and celebrating this incredible nation that we call home’.
He encouraged the crowd to enjoy the inauguration and said he needs them to work as hard as they can on issues important to them.
Obama said the inauguration is a reminder that ‘there is something bigger than ourselves’.
He kept his comments brief and quipped that he has to save some of his lines for his speech on Monday. He also gave his opinion on a much-debated matter his week – his wife’s new haircut.
He said: ‘I love her bangs. She looks good. She always looks good.’
First lady Michelle Obama unveiled her new haircut in a White House photo released last Thursday for her 49th birthday.
Thankful: Joe Biden and his wife Dr Jill Biden wave as they walk down Pennsylvania Avenue during the Inaugural parade
Welcoming the President: The Kamehameha Schools ‘Warrior’ Marching Band from Hawaii performs during the 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington
‘Hang Loose’: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet the Hawaii Home State Float during the inaugural parade with a traditional ‘shaka sign’, meaning ‘Hang Loose’, which grew into a popular symbol from the state’s surfing culture in the 1960s
A cycling tribute: The Gym Dandies Children’s Circus from Maine performs after the ceremonial swearing-in of President Barack Obama
Big celebration: The Miami University Marching Band from Ohio make their way along Pennsylvania Avenue during the huge march
Obama was sworn in for four more years earlier on Sunday in a simple ceremony at the White House, embarking on a second-term quest to restore a still-shaky economy and combat terrorists overseas while swearing an age-old oath to ‘preserve, protect and defend’ the Constitution.
‘I did it,’ a smiling president said to his daughter Sasha seconds after following Chief Justice John Roberts in reciting the oath of office. First Lady Michelle and the couple’s other daughter, Malia, were among relatives who bore witness.
The quiet moments were prelude to today’s public inaugural events when Obama and Biden will be sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol before a television audience counted in the millions.
The 44th chief executive is only the 17th to win re-election, and his second-term goals are ambitious for a country where sharp political differences have produced gridlocked government in recent years.
Celebratory: Kennedi Franklin, 8, cheers as she sits on the shoulders of her father Edward Franklin, of Mobile, Alabama, as they wait on National Mall
Celebration: People cheer as they enter the National Mall before the ceremonial swearing-in ceremonies
Patriotic: Obama supporters wait on the National Mall for the start of the ceremonial swearing in on Monday morning
‘WE MUST ACT TOGETHER’: TRANSCRIPT OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S PASSIONATE INAUGURAL ADDRESS
Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’
Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
For more than two hundred years, we have.
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
Through it all, we 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.
Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.
But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. 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. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.
This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. 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.
But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.
We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. 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. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.
But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.
We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our 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. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.
That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. 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.
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. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.
They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.
You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.
You and I, as citizens, have 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.
Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. 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.
Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.
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