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Of ‘Collective Action’ and ‘Hope and Resolve’: Term No. 2 Begins

With a church tweet, a campaign-style proclamation, and a reference to Newtown, Obama is off and running. MORE: Carter approves of more progressive tone

by
Bridget Johnson

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January 21, 2013 - 11:48 am
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Even though his campaign veered from the first-term hope-and-change mantra, President Obama ushered in his second term by declaring today the National Day of Hope and Resolve.

“Four years ago, the American people came together to chart a new course through an uncertain hour. We chose hope over fear and hard work during hardship, confident that the age-old values that had guided our Nation through even its darkest days would be sufficient to meet the trials of our time,” states the proclamation.

“I call upon all Americans to join together in courage, in compassion, and in purpose to more fully realize the eternal promises of our founding and the more perfect Union that must remain ever within our reach.”

One of the more campaign-style presidential proclamations, it touts ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, claims that the U.S. economy has been saved from collapse, and stresses “that America’s greatest strength lies not in might or wealth, but in the bonds we share with one another.”

Obama’s speech after taking the oath of office consisted of much of the same soaring rhetoric — peppered with policy bits that seemed to mark a president feeling freer to speak after his re-election.

“Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers,” said the president, long a supporter of increased infrastructure spending. “Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.”

He urged new technology to “remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens” and defended entitlement programs. “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great,” he said.

Obama promised to respond “to the threat of climate change” with a “long and sometimes difficult” path to sustainable energy. “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.

He lauded the American revolutionaries as “those who won the peace and not just the war” and “turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends” — a good summation of where he tried to go with his first-term foreign policy, including reestablishing ties with a Syrian dictatorship that would violently turn on its own people and promising authoritarian Russian President Vladimir Putin more “flexibility” in term No. 2.

“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,” Obama said.

He delivered lines promoting equal pay, gay rights, voting rights, and the DREAM Act.

And he dropped a plug for gun control. “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,” the president said.

“Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we 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,” he added.

The core theme of Obama’s message, though, could be summed up in his call to “collective action.”

“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,” he said.

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

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden officially took their oaths yesterday. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor again led Biden in the oath today, and Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Obama.

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