"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."
Some pundits on the Right and Center immediately criticized Obama for taking shots at Ayn Rand acolytes like Rep. Paul Ryan, the former Republican vice presidential nominee who complained about a nation of "takers, not makers" and the global-warming deniers who see a socialist conspiracy behind scientific warnings of climate change.- Advertisement -
Skepticism and Rejection
But Obama also has encountered skepticism and criticism when he talked about finally bringing the last decade of war to an end. He said, "We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war."
Then, in a reference to World War II and the Cold War, Obama added, "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 naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear." It was a message that the neocons disdained and that many on the Left doubted.- Advertisement -
Obama then wrapped up his Second Inaugural with possibly its most memorable promise, a commitment to advance the cause of justice and equality:"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. ...
"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."
Obama then called on American citizens to create the political space so these necessary reforms can be achieved:"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."
The final measure of Obama and his presidency may not be just how well he lives up to the commitments of his Second Inaugural but how forcefully the American people insist that those commitments become real.- Advertisement -