The Second Inaugural Address of President Obama

January 20, 2013  Washington, DC

Many pundits thought Barack Obama was going to be a one-term president. However, he and his 2012 team found much of the mojo of the 2008 campaign. That plus a largely friendly media, clever use of the advantages of incumbency, an ill-timed gaffe by the Republican presidential nominee, a significant financial advantage, and a massive, union-led GOTV effort enabled Barack Obama to eke out a slight popular vote plurality and a bit more comfortable Electoral College majority.

Here is the transcript of his just concluded Inaugural Address.

My fellow Americans and my fellow citizens of the globe everywhere,

I stand here today humbled and yet invigorated by the tasks before us, and grateful for the trust you have once again bestowed upon me.  We celebrate today not the victory of a man, nor the victory of a party, but the victory of an idea, an idea whose time has finally come. The idea that we are all in this together, that every man, woman and child is important and deserving, regardless of where in our world they may live. All have the right to the fruits that result from the world’s resources and our ever improving technology. This is the idea of the Common Good, which means that we can only make progress as a species if some make a few sacrifices for the betterment of the whole. If we choose the path of selfishness, then this nation, this civilization, and indeed this planet will face great, unprecedented and rapidly increasing peril. But if we choose the path of using the power of government to implement policies that further the common good for all humankind, then ultimately we will achieve a collective salvation before Nature and Nature’s God.

All citizens of the globe have a right to be free from the ravages of unnatural climate change.  All global citizens have a right to a living wage or to the provision of life’s basic necessities.  And all have the right to adequate health care; it is especially unfortunately when this right is not honored for those in the prime of life, as has too often been the case in the past.

The Constitution wisely provides for the possibility of a second and final presidential term, a term of four years during which a president unencumbered by petty politics can pursue the common good without concern about popularity and reelection. Perhaps other presidents so situated may have nevertheless played some politics, whether to help their party or their personal popularity or both; but this president shall be focused solely on what is for the common good and thus expects that, in the full light of history, this Administration shall be judged as having fulfilled its promise to fundamentally transform the United States of America.

We began this fundamental transformation four years ago today.  We have made progress towards making the ideals of progressivism a reality in America, but much remains to be done.  As one who has authored two books, delivered countless speeches, given innumerable interviews, and twice run successfully for President of the United States, there can have been no doubt about my values of social justice and greater equality.   Now that the American people have spoken at the ballot box and given their collective imprimatur to my values and four more years of this transformative presidency, we must not let anything stand in the way of fulfilling the promise and we shall finish the job.  That is why I issued several key Executive Orders in the post-election period, and why more such orders shall be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.

To my fellow citizens of planet Earth:  We pledge to work towards a lasting peace.  Never again shall the United States take unilateral military action, unless of course we are first attacked directly by another nation.  Should we believe there is a need for military action, we shall go before the United Nations and receive approval before acting.  We pledge an end to the American arrogance that prevailed in the Twentieth Century and much of the first decade of this century.  We pledge to continue to learn from you, particularly those of you who enjoy religious and cultural traditions different from America’s.  We pledge to honor those traditions in every region of the globe, whether Asia, the Middle East, Latin America or so forth.  We pledge to support what is best for the region as a whole rather than a particular regime in an individual country.  We pledge to do whatever it takes to roll back the specter of a warming planet.

To the peoples of poor nations everywhere:  We cannot, unfortunately, substantially alter your plight in a matter of weeks or months, but know this:  Help is on the way.  This Administration shall not rest until there is a markedly greater degree of global equality.  As part of this initiative, we will, effective immediately, commit to a 75% increase in our contribution to the United Nations.  This will not solve the problem, but it is a step in the right direction.  And we shall be taking more such steps soon with the funds we will save from substantially reduced defense spending.

To Americans of all races, regions, ages, religious and non-religious outlooks:  We have been a lucky people to have had what we have had for so long; but the status quo is unsustainable.  The world is in need, and must no longer be ruled by greed.  To preserve much of what we have, we must be governed by a spirit of sharing and caring.  Narrow interests must give way to the common good. Outmoded concepts of individualism and self-interest must yield to the spirit of service and sacrifice.  The Age of American Hegemony is over.  Global problems demand global solutions.  Imperialism and jingoism and so-called American “exceptionalism” must give way to global cooperation and sharing and fairness and becoming a big part of the solution, instead of a big part of the problem.

The major domestic issues in the recent campaign were immigration, energy, and the related issues of spending, taxes and the size of the federal government.  Allow me to briefly address each of these, but first a point about the tone of the recent campaign.  The rhetoric became quite heated. This is understandable during a campaign.  But for the good of the nation, we must move on.  Yet some in the media, and this includes but is not limited to talk radio and the Internet, have not moved on.  They are entitled to their views, but no purpose is served by the strident tone of their vitriolic rhetoric.  Indeed, it is harmful to the common good of the nation.  Thus we shall pursue two fronts to restore a civil tone to our national dialog.

First, the FCC shall increase its monitoring of the Internet and other suspect media, regardless of political persuasion. When deemed necessary, warnings shall be issued.  If warnings go unheeded, web sites shall be shut down and licenses revoked. Second, our political debates had a far more civil tone when the media was dominated by the great newspapers and news magazines that helped make America great. Through no fault of their own, they have been seriously hurt by the rise of the Internet. Out of a sense of fairness, and of respect for traditional American media, and to help restore civility to America, we shall use some of the funds from an Internet tax to aid some of these newspapers and magazines. It is critically important to restore a civil tone in America and thus avoid future tragedies.  As John F. Kennedy said from this very spot exactly 52 years ago today:  “Civility is not a sign of weakness.”  We can make strong points and still make them civilly.

We have always been a nation of immigrants and so should we be now and in the future.  It is time that we allow those who have labored for us to participate in our democracy and, with their children, to come out of the shadows and into the safe sunlight of American democracy.  My Administration shall take steps to assure that there is no denial of voting rights to any adult immigrant, regardless of current technical legal status, and also to assure that there is no such denial to any non-immigrant who is a person of color.

As for energy, all thinking people know that my system of cap and trade is the only viable solution.  As I have said before and repeated again earlier in this address:  We must do whatever it takes to roll back the specter of a warming planet.  Otherwise our children face an unprecedented disaster.

Government spending is necessary for the good of the economy.  Of course, there are a few places where savings can and will be achieved, especially in defense.  Much government spending is for government employees, who are required to carry out this Administration’s programs and policies.  To keep these valuable people, we must reward them accordingly.  That is why there can be no further reduction in taxes.  Indeed, we will soon unveil a more fair tax policy that will raise taxes on those in higher brackets of income and will impose a tax on retirees who have a private nest egg that is larger than they could reasonably spend in their remaining years, according to actuarial studies.

We must mature in our thinking and not cling to the past and its outmoded concepts. The centuries-old way of doing things will not work for any of us in this new age of an ordered world.

We now truly have a rendezvous with destiny. A great opportunity is ours, an opportunity to change and modernize America and to help better the world. Let us not waste it, let us not shrink from the challenge of embracing this opportunity and advancing social justice here and around the globe.

Thank you, and let us move forward quickly to achieve the Common Good for all.