by Patricia Zapor
WASHINGTON (CNS) – President Barack Obama’s second Inauguration Day Jan. 21 started with a private prayer service at St. John’s Episcopal Church and centered on a swearing-in ceremony bracketed by prayers and highlighted by an inaugural address dotted with references to God-given societal rights and obligations.
Speaking to a crowd estimated at a million gathered on Capitol Hill, down Pennsylvania Ave. and along the National Mall, Obama called the public 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.”
He went on to define his oath of office: “The oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol,” he said, “was an oath to God and country, not party or faction. And we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service.”
In a speech that was phrased less in concrete policy objectives than in broad philosophies, he started by linking the words of the Declaration of Independence to the realities of modern life.
“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,” he quoted from the declaration.
“History tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing,” Obama said. “That while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on earth.”
He added that 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.”
Among the shared values and ideals he referenced were teaching children for the demands of the future and addressing an imbalance of prosperity and poverty.
“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,” Obama said.
He also referenced sustaining the medical care system for the poor and elderly, and preserving the planet “commanded to our care by God.”
Obama’s day began with a service at St. John’s, located across Lafayette Square from the White House.