The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

January 21, 2013

Obama take second oath of office

President Barack Obama took his second ceremonial oath of office Monday in Washington, D.C., on a chilly day under overcast skies.

But temperatures will surely rise again soon once clashes resume with congressional Republicans over his second-term agenda.

Facing Obama and a divided Congress are battles over the federal debt ceiling, automatic federal spending cuts, immigration overhaul and gun control.

None was singled out specifically by the president Monday, although he mentioned a need for making hard choices “to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.”

Alabama NAACP Conference President Benard Simelton said he hopes Governor Robert Bentley heard the speech and would reconsider his stance on opting out of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

“We think the president hit the key things,” Simelton said. “No more of this bickering between differences that we have, we’ve got to unite.”

Simelton and a bus full of NAACP members from across the state drove all through the night Sunday to arrive in Washington, D.C., by 8 a.m. Monday morning.

The inauguration brought out a festive crowd of flag-wavers who filled the National Mall to overflowing, hailed the president’s moment with lusty cheers and spent their downtime spotting celebrities amid the bunting.

It was no match for the staggering masses and adrenaline-pumping energy of his first turn as president on the West Front of the Capitol. But a lively second act.

After a roaring rendition of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” came James Taylor strumming his guitar and singing “America the Beautiful.” Then an all-for-show swearing-in, replicating the official one Sunday.

Then Obama spoke, as all presidents must in one way or another, about “one nation and one people,” healing words after a battering ram of an election and before the partisan struggles ahead. The address clocked in at 18 minutes. He ran 52 minutes in 2009.

This time, Obama takes the oath of office following a bruising presidential campaign and four years of partisan fighting. He’s more experienced in the ways of Washington. He has the gray hair and lower approval ratings to show for it.

“You could say he spoke with more authority than he has in the past,” Simelton said. “I think it just resonated with people more.”

That resonance probably comes with Obama standing strong on his platform of change, and moving forward, but this term he implied small, sustainable steps in the right direction instead of sweeping agendas. He asked lawmakers not to look to solve problems once and for all, but to make real changes right now.

Gun control was not mentioned by the president, but environmental change, economic change, immigration and education reform — all domestic issues — were at the forefront of the address.

“I think that’s going to be one of the big targets that he puts forth this term,” Simelton said.

His inaugural speech over, heading into the Capitol before a luncheon of bison and lobster in Statuary Hall, Obama briefly lingered and turned his gaze back to the crowd.

“I want to take a look, one more time,” he said. “I’m not going to see this again.”

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