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President Obama used his second inaugural addressto deliver a strong defense of modern liberalism, emphasizing the importance of programs like Social Security and Medicare, pledging to take on climate change in a second term and declaring that providing government assistance to low-income people “does not make us a nation of takers.”
While the president did not use the words “Republicans” or even “Congress,” his speech was a strong defense of the Democratic vision of using government to ensure equality of opportunity and included almost no nods to meeting his political opposition in the middle.
“We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great,” he said.
The speech, like most inaugural addresses, was not heavy on policy specifics. Obama aides have said he will use next month’s State of the Union address to delve into more details on key issues.
At the same time, the president highlighted immigration reform, defending the rights of gay Americans, making sure Americans don’t have to wait in long lines to vote as they did in November and passing climate change legislation, all major Democratic Party priorities. His use of the word “gay” was the first ever by a president in an inaugural address, according to the New York Times. He pointedly promised, “We will respond to the threat of climate change,” likely reassuring liberals who have doubted his commitment on the issue.