In Second Term, Obama Takes on Marriage Equality, Gun Control & Climate Change

This morning, Barack Obama renewed his oath of office, officially marking the start of his second term in the White House. No longer having to worry about spending a significant amount of his time in office campaigning for reelection, his speech was forceful and reflected a determination to embrace “new responses to new challenges.”

President Barack Obama plays with a Petoskey stone as he talks on the phone in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, via The White House.

President Barack Obama plays with a Petoskey stone as he talks on the phone in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, via The White House.

“For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate,” Mr. Obama said, referring to the crippling divides in government that has often caused important decisions to be delayed or impossible to reach. “We must act; we must act knowing that our work will be imperfect.”

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mr. Obama called the quest for equality a task for the current generation, urging the nation to make sure that women were paid equally to men and — not shying away from a still-controversial topic — that gays and lesbians are to be treated equally under the law. “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” the President said.

Goodlifer: Obama Gets a Chance to Finish What He Started

President Obama promises to tackle some tough issues during his second term in office. Photo via The New York Times.

Using his inaugural speech to publicly declare his support for marriage equality, Mr. Obama compared the gay community’s struggle for equality to the fights that African-Americans fought for equal rights decades ago, saying: “If we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

Can we just talk for a moment about how stylish the first family looks? Photo via The New York Times.

Can we just talk for a moment about how stylish the first family looks? Photo via The New York Times.

Climate change is an area where many feel that the President has not yet lived up to his calls to action. In all fairness, this has been much due to fierce opposition these issues have faces in Congress. Mr. Obama again addressed the topic, saying: “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.”

President Barack Obama talks with Inaugural National Citizen Co-Chairs in the Oval Office, Jan. 18, 2013. Photo via The White House.

President Barack Obama talks with Inaugural National Citizen Co-Chairs in the Oval Office, Jan. 18, 2013. Photo via The White House.

After the tragic Sandy Hook school shooting, increased demands for gun control has sparked a heated debate across the United States. Mr. Obama said that we must confront these dangers to American citizens. “Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm,” he said. President Obama has already unveiled his proposals to reduce gun violence, meeting fierce opposition from gun owners, the NRA and many Republicans.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

An estimated 600,000 braved cold temperatures to gather at the Capitol for Barack Obama's second inauguration. Photo via The New York Times.

An estimated 600,000 braved cold temperatures to gather at the Capitol for Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Photo via The New York Times.

About 600,000 people braved the freezing temperatures and got up early to secure a good spot on the National Mall, from which to view the ceremonies. In honor of Martin Luther King Day, the President took his oath with his hand on two Bibles — one that belonged to Abraham Lincoln and another that once belonged to Dr. King. The significance of our countries first black president celebrating his second inauguration on Martin Luther King Day cannot be overlooked. Mr. Obama honored Dr. King by reciting a quote, saying that “our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth.”

The inaugural luncheon features foods from across the country and wines from New York state. Photo via The New York Times.

The inaugural luncheon features foods from across the country and wines from New York state. Photo via The New York Times.

Celebrations continue all day and into the night, with a traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, a luncheon featuring foods from across the country and wines from New York state, musical performances by James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, Katy Perry, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, The United States Marine Band, PS 22, Lee University Festival Choir, and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. English-language Latino poet Richard Blanco will be the first Hispanic, LGBT person and youngest-ever to recite a poem at the swearing-in ceremony.

I’m very excited to see what President Obama can accomplish in the coming four years. It seems he is ready to go. Earlier today, he posted this message on his Twitter account: “I’m honored and grateful that we have a chance to finish what we started. Our work begins today. Let’s go. -bo.”

GL_ObamaMLK2013_4

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Don’t forget that in a true democracy we all need to participate. Thanks to social media and increased transparency in government, we now have more power than ever. Let’s use that power to help our leaders do good.

Visit the new grassroots movement Organizing for Action (watch the video introduction by Michelle Obama above) or the still-active serve.gov to find out how you can do your part.

Watch President Obama’s second inaugural address in full above or here.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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