President Barack Obama, noticeably graying from a trying first term and a nation’s waning patience, delivered his second-term inaugural address with a fresh vigor that pleasantly clashed with his aged appearance.
Whether Obama’s assuredness in 2013 was bolstered by his conquest of the popular vote or his inflexible fate as a lame-duck president, the ideological speech was bolder than the first.
Obama led with social issues, including combating poverty; contesting discrimination in any form, namely against the gay community; and allowing young immigrants the chance for citizenship. GOP critics and media alike recognized the 18-minute speech as an explicit push for the “liberal” agenda – but Obama’s presentation flourished. It was the first inaugural speech to explicitly state a stance on the 21st century issues of gay rights and climate change.
Equality was the overriding message. In one of the most prominent parts of the speech, Obama likened the gay rights movement to the 19th century women’s suffrage movement and the 20th century civil rights movement. He referenced, in succession, the historical sites Seneca Falls, N.Y.; Selma, Ala.; and the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York.
“It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began,” he said.
The theme of equality did not just show up in Obama’s speech. Even the day of the inauguration itself, the documented national holiday referencing Martin Luther King Jr., placed an emphasis on equality. Obama also swore the oath of office on a Bible belonging to the celebrated civil rights leader, The New York Times reported. Myrlie Evers-Williams, whose husband was shot to death during civil rights unrest in Mississippi in 1963, presented the opening invocation.
He called for collective, urgent action to continue driving toward sweeping civil rights in our nation. However, his appeal was directed to his electorate – African-Americans, Latinos, gay people, women and youth. He used the occasion to express gratitude and further nurture his relationship with his support base, while showing less concern for appeasing his political adversaries.
“His style appeared conversational at times,” said Kristen Pengelly, assistant marketing director at DePaul. “It was as if he was talking directly with his supporters.”
Obama made clear proclamations aimed at each group of allies. He made rhetorical allusions to the civil rights movement, the pledge for immigration reform and equal pay for women. His inclusion of youth, however, was arguably less overt. He spoke to the millennial generation as a unified coalition classified not by differences in race, ethnicity or gender, but in age.
Obama’s grand appeal to youth was woven throughout the fabric of his speech. He concentrated on compelling social issues instead of reciting the more difficult-to-understand “fiscal cliff” and other economic concerns. He recognized the essential youth vote and the new faces of the American majority.
The inauguration speech saluted the diverse groups of voters who won re-election for our 44th president. The speech reinforced the lesson of the 2012 presidential election: liberal is in with America’s new majority.