Special Broadcast Monday, January 21, 2013

Democracy Now! Presidential Inauguration 2013 Coverage

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Monday, January 21, 2013 8:00am–1:00pm ET

Tune in to Democracy Now! for our special 5-hour live broadcast of the presidential inauguration from 8am to 1pm EST on Monday, January 21. Democracy Now! will be on location in Washington, D.C., to take a look back at President Obama’s first term in office, analyze prospects for the next four years, and provide live coverage of the inauguration proceedings.

During the program, Democracy Now! will also examine the civil rights, social and economic justice and antiwar legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The program will include live and taped interviews, excerpts of speeches and performances. Possible guests include Danny Glover, Ralph Nader, Rita Dove, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Van Jones, Sonia Sanchez, Julian Bond, Marian Wright Edelman, Barbara Ehrenreich, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Mos Def, and many more.

Use the hashtag #DNlive to join the conversation on Twitter.

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[Click here for the first hour of our five-hour special]

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue with our expanded coverage of the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. As many as 800,000 people are expected to attend this year’s celebration, smaller than the nearly two million people who crammed into Washington, D.C., to witness this 2009 inauguration, but still the largest second inauguration in history.

This is all taking place on the federal holiday that honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King was born January 15th, 1929. He was assassinated April 4th, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old. While Dr. King is primarily remembered as a civil rights leader, he also championed the cause of the poor and organized the Poor People’s Campaign to address issues of economic justice. Dr. King was a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy in the Vietnam War. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech, which he delivered at New York’s Riverside Church, April 4th, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated, Dr. King called the United States, quote, "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." Time magazine called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post said King, quote, "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people." Today, we let you decide. We play an excerpt of Dr. King’s speech, "Beyond Vietnam."

REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: After 1954, they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which could have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over the united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again. When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered.

Also, it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva Agreements concerning foreign troops. And they remind us that they did not begin to send troops in large numbers and even supplies into the South, until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the North. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than 8,000 miles away from its shores.

At this point, I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else, for it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after the short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long, they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America, who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote: "Each day the war goes on, the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism,” unquote.

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war and set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.

Part of our ongoing—part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under the new regime, which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country, if necessary.

Meanwhile—meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task: While we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment, we must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible.

These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

Now, there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality—and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. So such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past 10 years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression, which has now justified the presence of U.S. military "advisers" in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago, he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin—we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation. It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay a hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Martin Luther King, speaking April 4th, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York, explaining why he opposed the war in Vietnam. We’ll come back to this speech after this break.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Mahalia Jackson singing "Precious Lord, Take My Hand." It was Dr. King’s favorite song. Mahalia Jackson sung it at his funeral. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech. Some call it "Beyond Vietnam," others, "Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam." It was April 4th, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York.

REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions.

It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism. With this powerful commitment, we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."

A genuine revolution of values means, in the final analysis, that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft-misunderstood, this oft-misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man.

When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response, I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I’m speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the First Epistle of Saint John: "Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us."

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says, "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word," unquote.

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam writes, "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now, let us begin. Now, let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter—but beautiful—struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Martin Luther King delivering his speech, "Beyond Vietnam," at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4th, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated. He would have been 84 years old this past week—his birthday, January 15th, 1929.

We’re broadcasting today on this second inauguration day of President Obama that’s taking place on the federal holiday marking Dr. King’s birthday. Right now, here in Washington, D.C., the Mall is filling up with people; hundreds of thousands have come to march—watch the inauguration. In 2009, close to two million people came. It was not only the largest inauguration in U.S. history, but the largest event ever held in the nation’s capital. It was absolutely freezing them. People who had water bottles, the water froze. This time around, it’s still freezing but not quite as cold. It’s around 34 degrees. But people, especially who are on the western front of the—on the west front of the Capitol, who are sitting in the stand where President Obama will once again take the oath of office, they had to gather at 5:30 this morning.

In this hour, as we continue our five-hour special broadcast on this Inauguration Day, we continue with the speeches of Dr. King. The speech you’ve just heard, "Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam," April 4th, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated, Dr. King, April 4th, 1968, in Memphis. Well, the night before he died, Dr. King delivered his last major address. He was in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers, as he built momentum for a Poor People’s March on Washington. They were trying to organize a local, Local 1707 of AFSCME. This is some of Dr. King’s last speech, "I Have Been to the Mountain Top."

REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?" I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through—or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there.

I would move on by Greece and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon. And I would watch them around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire, and I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and aesthetic life of man. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even go by the way that the man for whom I am named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his 95 theses on the door at the church of Wittenberg. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would come on up even to 1863 and watch a vacillating president by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even come up to the early '30s and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation and come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. But I wouldn't stop there.

Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty and say, "If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy."

Now that’s a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the 20th century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding.

Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee, the cry is always the same: "We want to be free!"

And another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.

And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn’t done, and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed. Now, I’m just happy that God has allowed me to live in this period to see what is unfolding. And I’m happy that He’s allowed me to be in Memphis.

I can remember—I can remember when Negroes were just going around, as Ralph has said, so often scratching where they didn’t itch and laughing when they were not tickled. But that day is all over. We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God’s world.

And that’s all this whole thing is about. We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying—we are saying that we are God’s children. And if we are God’s children, we don’t have to live like we are forced to live.

Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Martin Luther King, April 3rd, 1968, the night before he was assassinated. We’re going to come back to this speech in Memphis, Tennessee. And in our next hour, we’ll be speaking with Ralph Nader. When Dr. Martin Luther King was in Memphis, he was there building momentum for a Poor People’s March. Consumer advocate, three-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader is right now beating the drums around increasing the minimum wage. We’ll also be joined by Clarence Lusane, author of The Black History of the White House. We’ll find out who exactly built the White House. This is Democracy Now! if you’d like a copy of our annual tribute to Dr. King, with his Vietnam and this speech that you’re listening to now, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. We’ll come back to this last address in a moment.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Nina Simone singing "The King of Love Is Dead." This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to Dr. King’s last speech, given the night before he was assassinated, April 3rd, 1968, a rainy night in Memphis, Tennessee.

REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: We aren’t going to let any mace stop us. We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don’t know what to do. I’ve seen them so often. I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were in that majestic struggle there, we would move out of the 16th Street Baptist Church day after day; by the hundreds we would move out. And Bull Connor would tell them to send the dogs forth, and they did come. But we just went before the dogs singing, "Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around."

Bull Connor next would say, "Turn the fire hoses on." And as I said to you the other night, Bull Connor didn’t know history. He knew a kind of physics that somehow didn’t relate to the transphysics that we knew about. And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. And we went before the fire hoses; we had known water. If we were Baptist or some other denominations, we had been immersed. If we were Methodist and some others, we had been sprinkled, but we knew water. That couldn’t stop us.

And we just went on before the dogs, and we would look at them; and we’d go on before the water hoses, and we would look at it. And we’d just go on singing, "Over my head I see freedom in the air." And then we would be thrown in the paddy wagons, and sometimes we were stacked in there like sardines in a can. And they would throw us in, and old Bull would say, "Take ’em off," and they did. And we would just go on in the paddy wagon singing, "We Shall Overcome." And every now and then we’d get in jail, and we’d see the jailers looking through the windows being moved by our prayers and being moved by our words and our songs. And there was a power there which Bull Connor couldn’t adjust to, and so we ended up transforming Bull into a steer, and we won our struggle in Birmingham.

Now, let me say, as I move to my conclusion, that we’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school, be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base. Now, that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air and placed it on the dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn’t stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the "I" into the "thou" and to be concerned about his brother.

Now, you know we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn’t be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that "One who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body 24 hours before the ceremony." And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem—or down to Jericho, rather, to organize a Jericho Road Improvement Association. That’s a possibility. Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable." It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1,200 miles—or rather 1,200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, 15 or 20 minutes later, you’re about 2,200 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the "Bloody Pass." And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking, and he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

That’s the question before you tonight, not: "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job?" not: "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?" The question is not: "If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?" The question is: "If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?" That’s the question.

You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was: "Are you Martin Luther King?" And I was looking down writing, and I said, "Yes." And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it, I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the x-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, you’re drowned in your own blood; that’s the end of you.

It came out in The New York Times the next morning, that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheelchair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the president and the vice president. I’ve forgotten what those telegrams said. I’d received a visit and a letter from the governor of New York, but I’ve forgotten what that letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It said simply, "Dear Dr. King, I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School." And she said, "While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze."

And I want to say tonight—I want to say tonight that I too am happy that I didn’t sneeze, because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in inter-state travel.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.

If I had sneezed—if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great movement there.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.

I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.

And they were telling me—now, it doesn’t matter now. It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us. The pilot said over the public address system, "We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked and to be sure that nothing would be wrong on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully, and we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night."

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats or talk about the threats that were out, of what would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers. Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Martin Luther King, April 3rd, 1968. Within 24 hours, he would be dead, assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel April 4th, 1968. Today is the federal holiday that honors him and the second inauguration of President Obama.

[end of second hour]

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from Washington, D.C., today, where President Barack Obama is set to publicly take the oath of office for his second term, after becoming the first African-American U.S. president four years ago. The inauguration ceremony is expected to begin in an hour and a half, and we’ll be bringing it to you in full. As many as 800,000 people are expected to attend this year’s celebration, smaller than the nearly two million people who crammed into Washington, D.C., to witness his 2009 inauguration but still the largest second inauguration in history. The Mall is filling up as we speak. Bands are playing. It is very cold outside, but still hundreds of thousands of people are coming. The first inauguration of President Obama, when about two million people came, was the largest event in Washington, D.C., history.

It is also the holiday that honors the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, born January 15th, 1929. Last week he would have turned 84 years old. It was a hard-fought victory to achieve a federal holiday honoring Dr. King. In the background, you hear the bands playing today for President Barack Obama. Dr. King died in Memphis, Tennessee. That’s where he was assassinated, there to march with sanitation workers, there to build the Poor People’s March on Washington, which is why in this hour we are turning to look at the economy today—one of President Obama’s unfulfilled campaign promises.

Many economists say more jobs could be created by generating more consumer demand. Well, a bill introduced last year by then-Illinois Democratic Congressmember Jesse Jackson Jr. aimed to do that by increasing the minimum wage for the first time since 2007. The bill was called Catching Up to 1968 Act of 2012. One prominent supporter of increasing the minimum wage has been longtime consumer advocate, former presidential candidate a number of times, Ralph Nader, the author of a number of books, including—well, the most recent is The Seventeen Solutions: New Ideas for Our American Future.

We welcome you back to Democracy Now!, Ralph.

RALPH NADER: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Very interesting, the Return to 1968 Act. That was the year that we were just listening to Dr. King give that last address.

RALPH NADER: Yes, since 1968, for most of the American people, it’s backwards into the future. Eighty percent of the people in this country make less than their predecessors made in 1968, adjusted for inflation. All those beautiful words by Martin Luther King, which he ended saying, "This is unjust, this is unjust," they’re worse now. Mr. Obama, the first African-American president, does not echo the sentiments or the revolution of values articulated by Martin Luther King in 1968. Empire is worse than it was when Martin Luther King warned about the Vietnam and spreading war in East Asia. There are more drones. There are more killings of innocent people. There are more violations of international and national sovereignties by the Obama military machine. Of course, the military budget now swallows half of the discretionary budget. It’s over $800 billion, not counting different other sub-budgets in the Department of Energy. Domestically, we have a much higher unemployment rate than 1968. We have more poverty, absolutely and relatively, than 1968. We certainly have more home foreclosures. We certainly have more consumer debt. And, of course, 30 million workers, Amy, are making today less than the workers made in 1968, adjusted for inflation.

That’s why we are launching this national drive to overpower Congress and split the Republicans in Congress, organize and wake up the Democrats, so tens of billions of dollars are poured into the community, into the long-deserved pockets of these people, many of whom have children, and they don’t have health insurance, they don’t have paid sick leave, they don’t have paid vacations. But they deserve a $10.50 minimum wage, which is what it would be in 1968. No big deal.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain how that would work. How does an increase in the minimum wage actually work?

RALPH NADER: It works in two ways. One, Congress can pass it for all of the states. There’s no competition between the states that way in terms of wage levels. There’s no competition between businesses, etc. Everyone would have to pay the same minimum wage. The other way is what’s been happening slowly. San Jose, for example, last November passed a higher minimum wage. California has a minimum wage about a dollar more than the $7.25. Connecticut has a higher minimum wage. Alaska has it. Santa Fe has had, I think, at least a $9.50 minimum wage for a number of years. It’s still operating. There’s no—there’s no dislocation. It creates—

AMY GOODMAN: Who fights against it?

RALPH NADER: Fights against it? First of all, big business. Two-thirds of the low-income workers are employed by Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. And they’re fighting it, even though the heads of these companies are making almost a million dollars a month, and the head of Wal-Mart makes $11,000 an hour, eight hours every day, not counting benefits and perks. I mean, you can’t even find a Medieval analogy here—maybe King Tut, in terms of, you know, wealth inequality. And the small businesses—and some of them are defined as having people, 500 employees, Amy—small businesses employ a third of the low-income workers, and they have been given 18 tax breaks by Mr. Obama, as he keeps telling us. So they’ve got theirs. And big business certainly is making profit and wallowing in bonuses. And they can—they can pay that minimum wage.

I’ve just written a letter to the head of Wal-Mart, Mike Duke. I said, "Listen, you grossed over $300 billion in the U.S. This will cost you less than $2 billion to take a million or so of your workers up to $10.50. You would get less turnover and more productivity, and you’ll sleep better at night."

AMY GOODMAN: But how does Wal-Mart’s wages here compare to wages elsewhere, Wal-Mart’s wages worldwide?

RALPH NADER: Yeah, this is the most telling. In Western Europe, for example, Wal-Mart has stores. They have employees. They have to give them paid vacation. They are often given paid—they all have healthcare, because it’s universal, it’s government healthcare. They have to give them paid sick leave, including family sick leave. They have better benefits along, because they’re required to do it. So why are—why is Wal-Mart treating European workers—and in some respects, Canadian workers, because in Ontario the minimum wage is $10.25, not $7 and a quarter here in U.S.—why is Wal-Mart treating workers in foreign countries so better than the workers in this country who built Wal-Mart, right out of Bentonville, Arkansas?

AMY GOODMAN: You would—

RALPH NADER: Because the law requires it.

AMY GOODMAN: You would think that Wal-Mart and companies like it would fight for universal healthcare—beyond that, would fight for, you know, the public option.

RALPH NADER: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: It would fight for Medicare for all—

RALPH NADER: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —because then they’re not responsible for paying for it.

RALPH NADER: That’s right. Jack Smith, who became president of General Motors, he was, before that, president of GM Canada. And he came to Detroit, and he said, "What’s going on here? We spend more on healthcare than on steel." And he was asked, "Well, what about the Canadian system?" which is a full Medicare for all, free choice of doctor and hospital. And he said, "That’s OK. That works pretty well."

But, you see, they don’t want to take on the giant health insurance industry and the drug industry. There’s this unwritten rule in big business: You don’t take on each other’s turfs, because then they can snap back on you. Otherwise, your implication of your point is true. If we had big business say, "Look, you know, we’d be more competitive with other countries; other countries have universal health insurance," they could get it through Congress. But—

AMY GOODMAN: Has Mr. Duke responded to your letter—

RALPH NADER: No, I’ve just sent it.

AMY GOODMAN: —the CEO of Wal-Mart?

RALPH NADER: Yeah, I’ve just sent it. We’ve actually met with the government reps of Wal-Mart last year to make this case. By the way, this—an inflation-adjusted minimum wage comes in at 70 percent support, which means a lot of conservative workers support it. And Rick Santorum has been for an inflation-adjusted minimum wage, and so has, for years, Mitt Romney, until he waffled during the primaries last year. Australia has a 5.3 percent unemployment rate, and they pay workers 20 years or over $15.96. And the Australian dollar is worth more than the U.S. dollar, a little bit, a couple pennies. So, they get along pretty well. And France is about $11. Germany is even higher. So, we’re right at the bottom, right? American exceptionalism. We’re right at the bottom here.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play a clip for you.

RALPH NADER: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: In November, one of the groups organizing the protests and strikes against Wal-Mart was called OUR Walmart, the Organization United for Respect at Walmart.

RALPH NADER: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: This an advocacy video that they put out, Wal-Mart workers explaining why they walked out.

WAL-MART EMPLOYEE 1: Because together, we are stronger than we are alone.

WAL-MART EMPLOYEE 2: Because I like to make a difference for those who are too scared to come forward.

WAL-MART EMPLOYEE 3: Because Wal-Mart can afford to pay us enough to live better.

WAL-MART EMPLOYEE 1: Stand up, live better.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the advocacy video that they put together.

RALPH NADER: Yes. Well, I—in my letter to CEO Mike Duke of Wal-Mart, I said, "You’re a billionaire or two away from being unionized," because the unions don’t have the right strategy, and they aren’t putting the resources in. But if you had a couple billionaires say, "OK, here’s a couple hundred, $200 million, and here’s the strategy," which, by the way, I outlined in my political fiction book, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, in detail, on how to unionize Wal-Mart, it would be done. I don’t think many billionaires maybe watch this program, but if there are any billionaires that want to have a legacy in history—because if you unionize Wal-Mart, you completely change the direction of worker power in this country, and billions of dollars will go in and erase this low-wage economy, this race to the bottom, where we’re becoming an advanced third world country. That’s what we are, an advanced third world country. We have—leading in science and technology, but not for the people, massive military power. But if you look at the condition of 80, 85 percent of the people in this country, it is terrible—

AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking right now—

RALPH NADER: —even by comparison.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking right now at those who are walking to their seats.

RALPH NADER: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Timothy Geithner, the outgoing treasury secretary—

RALPH NADER: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Eric Holder, the attorney general, their seats on the west front of the Capitol, about to—

RALPH NADER: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —witness the second inauguration of President Obama. Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, the secretary of Homeland Security, Eric Holder, the attorney general. Comment on, for example, Geithner, and not only Timothy Geithner, but Jack Lew, who has been nominated by President Obama to be the next treasury secretary, and how that fits into the issue you’re so deeply concerned about right now, minimum wage.

RALPH NADER: Well, it fits in very well, because, you know, a lot of liberal Democrats, filled with extraordinary hope, think that, "Well, Clinton’s second term, he doesn’t have to worry; Obama’s second term, doesn’t have to worry about re-election. It will be different." It’s not going to be different—I would hope it would be different—unless the people wake up in this country and just exert a tiny bit of effort, in the millions, focusing zero—zero focus on Congress, because that’s the fulcrum, to get a minimum wage bill through.

Jack Lew is Wall Street-certified. He’s a typical Central Casting treasury secretary, OK? He’s smart. He’s experienced. He’s obedient to Wall Street. And he’s certified by Wall Street. So it’s going to be a seamless transition. Then you have—you have the regulatory chiefs. Who’s he going to appoint to head EPA and deal with climate change? Well, it’s got to be someone who’s going to support his coming decision to approve the XL pipeline.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened to Lisa Jackson? Why do you believe she stepped down?

RALPH NADER: Well, he totally—he totally mishandled and mistreated her. He basically said to her in the election year last year—he shut her down, virtually, except for one or two pollution standards. He shut her down. He told her in the White House in a meeting, "You are not going to do this." And she just left. She couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t blame her.

And Dr. Michaels, who heads OSHA, job health and safety agency—you know, 58,000 Americans die from workplace-related diseases and trauma. Just think of that. In three weeks, more than 9/11, every three weeks, right? He told Dr. Michaels, "You will not issue these longstanding, supported health standards for workers." He shut him down. And there’s no evidence that he’s going to do anything else.

The empire continues. The drones have expanded since he was elected. Look at the destruction in Yemen. And he is endangering this country, because he’s, in effect, a recruitment president for the spread of this kind of fighting, al-Qaeda-related. You know, General Casey testified once, under George W. Bush, that our presence in Iraq is a recruitment device for more and more fighters to come in and blow up things. Well, this is what’s happening with the Obama military policy. He is spreading the disaster all over the world. Mali is occurring because of Libya, you see? We went into Libya with the Europeans, we drove the tribesmen with all their weapons into northern Mali. And so it spreads. And so it spreads.

So, what I’m saying basically is, we have got to wake up as citizens. Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand." What are we doing around the country? Watching all these violent television programs and playing the video games and bewailing our powerlessness and finding excuses for ourselves, when it’s a lot easier than we think. You know, I’ve said in this book, Seventeen Solutions, many long overdue reforms—tax reform, Wall Street speculation tax, cracking down on corporate crime, living wage, full Medicare for all, you know, things other countries have—that it’s much easier than we think. And what we’re going to try to prove on the minimum wage is that a few million people spending a few hours on their members of Congress, given the polls, given the arguments, we can get it. The website is timeforaraise.org, timeforaraise.org. So we have to wake up the Democrats, because they are for it but they’re asleep. And we have to wake up the AFL-CIO and Rich Trumka, who was muzzled in Charlotte, and he had this speech before all these people at the national convention. The Democrats never mentioned minimum wage.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, muzzled?

RALPH NADER: All the Democrats shut up if Obama doesn’t move first. Pelosi’s people told me that. Senator Reid’s people told me that. Trumka, he’s got it all over his website—you know, let’s get a good minimum wage. He will not make a major move with his resources. They’re all waiting for Obama. It’s a highly centralized party. And Obama never really ran with the Democrats in the House. He never gave them the money they wanted from his billion-dollar trove. He never campaigned with them the way Clinton even did. There’s a lot of resentment by the Democrats. They’ve expressed it to me, no less.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, there were a million more people voting for Democrats in the House than Republicans.

RALPH NADER: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, the Republicans took the House by scores of seats—

RALPH NADER: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —because of gerrymandering.

RALPH NADER: Yeah, well, but that’s the excuse, you know, the gerrymandering on both sides. The House Democratic Caucus put out a list of 60—they called it—dangerous Republican votes that passed through the House—anti-women, anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-worker, pro-empire, pro-corporate-welfare, right? I mean, you should—the Democrats should have landslided them. They didn’t use those 60. They didn’t use them in each congressional district. It was all about praise the middle class, forget the poor, never mention the word "poor," never mention minimum wage—a winning issue, right? And it was all about raising money. They should have landslided. And when I went up to the House in April and March of last year, leading Democrats had already conceded the defeat to Boehner and Cantor. I would say to some people who were in there for 30 years, "How many seats do you think the Democrats are going to win, net?" They never went higher than 15. They needed 25 seats. And they ended up with seven. So, what are we doing with a Democratic Party that cannot defend the country against a most ravaging, ignorant, cruel, vicious, anti-people, empire-promoting Republican Party?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, what happened to the bill? And then we’ll talk about what you think are the best strategies to push it forward. But what—Jesse Jackson, of course, is no longer in Congress.

RALPH NADER: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And he was the one, Jesse Jackson Jr., congressman from Illinois—

RALPH NADER: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —who introduced it. What happened there?

RALPH NADER: Well, he had about 21 sponsors. And then the Democrats decided, since Obama didn’t want to make minimum wage an issue, they had George Miller put in a bill—

AMY GOODMAN: George Miller, the congressman from California.

RALPH NADER: The congressman to whom all Democrats defer on labor issues. And they had a couple hundred Democrats or so sign on. And it was designed to go nowhere. And it was $9.80 minimum wage by 2014. This was why it’s—

AMY GOODMAN: By the way, for our viewers and listeners right now, the Obama family is coming to the west front of the White House. They are just getting out of their cars in a few moments. I see now Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts getting out of his car.

RALPH NADER: Right. And so, he didn’t have a press conference to highlight it with leading labor, Hispanic, black groups. He didn’t have that. It was just there to decoy away from Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and his hardcore progressive supporters in the House. In the Senate, it was even worse, because Senator Harkin introduced a similar bill, a three-stage bill, introduced it in April of last year. Now, he can have a hearing. There’s no filibuster against, you know, Democratic committee chairs. They could have had a great hearing; didn’t have a hearing. I’ve written Senator Harkin and said, "Are you going to have a hearing now?" Well, we’ll see.

It’s not going to happen, except back home, when some of those 30 million workers are going to take time off from their low-pay jobs, after they work, and they’re going to have to surround, just the way Occupy Wall Street did around the country, surround the congressional offices of the senators and representatives to start the ball rolling.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it just has to be the low-paid workers themselves?

RALPH NADER: No, because we are going to have organizers on this. We are going to make a major drive. There are various nonprofit groups who have been working on this for many years. They have the data. They have the materials. And we’ll start getting some union leaders, like RoseAnn DeMoro of the nurses certainly is on board. The electrical workers are on board. We just have to reach Richard Trumka in that marbled white building right next to the White House.

AMY GOODMAN: I mentioned the White House; I meant the western—the west front of the Capitol—

RALPH NADER: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —where the inauguration is taking place. You did a piece, you wrote a piece, Ralph, saying, compare the—what was it? "Compare the 1912 Elections with the 2012 Elections."

RALPH NADER: Yeah, it’s like night and day. In 1912, they had—President William Howard Taft, they had Teddy Roosevelt on the progressive Bull Moose Party, and they had Woodrow Wilson. And Taft was a Republican; Wilson was a Democrat. They were competing as to who was going to be more progressive. Senator—President Taft wanted federal chartering of national corporations, which we still don’t have for this day. We have them chartered in Delaware and Nevada and, you know, various permissive jurisdictions. The streets were seething with workers organizing, rallying. Immigrants were demonstrating for justice. The women’s movement was budding. The—for the women’s suffrage. The women were leading the consumer movement. I mean, it’s complete night and day. And also, of course, Eugene Debs was running. He got the equivalent of five million votes today, on a proportion of the population. And he was talking to audiences in open-air fields, up to 200,000 people, workers with their families.

Now, fast-forward to 2012. I mean, like, it’s desolation. It’s abdication. It’s apathy. It’s two choices, between Wall Street choice one and Wall Street choice two, two choices between your version of empire, two choices between parties who are bailing out corporate crooks, who are repressing minimum wages, who are refusing to put in full Medicare for all, which would save 45,000 American lives a year, according to Harvard Medical School research. And I think that comparison shows the decay of our democratic institutions, the weakness of the labor movement, top-heavy labor movement, and the suction of our energy and our money into wars and invasions and drone strikes overseas at the expense of repairing America back home, the public works.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph, hold that thought. We are broadcasting today in this five-hour Democracy Now! inauguration special from Washington, D.C., from the—not far from the Capitol, where the inauguration will take place in, oh, just a—just about an hour and 10 minutes. And we’re going to bring you the full inaugural ceremony. We’re going to break. We’re talking to Ralph Nader. Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, also spoke last night at the Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: That was Sweet Honey in the Rock singing last night at the Peace Ball. That was unaffiliated with any political party. It was a celebration of voices of hope and resistance. Sweet Honey in the Rock singing "Ella’s Song" to thousands of people at the Mead Center for American Theater at the Arena Stage. Ralph Nader also spoke there, longtime consumer advocate, former presidential candidate, author of many books, including his latest, The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future.

And we’re speaking on this day where the inauguration is about to take place in just over an hour. People are gathering at the west front of the Capitol. I just saw Eleanor Holmes Norton making her way, the congresswoman from Washington, D.C., though not quite full congressperson, because D.C. doesn’t have those rights; Nydia Velázquez of New York. Rahm Emanuel, I see, taking his seat, the former chief of staff of President Obama, now mayor of Chicago. Yes, the Washington establishment is making their way to re-inaugurate President Obama, but so are hundreds of thousands of people who have come to the Capitol. It will be the second-largest inauguration in U.S. history. The first, of course, was President Obama’s first inauguration, the largest event ever in the nation’s capital; two million people turned out.

Ralph Nader, you have attempted to become president of this country. Do you have anything positive to say about President Obama, what you think he has done well?

RALPH NADER: I think he’s done well on student loans, not as well as a lot of people wanted in this area, but he has given millions of students the opportunity to get loans from the Department of Education instead of the rapacious corporations with their gouging interest rates, like Sallie Mae. But, you know, he has a remarkably disappointing record. We all hoped for his—you know, to be a great president. But character and personality count far more than anything else in the presidency. And he is conflict-averse; he doesn’t like to take on powerful forces. And he has—his worst trait is turning his back on his supporters. If you privately talk to members of the Black Caucus in Congress, they are bitterly disappointed with him. Some of them actually—one of them said they would be marching on the White House if he was a white president.

I think we’ve got to stop focusing so much on the White House and focus on ourselves. This is why this minimum wage battle is so important. It could be the first victory, in a victory-starved country, for justice. And it’s doable. We have a website called timeforaraise.org, timeforaraise.org. Go to it, and look at it, sign up, because we want to get people in every city to push for city ordinances, as Santa Fe and San Jose and others have done. We want to get people in states to push. But we’re going to be pushing at the congressional level. Remember, President Obama came out for a $9.50 minimum wage by 2011 in his 2008 campaign, and he never said it again. Why? Because we did not put organized demands on him. We settled for least worst, and we settled for letting our leaders not lead.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your assessment of President Obama pushing for gun control? You see him talking about congressmembers getting paid by the NRA in their pockets, and people should challenge that, saying he will introduce an assault weapons ban, a number of executive orders to challenge the NRA. But take that in a big way, if he’s beginning his second presidential campaign with that. We expect that he’ll talk about that in his inauguration speech, perhaps, today.

RALPH NADER: Yes, well, that is a good start. But as we all know, he’s going to be blocked by the Republicans in Congress, which—which party he should have defeated in a landslide. So it all goes back to the election and the emergence once again of John Boehner and Eric Cantor and their ability to block anything that he tries to get through Congress.

AMY GOODMAN: John Boehner, who is just making his way right now to his seat at the inauguration ceremony.

RALPH NADER: But do you know what percentage of vote John Boehner got in the last election to re-elect him? A hundred, 100 percent. You know why? Because unlike Newt Gingrich, who challenged and toppled Democratic Speakers Jim Wright and Tom Foley, the Democrats didn’t even field a candidate in Ohio against John Boehner, speaker of the House, his principal nemesis. And then we wonder why he’s so aggressive? See, this is where the problem is.

So what we need to focus on is: How do we organize demands on President Obama and the members of Congress back home? There are only 536 of them, President Obama and 535 members of Congress. And we’re 650,000 men, women and children in each congressional district. It’s the fraction of those numbers—a thousand, 2,000—getting behind the kind of long-overdue solutions in this country can begin making it happen. You know what my motto is these days? It’s a lot easier than we think. We’ve got to realize it’s a lot easier than we think. If we exaggerate the opposition as a reflection of our own self-imposed powerlessness, we will be powerless.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, a presidential candidate, now talking about minimum wage. Talking for a moment about foreign policy, your assessment of President Obama’s nominees to be secretary of state, John Kerry, and Chuck Hagel, which he’s gotten a lot of flak for, to be secretary of the defense?

RALPH NADER: Well, those are promising choices. I mean, Kerry may finally liberate himself with a little push from Chuck Hagel. They’re going to have to take on the military-industrial complex and reduce those massive weapons systems that were designed for a Soviet-era-style hostility, like the F-22 and more nuclear subs. They are going to have to cut that military budget down from its $800 billion. They’re going to have to get out of Afghanistan and Iraq. And whether they have the chemistry and the political fortitude to do so remains to be seen. But I think they’re a better choice than their predecessors. I think Kerry is going to be better than Hillary Clinton, who had to be macho all the time, and that Panetta—Chuck Hagel will be better than Panetta, who was kind of a fill-in and spent weekends back in California, where he really wants to retire. So, there’s a little promise there.

But again, it requires the resurgence of mass demonstrations in Washington this spring to develop a conversion policy from the militarization of foreign policy and our society to civilian projects and public works and infrastructure, good-paying jobs in every community that can’t be exported. It’s going to take activity back home. It comes down to self-respect. You know, anybody watching this program, Amy, and they say to themselves, "Well, who am I? I’m nobody. Huh?" Well, what if 25 million people individually say, "Who am I? I don’t have any power. I’m nobody." Guess what? Twenty-five million people don’t have any power. And that’s not a credible proposition in a country that has the Constitution that starts with "we the people," not "we the corporations."

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, you co-signed a letter about John Kiriakou, the anti-torture whistleblower who spoke out against torture because he believed it violated his oath in the Constitution. Again, he never tortured anyone, yet he’s the only individual prosecuted in relation to the torture program in the past decade. And this is January 21st, this day of President Obama’s second inauguration. January 25th, in just a few days, John Kiriakou is set to negotiate a sentence of—will be—will have to serve 30 months in prison. He worked for the CIA.

RALPH NADER: Well, the torturers got away with it. Nobody is prosecuting them. And they are violating the Army Field Manual, the Constitution, federal statutes, international treaties. The man who pointed out—and he was an interrogator. The man, Kiriakou, who pointed out, as a CIA agent, that this was torture and he was not going to engage in it, and he blew the whistle, he’s the guy who’s going to jail. Well, the Justice Department, Mr. Holder, on behalf of Mr. Obama, had five counts against him. They dropped four counts. And in return, he agreed that the fifth count he would plead guilty to, because he didn’t want to be put away for 10, 20 years. He’s got five kids. And he lost his job, his pension. His wife lost her job. They’re in serious straits.

And what did he plead guilty to? That he told a reporter the name of a man he didn’t think was undercover, and the reporter didn’t even report it. And it never was made public until last October. So this is an example of where President Obama went beyond President Bush and actually has indicted more courageous federal officials for reporting crimes, some of whom have been on your program. They’re reporting crimes, and they are law-abiding people. They’re trying to hold up their oath of office, the civil service oath of office. They’re the ones who are being prosecuted. When the history is written about Attorney General Holder, it is not going to be one that’s very ennobling to his pretensions.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, I want to thank you for being with us. Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, former presidential candidate, author of many books. His latest, The Seventeen Solutions: New Ideas for Our American Future. Thanks for joining us, Ralph.

RALPH NADER: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! The first family is set to come out, outside on the steps of the Capitol in, oh, less than an hour. In about 44 minutes, the inaugural ceremony will begin. Among those who will speak, Myrlie Evers will be giving the convocation. She is the widow of Medgar Evers, the civil rights leader who was assassinated in his driveway in Mississippi. We’re going to talk about her. We’re going to talk about the civil rights history. We’re going to talk about the black history of the White House, up next. We’ll be joined by Professor Clarence Lusane, who has written a book by that title. We’ll take a little walking tour of Washington, D.C. Who built it? Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Oh, yes, that was PS22 Chorus from Staten Island, New York, performing earlier in the pre-inauguration ceremony, performing "Home." They performed at the Academy Awards with—and their YouTube videos have been seen by more than 50 million viewers. From Staten Island.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We are usually in New York when we broadcast, not far from Staten Island, but today we’re broadcasting from the nation’s capital. Tomorrow we’ll be broadcasting from Park City, Utah, from the Sundance Film Festival, the 10th anniversary of the Sundance documentary film track. And we’ll be joined by Jeremy Scahill. His film has just premiered at the film festival, with Rick Rowley, called Dirty Wars, and it has created quite a buzz, about the secret wars, particularly under the Obama administration. We’ll talk about drones and targeted killings.

But right now, we’re staying in Washington, D.C. The inaugural—the inauguration ceremony will begin in some—oh, it’s expected to begin in some 50 minutes. And we’re joined right now by Professor Clarence Lusane, who’s going to take us on a—on a walking tour through Washington, D.C., and through history. His book is called The Black History of the White House.

President Obama made history four years ago when he became the first African-American president, but the history of African Americans in the White House did not begin with President Obama. The first person of African descent to enter the presidential home was most likely a slave. Washington, D.C., once hosted markets where human beings were sold for profit. The products of that system include some of the city’s most famous landmarks. Today, President Obama will recite the oath of office on the steps of a building that was built at least in part by the labor of enslaved people. One of the two Bibles with which he will take his oath was also used by President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago this month, declaring free the slaves in Confederate states that were rebelling against the Union. The racial history of D.C. and the presidency is unveiled in Clarence Lusane’s book.

Clarence Lusane, American University professor, let’s talk about the black history of the White House. Welcome, Clarence Lusane.

CLARENCE LUSANE: Thank you. Thank you for having me here.

AMY GOODMAN: So, give us a history lesson.

CLARENCE LUSANE: Well, President Obama, and as other people noted, says that he stands on the shoulders of people who had been in the White House—President Lincoln, President Kennedy, President Johnson. But he also stands on the shoulders of the black people who had experienced it—experiences in the White House. And as you noted in your intro, this goes from those individuals who worked to build the White House. When Washington, D.C., when the country first came on—came into existence, Washington, D.C., did not exist. It literally had to be built, and it took 10 years. Much of that labor, from clearing the land, moving the trees, moving the rocks, came from African-American and slave labor. And then the buildings, the iconic buildings that we know—the Capitol, the White House—both were built not only by unskilled black labor, people who did just sort of the hard work, but also skilled black labor. Plasterers, carpenters were African Americans.

As you noted, the first African American who had engaged in the president’s residence, whether it was in the White House that we know now here in Washington or in the residence of the president, President George Washington, when he first went to New York, and then when he moved from New York to the president’s residence in Philadelphia—in both of those residences, Washington took a number of his enslaved. And so, the black people’s—black people’s history relationship to where the president has lived goes all the way back to the very founding of the country. But more importantly, it goes back to the contradictions around race, slavery and all of that history and the nature of the country.

So President Obama is embodying all of that, as well, when he stands and is commemorated has being the first African-American president. I think, for a lot of people around the country, the idea of an African American in the White House was something new, something unknown. But if you had been here in Washington, D.C., you knew that history, in part, a lot of people, because their family members worked at the White House, in some instances, for generations.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the title and the title photograph of this book.

CLARENCE LUSANE: The photograph comes from the late 1800s. And it was taken by a very famous photographer, Johnston, who took pictures of everyone from Booker T. Washington to presidents. It’s a picture of the Easter egg hunt that took place on the grounds of the White House in 1897. Now, the backdrop to that had been that up until somewhere in the 1880s, 1890s or so, the Easter egg hunt had been up on Capitol Hill. And it had been pretty much open, but the congressmembers were complaining that the children were tearing up the lawn, and so they moved it to the White House. And so, by the time this picture is taken in the late 1897, it’s the only place in Washington, D.C., that’s not segregated, the only place where you’re going to have black children and white children playing together.

Now, this happens after the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which after the end of Reconstruction, the institution of black codes, the institution of segregation, it set the law nationally to allow segregation to exist pretty much all the way up until the mid-1960s. So it’s really significant that we were able to find this picture, because it really kind of captures how the White House at some times could be the only place where there could be some degree of integration, but in other times it also reflected segregation in the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Clarence Lusane, your book, The Black History of the White House, opens with the statement, quote: "More than one in four U.S. presidents were involved in human trafficking and slavery. These presidents bought, sold, bred and enslaved black people for profit." More than one in four.

CLARENCE LUSANE: Right, a quarter of the presidents in the U.S. Essentially, 12 of the first 16 or so presidents not only owned slaves, but many of them had slaves in the White House. And this, of course, was not a history that we were taught and, in fact, is not a history that is taught when we think about the presidents and we think about the history of the United States. But this is critical, because it explains why president after president after president, all the way up until the Civil War, either reified and furthered slavery, or even those who said they were against slavery did very little to address the issue. So, it became impossible for slavery to end until the country reached the point, this cataclysmic point, where civil war forced Lincoln, ultimately, who didn’t start the war off wanting to end slavery or planning to end slavery, but ultimately recognized the only way that the country could go forward, the only way that the Union could exist, was that slavery had to end.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet, interestingly, if you ask most people why President Lincoln—why the Civil War happened, they would say, "Because President Lincoln wanted to end slavery."

CLARENCE LUSANE: And it simply was not the deal. Now, President—I would argue that President Lincoln evolved. He started off anti-slavery, but was not pro-abolition. And he ended up pro-abolition, but not necessarily pro-equality. So, that transition was never completed, if you look back at his words and his actions in many different ways. And I think a lot of that is what’s missing from the film Lincoln.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to a clip of that film, of Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg, about President Abraham Lincoln. And let me say again that President Obama will be putting his hand on two Bibles: One is the Bible of Dr. Martin Luther King, his traveling Bible, and one is the Bible of President Lincoln. Now, in this clip, you first hear Abraham Lincoln, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, followed by the voices of Thaddeus Stevens, who was the congressmember from Pennsylvania, and Mary Todd Lincoln, the first lady. Let’s play that clip.

PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN: [played by Daniel Day-Lewis] We are stepped out upon the world stage now, with the fate of human dignity in our hands! Blood’s been spilt to afford us this moment. Now! Now! Now!

REP. THADDEUS STEVENS: [played by Tommy Lee Jones] Abraham Lincoln has asked us to work with him to accomplish the death of slavery.

MARY TODD LINCOLN: [played by Sally Field] No one’s ever been loved so much by the people. Don’t waste that power.

AMY GOODMAN: A clip from Lincoln. Clarence Lusane?

CLARENCE LUSANE: Now, the thing about Lincoln—and a number of really important historians, Eric Foner and a number of people, have pointed out that the passage of the 13th Amendment didn’t just happen through the machinations and the efforts of Lincoln, it also happened as a result of what was happening below: the rebellions that had happened, the organizing by African Americans, the engagement of free blacks in the lobbying process, the meetings that took place literally around the country pushing and advocating for the 13th Amendment. All of that is missing from the film. So, what comes across is almost kind of a modern notion that policy is made by negotiations between the Democrats and the Republicans or between the White House and the Capitol. But in fact, it really is—and what happened in the—around the 13th Amendment—it really was a process of the activism on the part of people who really wanted slavery to end, including free blacks, those African Americans who were still enslaved, and radical Republicans, those who were part of the other side of Lincoln who were really pushing for the end of slavery even before the Civil War started.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play a clip of actress Gloria Reuben, who plays a real historical figure named Elizabeth Keckley in the film Lincoln. Let’s hear Reuben describing her character, and then I want ask you to talk about Elizabeth Keckley and her significance.

GLORIA REUBEN: I play an extraordinary woman named Elizabeth Keckley, and she was a woman who was born into slavery, and at the age of 39, she ended up buying her own freedom for $1,200. She was highly gifted in the art and craft of dressmaking, from a young girl—you know, she learned from her mother, as was often the case; even to this day, that happens—and eventually ended up building up her own clientele of high-society women and, you know, political wives in St. Louis before she moves to Washington, D.C., moves to Washington, D.C., befriends Mary Todd Lincoln the first day of the first inauguration, is hired by Mary Todd Lincoln to be her personal seamstress. And there was something about the—the way that this woman, from what I had read, this short amount of what I had read about her incredible fortitude and her strength and the way that she was able to survive extraordinary things, that really I felt connected to emotionally.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Gloria Reuben talking about Elizabeth Keckley. Talk about Elizabeth Kleckley [sic], who you—Keckley, who you to talk about in the book, Clarence Lusane, The Black History of the White House.

CLARENCE LUSANE: Yeah, I love Gloria Reuben, but I do think that what was really disturbing to me about Lincoln was that Elizabeth Keckley; William Slade, who played the butler; and Lydia Smith, who played the woman associated with Thaddeus Stevens, their histories were really not there, and was really, in some ways, distorted. Many people I talked to who watched the film felt or came out of the film believing that Elizabeth Keckley was a maid in the White House. But as Gloria Reuben points out, she was an independent businesswoman who had a very client relationship with Mary Lincoln. And so, that part is kind of missing.

What’s really missing, I think, though, that’s really important is that Elizabeth Keckley was also an activist. And when the Civil War started, people begin to leave the plantations, and then after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, people begin to leave in the tens and tens of thousands, and not knowing where to go, they came to Washington, D.C. So they just flooded into the city, and they created camps. Now, they were called "contraband," because they were being referred to as property. But these were people who came who had virtually the clothes on their back. There were issues of feeding them. There was issues of education. There was issues of sanitation. Elizabeth Keckley organized the first association of these individuals to make sure that they were able to be taken care of. And indeed, she traveled not only around the United States, but she actually even went to Europe. And we’re talking tens of thousands of people. Where Howard University is located here in Washington, for example, was one of the major contraband camps, with something like 5,000 people. So she wasn’t just just a businesswoman, but someone who was actively engaged in the issues of her time. She, for example, was critical in setting a meeting between President Lincoln and Sojourner Truth, because she had links with many of the activists, from Henry Highland Garnet to Frederick Douglass. Elizabeth Keckley knew all of these individuals. And so, she really, in her own right, was a very activist person.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about who Sojourner Truth was and her meeting with Lincoln. And I should say, as we’re talking right now, the first lady, Michelle Obama, is making her way to the entrance to the west front of the Capitol. I’m also looking at Sonia Sotomayor, who is about to take her seat among the Supreme Court justices, as well as Elena Kagan and others. I am watching as they come in, as well as the Tuskegee Airmen. And, you know, we are having this conversation—I see Clarence Thomas, as well. We’re having this conversation about 35 minutes before the inauguration ceremonies begin. And Michelle Obama herself is the descendant of slaves from the Carolinas—

CLARENCE LUSANE: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: —of enslaved people.

CLARENCE LUSANE: That’s right.

Sojourner Truth was a black woman activist in the 1840s, 1850s, and going forward, who raised issues not only about racism and slavery, but also about the rights of women, and particularly how African-American women were treated by the feminist movement in that period. So she was a very important character.

Lincoln’s White House was significant because it was the first time of any president—all the 15 presidents who came before Lincoln would not meet with African-American leaders. They simply did not care what African Americans thought, whether they were free African Americans or they were enslaved. Lincoln, in 1862, had the first meeting with a group of African-American religious leaders, and then, after that, he began to meet with people like Frederick Douglass, other African-American leaders, who played a major role in changing Lincoln’s views to begin to see that the end of slavery really was the only recourse to end the Civil War, and it was the right thing to do for the country. So, Elizabeth Keckley, again, fits within the pantheon of these people who were active in that period in trying to push the country—in particular, Lincoln.

Now, she became very, very close with Mary Lincoln. And it’s—in the film, Lincoln, there’s a point where she talks about losing her son during the war. Well, the background to that is that she had basically been raped when she was younger by a white man, and she had a child, a son, who was of mixed race. When the war broke out, her son joined the military. But at that point, African Americans were not allowed, so he entered the military passing for white. And he was killed in one of the early battles that took place in 1861. And so, she lost her only child. The Lincolns, of course, lost one of their children, a young son, while they were in the White House, who contracted a fever, and then he ended up passing away. Elizabeth Keckley was with Mary Lincoln through all of the trauma of addressing her son’s death. She helped to bathe his body. She helped with the funeral. So the two became very, very close. So they really had a friendship that really was the defining nature of their relationship, not as we see in the film too much, her carrying Mary Lincoln’s coat and her being sort of in the background. But she really was just a remarkable individual on her own.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, and I want to ask you, Clarence Lusane, if you’ll stay with us as we move into this next two-hour chunk of Democracy Now!, where we’ll be broadcasting the inauguration ceremony. We will also be talking about Myrlie Evers and the significance of the invocation she will give and her place in history, her place as well as her slain husband’s, Medgar Evers. Clarence Lusane is the author of The Black History of the White House, a professor and program director for the Comparative and Regional Studies Program at American University here in Washington, D.C.

We are doing a five-hour special inauguration broadcast today. We’re going to go to a musical break, and then we’ll resume at 11 Eastern Standard Time. We urge you to tell your friends, to tweet the show, to let us know that you’re listening to, that you’re watching Democracy Now! Democracynow.org is—the transcript is there, as well as all of the supporting information around this five-hour broadcast. Democracy Now! produced by so many remarkable people. Thanks for joining us.

[end of hour three]

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We are doing a many-hour special today on this inauguration.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: Repeat after me. I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...that I will faithfully execute...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...that I will faithfully execute...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...the office of president of the United States.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...the office of president of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Four years after making history by becoming the first African-American president, Barack Obama kicks off his second term on Martin Luther King Day. Up to 800,000 people are gathering on the National Mall. We’ll air the entire ceremony live, including the invocation of Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, and President Obama’s entire speech. All that and more, coming up.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

A teenage gunman is in custody after allegedly killing five members of his family in New Mexico Saturday night. Police say 15-year-old Nehemiah Griego killed his parents and three siblings, each suffering multiple gunshot wounds. The suspect was armed with several weapons, including an assault rifle. It was the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since the Newtown massacre over a month ago.

The shooting came on the same day opponents of gun control held rallies across the country to oppose the White House effort to reform the nation’s gun laws. At demonstrations in Pennsylvania and Ohio, gun owners pilloried calls for stricter gun control.

MARVIN OTTERMAN: No law put on law-abiding citizens has ever deterred crime. Now they’re going to take my gun, so I can get shot.

TOM MABELITINI: My thoughts is, you can tell the left-wing, liberal idiots there in Washington, and all of 'em, leave our guns alone. We're not hurting anything. It’s the criminals. Deal with the criminals, not the law-abiding citizens.

AMY GOODMAN: The pro-gun rallies also coincided with a series of gun shows nationwide where at least five people were wounded when their firearms accidentally went off. In North Carolina, three people were injured when a shotgun accidentally was fired as its owner removed it from its case. Another gun owner accidentally shot himself in Indianapolis, while in Ohio a gun show attendee was injured by a stray bullet.

President Obama is set to publicly take the oath of office today at his second-term inauguration in Washington. Obama gathered with his family on Sunday in the Blue Room of the White House to privately recite the 35-word oath read to him by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me. I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...that I will faithfully execute...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...that I will faithfully execute...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...the office of president of the United States...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...the office of president of the United States...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...and will, to the best of my ability...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...and will, to the best of my ability...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...preserve, protect and defend...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...preserve, protect and defend...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...the Constitution of the United States.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...the Constitution of the United States.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: So help you God?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So help me God.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice. Thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: Three activist groups have received permission to protest President Obama along the route of the inaugural parade. The antiwar group ANSWER says it expects thousands of people.

On the eve of his public swearing-in ceremony on the National Mall, Obama thanked supporters at an inaugural celebration at the National Building Museum.

At least four people have been killed in a U.S. drone strike inside Yemen. The Yemeni government says the attack killed four militants, but the claim has not been independently verified. The attack comes one day after locals angered over the drone attacks blocked a main road linking the targeted town of Ma’rib with the capital Sana’a.

The Obama administration, meanwhile, has reportedly decided to exclude CIA drone strikes in Pakistan from new legal oversight for targeted killings overseas. The Washington Post reports counterterrorism adviser and CIA nominee John Brennan has signed off on a plan to exempt the drone attacks in Pakistan from a list of operations that would be covered under newly enacted rules. Areas covered in the so-called playbook include the process for adding names to kill lists, the principles for killing U.S. citizens abroad, and the command chain for authorizing CIA or U.S. military strikes outside war zones. The exemption of drone strikes in Pakistan would allow the CIA to continue carrying them out without a legal framework for up to two years.

The hostage standoff in Algeria has ended in the deaths of dozens of people, including up to 48 of the captured workers. Algerian forces say they have recovered at least 25 bodies after storming the militant-held gun complex on—gas complex on Saturday, bringing the confirmed death toll to at least 80. Witnesses say the hostages were brutally executed. The toll could have been worse, as hundreds of hostages had earlier managed to escape. A well-known Islamist fighter named Mokhtar Belmokhtar has claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of al-Qaeda. The militants who took the complex claimed they were doing so to seek an end to the French military intervention in neighboring Mali.

The French army, meanwhile, continues to advance toward northern Mali in its effort to wrest control from Islamist rebels. Earlier today, French forces entered the key town of Diabaly on the ground after a week of air strikes. The rebels have apparently fled the town after vowing a stiff resistance. At the United Nations, a spokesperson for the U.N. Refugee Agency said the fighting in Mali threatens to displace up to 700,000 people.

MELISSA FLEMING: We believe that there could be in the near future up to 300,000 people additionally displaced inside Mali and over 400,000 additionally displaced in the neighboring countries. Many also fear the strict application of sharia law. They report having witnessed executions, amputations, and they say that also large amounts of money are being offered to civilians to fight against the Malian army and its supporters. Disturbingly also we are hearing accounts that there are children among the rebel fighters.

A new U.N. report says the torture of prisoners in Afghanistan is not only continuing but may be on the rise. Investigators say they’ve uncovered ongoing—ongoing abuses in Afghan prisons, including the beating of detainees with cables and hanging them by their wrists. More than half of prisoners interviewed said they had been tortured, higher than the previous rate of 24 percent in 2011. The report also cites an unnamed Afghan official confirming prisoners are being held at secret detention sites to avoid international scrutiny. Last week the U.S. military said it had halted the transfer of detainees to some Afghan prisons over ongoing torture.

The Israeli military has forcibly removed yet another Palestinian protest encampment in the path of the expanding Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian residents of the village of Beit Iksa had set up three tents and a mobile building on Friday to stop Israel from seizing parts of their land. The demonstrators named their site Bab al-Karama, Arabic for "Gate of Dignity." Upon receiving the evacuation demand, the activists say they tore up the Israeli military’s order in the faces of the Israeli soldiers. The encampment was raided and dismantled by Israeli soldiers earlier today. Another Palestinian encampment in the West Bank, Bab al-Shams, Arabic for "Gate of the Sun," was removed earlier this month.

Back in this country, the Interior Department has again delayed a regulation that would require the disclosure of chemicals used in the oil drilling process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. It’s the second time the rule’s implementation has been delayed since it was first proposed in May.

A federal grand jury has indicted former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin for a major corruption scheme including allegations of bribery, money laundering, wire fraud, and filing false tax returns. Prosecutors say Nagin received cash and gifts from city contractors, steered a Home Depot contract to his family business, and helped quash a community benefits agreement that would have required Home Depot to hire local residents at above-market rates. Nagin was apparently in talks for a plea bargain when the charges were unveiled.

And here in Washington, D.C., the rap artist Lupe Fiasco was kicked off the stage at an inauguration-themed performance Sunday night after voicing criticism of President Obama. Fiasco recited lyrics critical of U.S. drone strikes and the Israeli invasion of Gaza and shared with the audience that he didn’t vote for Obama in the election. Fiasco was ushered off the stage before he could finish his performance, but organizers of the event deny he was censored.

And those are some of the headlines. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from Washington, D.C., today, where President Barack Obama is set to publicly take the oath of office for his second term. Obama’s second inauguration comes 50 years after the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers outside his home in Jackson, Mississippi. He was 37 years old. Today, his widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams will deliver the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration. She will become the first woman and someone other than clergy to say the prayer that precedes the ceremonial oath of office.

Medgar Evers was killed at the close of an important day in the civil rights movement. Earlier that day, Alabama segregationist, Governor George Wallace, stood on the steps of the state’s all-white university and tried to block the admission of two black students. Evers was killed by a white supremacist named Byron De La Beckwith. He was tried twice for the murder in ’64; both times ended in mistrial because the all-white juries could not reach a verdict. He was later convicted of murder 30 years afterwards. Medgar Evers became an NAACP leader in 1954. After the all-white University of Mississippi rejected his law school application, Evers fought segregation of schools and public places, struggled to increase black voter registration, led business boycotts, brought attention to the murders and lynchings like the slaying of black teenager Emmett Till.

In just a few minutes, we’re going to broadcast President Obama’s inauguration live, including Myrlie Evers-Williams’ invocation. But first I want to turn to a segment we did five years ago, marking the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Medgar Evers, when Myrlie Evers-Williams joined us on Democracy Now! We began the segment with Medgar Evers speaking shortly before he was assassinated in 1963.

MEDGAR EVERS: This demonstration will continue. We will have a mass meeting tonight, and after the mass meeting we will be demonstrating even further on tomorrow. So then, this will only give us an impetus to move ahead, rather than to slow down. We intend to completely eradicate Jim Crow here in Jackson, Mississippi.

AMY GOODMAN: Here, Medgar Evers organizes the NAACP boycott of downtown stores in Jackson, Mississippi, for their support of the separatist group, the White Citizens’ Council.

MEDGAR EVERS: Don’t shop for anything on Capitol Street. Let’s let the merchants down on Capitol Street feel the economic pinch. Let me say this to you. I had one merchant to call me, and he said, "I want you to know that I’ve talked to my national office today, and they want me to tell you that we don’t need nigger business." These are stores that help to support the White Citizens’ Council, the council that is dedicated to keeping you and I second-class citizens. Now, finally, ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be demonstrating here until freedom comes to Negroes here in Jackson, Mississippi.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Medgar Evers. We’re joined now on the phone by civil rights leader Myrlie Evers-Williams. She’s the widow of Medgar Evers, killed 45 years ago today. From 1995 to 1998, Myrlie Evers-Williams served as the chair of the NAACP. Prior to that, she was the first African-American woman to be appointed to the Los Angeles Board of Public Works. She has written two books: For Us, the Living, with William Peters, and an autobiography, Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on the Way to Becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be.

Myrlie Evers-Williams, welcome to Democracy Now!

MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS: Good morning, and thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you with us. Your thoughts today, 45 years after the assassination of Medgar?

MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS: Well, it is a day that certainly I and members of my family remember very intimately. And for some reason, this 45th anniversary has been a little more difficult than the last few, and perhaps it’s because of what is happening in our country today. But I thank you so much for bringing to the public at least a part of the story of Medgar Evers, because it’s been very difficult to hear people talk about the civil rights movement and the leadership as though it started in 1964, when really indeed it did not. So I owe you a great debt of gratitude.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the progress that you feel has been made over these 45 years, especially in places like Mississippi? I recall recently a WLBT TV, which created so many problems for allowing Medgar Evers to be able to even get his message across, was owned by African Americans for quite awhile and then recently changed hands. Has there been continuing progress there in Mississippi, or in some ways have things gone back?

MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS: Oh, no. I would have to say that there has been progress on a continuous basis there. When I look back at the time when Medgar was so prominent and immediately after his death and the changes began to take place very slowly, but they have continued to grow in all aspects of life in Mississippi. That is not to say, however, that prejudice and racism still does not exist. But it certainly doesn’t to the degree that we remember what it was. And I think that goes for America as a whole.

Certainly, things that we see happening today, particularly politically, at my age at this point I knew it would happen, but I wasn’t sure I’d ever see it happen within my lifetime, ’til—but it also—the things that are happening today also bring up the point that Medgar made, that freedom is not free, and it will be more difficult to hold onto those freedoms once they have been gained than perhaps to even achieve them in the first place.

AMY GOODMAN: Myrlie Evers-Williams, it’s interesting to talk to you after we were just speaking with Souleymane Guenggueng, who was a victim of the Chadian dictator, talking about why justice is so important. Byron De La Beckwith, two trials in ’64, right after Medgar Evers was assassinated, he goes free. How did he end up being convicted 30 years later?

MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS: I’m sorry, the last part I did not hear.

AMY GOODMAN: How was he convicted 30 years later?

MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS: Oh, well, that’s a very long story, because I was told that nothing would ever be done. I had made a promise to Medgar that if something happened to him and I was still alive, that I would dedicate my life to seeing that justice prevailed. It took 30-plus years to have that happen. As I heard earlier, two years with a hung jury, and then a third trial that took place, of which I wasn’t sure what would happen. But I think the time that had passed helped to make people realize that it was something that citizens should do, those who knew about it, stand up and fight for equality.

Well, the man was convicted, and he was placed in jail. One of the, I guess, things that I enjoyed, if I can call it that, was the fact that his jail cell had the view of the new post office, which was named for Medgar there. But it did something else, too. After that trial, there had been at least 18 to 21 additional civil rights trials that have been held. And I believe out of that number, there have been 18 convictions. So, in a sense, it’s been a cleansing of the South of America of some of those horrible things that took place. And once again, Medgar was in the forefront of it, with my pushing.

And I just want so badly for historians and particularly for our younger generation to know more about Medgar and the role that he played, because, as I mentioned earlier, it is almost devastating to see and hear mentioned things of the civil rights movement that give the appearance that nothing happened until 1964.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Myrlie Evers-Williams, we will link on our website to the video and the photographs that we have of the historical record, for those who didn’t get to see it on our broadcast, for our radio listeners. And I thank you for taking the time to spend with us today on Democracy Now!

MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS: You are so welcome. And I do want to add that there is a third book. There’s The Autobiography of Medgar Evers, which is about three years old, that was published by Basic Books, and that gives an in-depth sight into his work and his feelings.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Myrlie Evers. Myrlie Evers-Williams will be the first woman and non-clergy to give the invocation at today’s inauguration ceremony. We spoke to her five years ago. The inauguration ceremony will be opened at 11:30 Eastern Standard Time, in just about 10 minutes, with opening remarks from Senator Charles Schumer. At 11:35, Myrlie Evers-Williams will give the invocation. At 11:45, vice-presidential oath will be administered by Justice Sotomayor. At noon, the inaugural address and the inaugural poem by Richard Blanco. At 12:30, the benediction. As we speak right now in this broadcast, President Obama is about to step outside onto the west front of the Capitol.

We are joined by Clarence Lusane, author of The Black History of the White House, professor and program director for Comparative and Regional Studies Program at American University here in Washington, D.C. He’s a professor of international relations. This book, The Black History of the White House, goes beyond the White House. It also talks about the Capitol. It talks about those who built these institutions, physically, many of them enslaved, Professor Lusane.

CLARENCE LUSANE: Right, and this is—this is an important history. In fact, the Capitol has now acknowledged the slave labor that went into building that institution, building that building. There are two plaques, one—that are in the main hallways, one for the Senate side, one for the House side. There is absolutely nothing at the White House that acknowledges that. If you go on a tour of the White House—now they’re kind of self-guided tours—you will go through the Rose, all of the—the Blue Room and all of the other important rooms that are in the White House, but there’s nothing that tells you where the slave quarters were, where people lived in the basement, for example, during the period of slavery. So, there’s—there is a need for the White House to also commemorate and acknowledge the importance of that history, so again the history is—is complete.

AMY GOODMAN: It is amazing to see the hundreds of thousands of people on the Mall right now. The largest event in U.S. — Washington, D.C., history was four years ago, the inauguration. In the background, you can hear the band. Right now, four years later, it’s not expected to be quite as large, about two million, maybe about 800,000, and it’s very cold outside, a testament to the number of people, even more so, who have come out. A lot of the media is talking about the first lady, Michelle Obama’s new hairstyle, her clothes, who made them.

CLARENCE LUSANE: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to ask you about her history. In fact, the last chapter of your book goes right to the Obama White House, the latest political milestone, the Obama’s in the White House, with a prelude, Michelle Obama’s White House story.

CLARENCE LUSANE: Yeah. What I try to do in the book is each chapter opened with a story of an individual that captures each particular historic moment. And so the last chapter looks at Michelle Obama and looks at her history. As far as it’s been traced back, we know that she had an ancestor, a young girl who’s named Melvina, who was enslaved in the 1840s or so. She was eventually sold, sent deeper into the South, and then that particular line of Michelle Obama’s began to emerge and eventually ends up with her family being in Illinois and being in Chicago, and then Michelle and her brother are born in the 1960s. So, her history is really kind of critical, as well, because she is someone who has embodied all of the experiences, all of the ways in which African Americans have struggled for inclusion and struggle—to be part of—

AMY GOODMAN: And as you speak, we’re bringing up the sound—

CLARENCE LUSANE: —to be part of the society.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re bringing up the sounds of people cheering as President Obama has made his public appearance and is shaking hands with the people who are in the stands right now, with Michelle Obama and Malia and Sasha, their children, and Michelle Obama’s mother—

CLARENCE LUSANE: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: —who lives with them in the White House, who has that history, as well.

CLARENCE LUSANE: Right. Now, and 800,000 is pretty good. It’s more than came out for Ronald Reagan. It’s more than came out for George W. Bush.

AMY GOODMAN: And it’s the second inauguration.

CLARENCE LUSANE: And it’s the second inauguration.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s still larger than any other inauguration in history, than President Obama’s first, except for that.

CLARENCE LUSANE: Right. So even with some of the disappointments that people have had, some of the unfilled expectations, there’s still such a resonance, particularly among African Americans, that this—the importance and significance of having Barack Obama as president. People are still kind of coming out. People are still supporting. We saw that in last year’s election. Ninety-three, 95 percent of African Americans voted for him. So there’s still a lot that’s there that’s attached to the meaning of having the first African American become president of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: When you say you wish it would be acknowledged, the history of the building of this city, of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., explain.

CLARENCE LUSANE: Well, psychologists tell us that acknowledging and first recognizing pain and suffering is a way to get past that trauma. And until the country really acknowledges that this is part of the history—we have had good parts of the history, but we’ve also had that, and we should not ignore it. We should not pretend that it doesn’t exist.

And the White House is iconic to the world. There were one-and-a-half, almost two million people that came to the inaugural last year, but there were millions more around the world who were watching, perhaps even as much as a billion people—from Japan to England, to Germany, to South Africa, to Brazil, just around the world—because people understand the long journey that has been there for African Americans. It’s similar to South Africa, for example, where many of us lived our lives never expecting Nelson Mandela to get out of jail. And, in fact, not only did he get out of jail, he became president.

So that is somewhat analogous to what many feel about President Obama, but it still has not, in ways that are important, been officially recognized. And so, one way to do that would be for the White House to say that we understand that this building has represented not only our country, but it’s also represented our history, and it’s embodied all of the conflicts of that history, including slavery.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the whole issue of race in the race, last time and this past time?

CLARENCE LUSANE: Well, race has certainly been a variable. We—because President Obama won in 2008 and won in 2012—

AMY GOODMAN: I think that the inauguration ceremony—

CLARENCE LUSANE: We’ll come back to that.

AMY GOODMAN: —is starting a bit early. Charles Schumer, the senator from New York, has taken the microphone and is beginning the ceremony.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, all who are present and to all who are watching, welcome to the Capitol and to this celebration of our great democracy.

Now, this is the 57th inauguration of an American president, and no matter how many times one witnesses this event, its simplicity, its innate majesty and, most of all, its meaning, that sacred yet cautious entrusting of power from we the people to our chosen leader never fails to make one’s heart beat faster, as it will today with the inauguration of President Barack H. Obama.

Now, we know that we would not be here today were it not for those who stand guard around the world to preserve our freedom. To those in our armed forces, we offer our infinite thanks for your bravery, your honor, your sacrifice.

This democracy of ours was forged by intellect and argument, by activism and blood and, above all, from John Adams to Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Martin Luther King, by a stubborn adherence to the notion that we are all created equal and that we deserve nothing less than a great republic worthy of our consent.

The theme of this year’s inaugural is faith in America’s future. The perfect embodiment of this unshakable confidence in the ongoing success of our collective journey is an event from our past. I speak of the improbable completion of the Capitol Dome and capping it with the Statue of Freedom, which occurred 150 years ago, in 1863.

When Abraham Lincoln took office two years earlier, the dome above us was a half-built eyesore. Conventional wisdom was that it should be left unfinished until the war ended, given the travails and financial needs of the times. But to President Lincoln, the half-finished dome symbolized the half-divided nation. Lincoln said, "If people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign we intend the union shall go on." And so, despite the conflict which engulfed the nation and surrounded the city, the dome continued to rise. On December 2nd, 1863, the Statue of Freedom, a woman, was placed atop the dome where she still stands today. In a sublime irony, it was a former slave, now free American, Philip Reid, who helped to cast the bronze statue.

Now, our present times are not as perilous or as despairing as they were in 1863, but in 2013 far too many doubt the future of this great nation and our ability to tackle our own era’s half-finished domes. "Today’s problems are intractable," they say. "The times are so complex, the differences in the country and the world so deep, we will never overcome them."

When thoughts like these produce anxiety, fear and even despair, we do well to remember that Americans have always been and still are a practical, optimistic, problem-solving people, and that as our history shows, no matter how steep the climb, how difficult the problems, how half-finished that task, America always rises to the occasion, America prevails, and America prospers. And those who bet against this country have inevitably been on the wrong side of history.

So, it is a good moment to gaze upward and behold the Statue of Freedom at the top of the Capitol Dome. It is a good moment to gain strength and courage and humility from those who were determined to complete the half-finished dome. It is a good moment to rejoice today at this 57th presidential inaugural ceremony. And it is the perfect moment to renew our collective faith in the future of America.

Thank you, and God bless these United States.

In that spirit of faith, I would now like to introduce civil rights leader Myrlie Evers, who has committed her life to extending the promise of our nation’s founding principles to all Americans. Mrs. Evers will lead us in the invocation.

MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS America, we are here, our nation’s capital, on this day, January the 21st, 2013, the inauguration of our 45th president, Barack Obama. We come at this time to ask blessings upon our leaders, the president, vice president, members of Congress, all elected and appointed officials of the United States of America.

We are here to ask blessings upon our armed forces, blessings upon all who contribute to the essence of the American spirit, the American dream, the opportunity to become whatever our mankind, womankind allows us to be. This is the promise of America.

As we sing the words of belief, "This Is My Country," let us act upon the meaning that everyone is included. May the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of every woman, man, boy and girl be honored. May all your people, especially the least of these, flourish in our blessed nation.

One hundred fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 50 years after the March on Washington, we celebrate the spirit of our ancestors, which has allowed us to move from a nation of unborn hopes and a history of disenfranchised votes to today’s expression of a more perfect union.

We ask, too, Almighty, that where our paths seem blanketed by throngs of oppression and riddled by pangs of despair, we ask for your guidance toward the light of deliverance and that the vision of those who came before us and dreamed of this day, that we recognize that their visions still inspire us. They are a great cloud of witnesses unseen by the naked eye, but all around us, thankful that their living was not in vain. For every mountain, you gave us the strength to climb. Your grace is pleaded to continue that climb for America and the world.

We now stand beneath the shadow of the nation’s Capitol, whose golden dome reflects the unity and democracy of one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Approximately four miles from where we are assembled, the hallowed remains of men and women rest in Arlington Cemetery, they who believed, fought and died for this country. May their spirit infuse our being to work together with respect, enabling us to continue to build this nation. And in so doing, we send a message to the world that we are strong, fierce in our strength, and ever vigilant in our pursuit of freedom.

We ask that you grant our president the will to act courageously, but cautiously, when confronted with danger, and to act prudently, but deliberately, when challenged by adversity. Please continue to bless his efforts to lead by example in consideration and favor of the diversity of our people. Bless our families all across this nation. We thank you for this opportunity of prayer to strengthen us for the journey through the days that lie ahead. We invoke the prayers of our grandmothers, who taught us to pray.

God, make me a blessing. Let their spirit guide us as we claim the spirit of old. There’s something within me that holds the reins. There’s something within me that banishes pain. There’s something within me I cannot explain. But all I know, America, there is something within. There is something within.

In Jesus’ name, in the name of all who are holy and right, we pray. Amen.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: I am pleased to introduce the award-winning Tabernacle Choir, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, to sing "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

BROOKLYN TABERNACLE CHOIR: [singing "Battle Hymn of the Republic"]
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.
His truth is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on, marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on, marching on.
Our God is marching on.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: Please join me in welcoming my colleague and my friend, the senator from Tennessee, the Honorable Lamar Alexander.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, ladies and gentlemen, the late Alex Haley, the author of Roots, lived his life by these six words: "Find the good and praise it."

Today we praise the American tradition of transferring, or reaffirming, immense power in the inauguration of the president of the United States. We do this in a peaceful, orderly way. There is no mob, no coup, no insurrection. This is a moment when millions stop and watch, a moment most of us always will remember. It is a moment that is our most conspicuous and enduring symbol of the American democracy. How remarkable that this has survived for so long in such a complex country when so much power is at stake—this freedom to vote for our leaders and the restraint to respect the results.

Last year, at Mount Vernon, a tour guide told me that our first president, George Washington, once posed this question: "What is most important," Washington asked, "of this grand experiment, the United States?" And then Washington answered his own question in this way: "Not the election of the first president, but the election of its second president. The peaceful transfer of power is what will separate our country from every other country in the world."

So today we celebrate the 57th inauguration of the American president. Find the good and praise it.

Now, it is my honor—it is my honor to introduce the associate justice of the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, for the purpose of administering the oath of office to the vice president.

Will everyone please stand?

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: Thank you, sir.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Thanks for doing this.

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: Thank you. Mr. Vice President, please raise your right hand and repeat after me. I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., do solemnly swear...

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., do solemnly swear...

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: ...that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States...

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: ...that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States...

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: ...against all enemies, foreign and domestic...

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: ...against all enemies, foreign and domestic...

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: ...that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same...

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: ...I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same...

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: ...that I take this obligation freely...

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: ...that I take this obligation freely...

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: ...without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion...

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: ...without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion...

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: ...and that I will well and faithfully discharge...

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: ...and that I will well and faithfully discharge...

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: ...the duties of the office on which I am about to enter...

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: ...the duties of the office upon which I’m about to enter...

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: ...so help me, God.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: ... so help me, God.

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: Congratulations.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: It is my pleasure to introduce renowned musical artist, James Taylor.

JAMES TAYLOR: [singing "America the Beautiful"]
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
From sea to shining sea!

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: It is my honor to present the chief justice of the United States, John G. Roberts Jr., who will administer the presidential oath of office. Everyone please rise.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me. I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...that I will faithfully execute...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...that I will faithfully execute...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...the office of president of the United States...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...the office of president of the United States...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...and will, to the best of my ability...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...and will, to the best of my ability...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...preserve, protect and defend...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...preserve, protect and defend...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...the Constitution of the United States.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...the Constitution of the United States.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: So help you God?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So help me God.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great privilege and distinct honor to introduce the 44th president of the United States of America, Barack H. Obama.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you.

CROWD: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you.

CROWD: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you so much. Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests and fellow citizens, each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy.

We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional, what makes us American, is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: 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. Today, we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time, for history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing, that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on earth.

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. And for more than 200 years we have. Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew and vowed to move forward together.

Together we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers. Together we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play. Together, we resolve that a great nation must care for the vulnerable and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all societies ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character, for we have always understood that when times change, so must we, that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges, that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.

For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive, diversity and openness, and endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention.

My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together, for we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work, when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.

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.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work hard or learn more, reach higher.

But while the means will change, our purpose endures. A nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American, that is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of healthcare and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future, for we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.

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.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. 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.

The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries; we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure—our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends. And we must carry those lessons into this time, as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully, not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.

America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice, not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths, that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall, just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone, to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began, for our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts; our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well; our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote; our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country; 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.

That is our generation’s task, to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.

Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time, 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. We must act. We must act knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction. And we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service.

But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride. They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.

You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation 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 ideas. Let us each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you. God bless you. And may He forever bless these United States of America.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama, giving his second inaugural address on the west side of the Capitol, waving to the hundreds of thousands of people who have turned out, shaking Vice President—Vice President Biden’s hand, Senator Charles Schumer’s hand, kissing his wife, Michelle Obama, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, and his mother-in-law.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: At this time, please join me in welcoming award-winning artist Kelly Clarkson, accompanied by the United States Marine Band.

KELLY CLARKSON: [singing "My Country, ’Tis of Thee"]
My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From ev’ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!

Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom’s song;
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom’s holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: Wow! Our next distinguished guest is the poet Richard Blanco, who will share with us words he has composed for this occasion.

RICHARD BLANCO: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, America, "One Today."

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving across windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
the pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem for all of us today.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the "I have a dream" we all keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
each day for each other, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into the sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always, always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country — all of us
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my privilege to introduce Reverend Dr. Luis León to deliver the benediction.

REV. DR. LUIS LEÓN: Let us pray. Gracious and eternal God, as we conclude the second inauguration of President Obama, we ask for your blessings as we seek to become, in the words of Martin Luther King, citizens of a beloved community, loving you and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

We pray that you will bless us with your continued presence, because without it, hatred and arrogance will infect our hearts. But with your blessing, we know that we can break down the walls that separate us. We pray for your blessing today, because without it, mistrust, prejudice and rancor will rule our hearts. But with the blessing of your presence, we know that we can renew the ties of mutual regard which can best form our civic life.

We pray for your blessing, because without it, suspicion, despair and fear of those different from us will be our rule of life. But with your blessing, we can see each other created in your image, a unit of God’s grace, unprecedented, irrepeatable and irreplaceable.

We pray for your blessing, because without it, we will see only what the eye can see. But with the blessing of your blessing, we will see that we are created in your image, whether brown, black or white, male or female, first-generation immigrant American or daughter of the American Revolution, gay or straight, rich or poor.

We pray for your blessing, because without it, we will only see scarcity in the midst of abundance. But with your blessing, we will recognize the abundance of the gifts of this good land with which you have endowed this nation.

We pray for your blessing. Bless all of us, privileged to be citizens and residents of this nation, with a spirit of gratitude and humility that we may become a blessing among the nations of this world.

We pray that you will shower with your life-giving spirit the elected leaders of this land, especially Barack, our president, and Joe, our vice president. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, that they may serve this nation ably and be glad to do your will. Endow their hearts with wisdom and forbearance, so that peace may prevail with righteousness, justice with order, so that men and women throughout this nation can find with one another the fulfillment of our humanity.

We pray that the president, vice president and all in political authority will remember the words of the prophet Micah: "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and always walk humbly with God?"

Señor Presidente, Vicepresidente, que Dios os bendiga todos sus días. Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, may God bless you all your days.

All this we pray, in your most holy name. Amen.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: Ladies and gentlemen, please remain standing for the singing of our national anthem by award-winning artist, Beyoncé, accompanied by the U.S. Marine Band. Following the national anthem, please remain at your place while the presidential party exits the platform.

BEYONCÉ KNOWLES: [singing "The Star-Spangled Banner"]
O say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

AMY GOODMAN: And that concludes the second inauguration of the 44th president of the United States, President Barack Obama, as hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in the nation’s capital for the second-largest inauguration in history, the first being the first inauguration of President Obama in 2009.

I’m Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! And as we conclude in this last half hour, our five-hour special on this Inauguration Day, a freezing cold day in Washington, though not quite as cold as four years ago, when it was more than—what, close to two million people came out. We’re joined by Clarence Lusane, who is professor of international relations at American University, and we’re joined by Medea Benjamin, who has come from the streets of Washington, D.C. There were small protests today. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK.

The ceremony included the first-ever invocation by a layperson and a woman, Myrlie Evers, the widow of Medgar Evers; also the first openly gay clergy to give the benediction—rather, the first openly gay poet, the first openly gay inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, to read his original poem for this Inauguration Day; and Dr. Luis León, the Episcopal priest who delivered the closing prayer. Interestingly, the Presidential Inaugural Committee had invited him to deliver this benediction after the original choice, Pastor Louie Giglio of the Passion City Church in Georgia, who was initially invited to give the benediction, had to withdraw because news surfaced that he expressed anti-gay views in the 1990s. There were a number of firsts today.

But now we want to talk about the significance of this day and what President Obama had to say in his second inaugural address. Clarence Lusane?

CLARENCE LUSANE: Thank you, Amy. The address was about 20 minutes. And it strikes me that it was much more populist than his first address, the one in 2009. In this address, he touched on everything from climate to jobs to security to women’s rights to gay and lesbian rights. He made references to immigration, political reform. He talked about a lot of policy areas, but he didn’t talk about policy. And that was pretty striking. And I think it’s probably also noted by probably everybody watching that there was no reference to gun reform or to gun control, given that that’s more or less dominated the last month or so of his moving into his second term.

But stepping back, what really strikes me is that I didn’t get a sense of a coherence and a sense of what exactly is the big vision for the second administration, what kind of ties all of these different pieces together in terms of where the president really wants the country to go and how he sees a strategy for taking the country there. And I would think that—you know, as journalists and as scholars, we kind of parse every single word for meaning, but I think for most people who watch, they really want an essence. And I think it was very difficult to get one from this speech, because it seemed to just kind of go from issue to issue, hop from sort of theme to theme, and then it sort of peters out at the end.

AMY GOODMAN: Medea Benjamin, you were in the streets today, not a large group of people, but a dedicated one on this cold day, the Arc of Justice protests. What were they? And your response to the speech?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, I was glad that he mentioned climate change. We know throughout the presidential race it barely came up at all, until the very end. I was glad that he talked about Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, and actually talked about them as something that is something we must preserve for the future, because, you know, that’s seeming shaky.

I didn’t think that the part on foreign policy had any substance to it at all. It talked about us as a rule of—a nation that loves the rule of law, and yet what we do is so outside the rule of law. And it talked about—he gave the platitude that we don’t need perpetual war to have national security, and yet we’re in a state of perpetual war. I don’t think he mentioned the word "Afghanistan," which is interesting, because I think if he wanted to make a hallmark, and he could very well have said, you know, "I got us out of Iraq, and now I’m getting us out of Afghanistan," and something concrete to say, and we were moving away from perpetual war. In the meantime, it looks like we’re getting more into a quagmire, not just with the drone strikes we have going on in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, but Mali looks very dangerous right now, and all of northern Africa.

So, and then, the fact that he didn’t mention gun control is quite astonishing, because this seems where he was going to spend a lot of his political capital and that he was going to call for a grassroots uprising to counter the power of the NRA. And yet, when you have the attention of the entire nation watching, to not say, you know, "We need people to get behind this effort to really secure our children and our communities by getting assault weapons off our streets," or something that he could have said, he didn’t use this opportunity. And I find that very disturbing in terms of how much energy he is now going to put into the programs that he supposedly is supporting.

AMY GOODMAN: Clarence Lusane?

CLARENCE LUSANE: Yeah, I think Medea raises a really important point, because he constantly said in the talk, "We’re all in this together. We’re all Americans. We’re all moving forward." But then there’s no real call to action. There’s no real sense of what are we really going to—or what are they going to really try to mobilize people around. They’ve turned the campaign now into organizing for action. I think that’s the name of the new nonprofit that they’re creating. But they’ve already said that that’s going to focus on policy, not on political organizing. So, again, it gets back to: What really is this administration, the second administration, going to have as its legacy as it tries to kind of move forward? And if it’s not going to call for people to mobilize around gun control, which has been absorbing all of their energy leading up to this, then it really opens the door to, you know: What did they think they were going to get out of this speech, and what was the purpose of this second inaugural delivery that the president gave? So I’m not sure if they rushed and did it, or they were occupied by other issues, but I think this—it strikes me, though, the speech is somewhat disappointing, because it hits a number of different areas, but doesn’t go anywhere. It talks about which—he had been criticized about not mentioning poverty or mentioning the poor, so that’s thrown there in the speech, but it doesn’t go anywhere. So we have no idea if he’s going to propose new programs or new policies to address political reform, to address issues related to poverty. On an international front, as issues are emerging all over the globe, we have no sense of that or how the U.S.A. is relating to international institutions like the United Nations.

AMY GOODMAN: Where he did refer to Newtown, he was also referring to keeping overall young people safe, interestingly, saying, "Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country; our journey is not complete until 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." Interestingly, talking about young people enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country, under President Obama, more immigrants have been expelled than under any president in history, although he did issue the kind of executive order that said some young people 30 or under could apply for a kind of reprieve for two years, that many thousands of young people are now using to try to stay legally in this country.

CLARENCE LUSANE: Well, that’s—this is important, too, because the president has said that his top three priorities for this term would be gun control, climate change and immigration. And again, the references to immigration are oblique, and they’re not very explicit. How much is the administration really going to put weight behind the DREAM Act? How much is immigration really going to be a path for citizenship for people? Versus it’s going to be major concessions to some of the conservative concerns around more border fences and all of that. So, now this may not have been the place for going into that kind of policy detail, and we didn’t want the president to be out there for six hours, but you would think that there would be particularly what they’ve said is their priority, there would be a little more coherence, politically, in terms of where they think they’re going.

AMY GOODMAN: didn’t want it to be—I think it was Harrison, right? who gave a two-hour inaugural address on a freezing cold day, and within a month, he died of pneumonia.

CLARENCE LUSANE: Within a month, it was a new president.

AMY GOODMAN: But speaking of gun control, just about—well, a few weeks ago, when the NRA broke a week of silence after the Newtown mass killing in Connecticut, it was you, Medea Benjamin, with others in CODEPINK, who stood up at Wayne LaPierre’s news conference. I want to play a clip of that news conference.

WAYNE LAPIERRE: And the predators of the world know it and exploit it. That must change now. The truth is—

TIGHE BARRY: NRA, stop killing our children. It’s the NRA and all—and assault weapons that are killing our children, not armed—not armed teachers. We’ve got to end the arming. We’ve got to end the violence. We’ve got to stop the killing!

AMY GOODMAN: If you would first describe what this first interruption was, and then we’ll go to your clip.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Yeah, what you hear is silence that seemed to us like it went on forever, because my colleague, Tighe Barry, was standing there with a banner that said "NRA Killing Our Kids." And I think they were so shocked that we had gotten into the press conference, because there was such high security, that they didn’t know what to do. So they left him standing right in front of Wayne LaPierre for quite a long time.

AMY GOODMAN: You can only saw Wayne LaPierre’s head, because he—Tighe was holding up a sign that said—

MEDEA BENJAMIN: It said "NRA Killing Our Kids."

AMY GOODMAN: And then, let’s go to the clip of you. As they took him out of the room, this is what happened next, as Wayne LaPierre attempted to continue.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: The reckless behavior coming from the NRA. The NRA has blood on its hands! The NRA has blood on its hands! Shame on the NRA!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: The NRA is going to bring all its knowledge...

AMY GOODMAN: And explain then what happened, as you were holding up a sign that said, "The NRA has blood on its hands."

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, I got up with that sign, again, right in front, and had a chance, even longer than that clip, to be talking in there while they ripped it out of my hands and took me out. But the most exciting thing, I think, about getting to speak in that press conference was how much energy it gave to people around the country and around the world. We heard responses from people saying, "Thank you for standing up. We were so disgusted when we heard Wayne LaPierre talking about the solution to these massacres being more guns." To hear some voices of sanity rising up from that press conference, I think, made people feel that there was some hope. And I think there is. A grassroots movement is really ready to be mobilized. And that’s why I was quite disappointed in the president today.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s turn from your direct actions targeting violence here at home to targeting it abroad. It goes to President Obama’s pick for the new director of Central Intelligence, John Brennan. You actually tried to interrupt a speech that he gave. When was this, last year?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: That was back—yeah, that was back in April.

AMY GOODMAN: This was John Brennan speaking about drone warfare, and this was Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK’s interruption.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: How many people are you willing to sacrifice? Why are you lying to the American people and not saying how many innocents have been killed?

MODERATOR: Thank you, ma’am, for expressing your views. There will be time for questions and answers after the presentation.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: I speak out on behalf of Tariq Aziz, a 16-year-old in Pakistan, who was killed because he wanted to document the drone strikes. I speak out on behalf of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old born in Denver, killed in Yemen, just because his father was someone we don’t like. I speak out on behalf of the Constitution, on behalf of the rule of law. I love the rule of law. I love my country. You are making us less safe by killing so many innocent people.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Medea Benjamin being taken out by security. If you heard her voice straining, she was being held by security as her body didn’t go limp, but went rigid, and she had her feet extended, so they couldn’t pull her out of the room, going on either side of the door. But Medea doesn’t just do direct action at these events; she does take time to research and write, and has written a book called Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, and has just returned from Pakistan. Medea, talk about President Obama’s policy around drone warfare and targeted killing.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, it’s remarkable that while drones were used during the Bush administration—they were used a total of about 50 times in the case of Pakistan—and immediately, when Obama came in, he and his inner circle decided that they wouldn’t pick up suspected enemy combatants on the battlefield and take them to Guantánamo, and they wouldn’t pick them up in places like Pakistan and put them in Guantánamo; instead, they would just kill them. And so, this has been a policy that has skyrocketed during the Obama administration. There have been now over 300 drone strikes in Pakistan alone, thousands of people killed.

And the amazing thing about it, Amy, is how, one, we’ve been lied to by people like John Brennan, now the nominee for the CIA, saying that there have been almost no civilian casualties; and the other is just how incredibly counterproductive this policy is, because it is the best recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and the Taliban. And going to Pakistan and feeling the visceral hatred towards the United States—and even hearing the foreign minister of Pakistan, when she was asked, "Why do three out of four Pakistanis consider the United States the enemy?" she had a one-word answer: "Drones." This is causing millions of people—in fact, three out of four would be 133 million Pakistanis to feel the United States is their enemy— to hate us, which is terrible for our national security. So I think the drone policy under the Obama administration is making us less secure and is setting a precedent that says we can go anywhere we want, kill anyone we want, on the basis of secret information. In the meantime, selling drones across the world, so that 76 other nations now have them, it’s very dangerous.

AMY GOODMAN: Because this is Dr. King’s birthday, the federal holiday that acknowledges his birthday, we just have 30 seconds before we end with his words, his speech, "Beyond Vietnam," where he most famously said, "My Country is the greatest purveyor of violence on earth." Ten seconds, Clarence Lusane, as we wrap up this broadcast.

CLARENCE LUSANE: Well, I would listen to the words of Myrlie Evers. Medea is absolutely right in terms of what’s going on. But Myrlie said that she hoped that the president would be both cautious and courageous. I would say we hope that he’s courageous, that these principles and these ideas that he talks about, his links to King, will manifest himself in courageously pushing for and fighting for the ideas of King.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Clarence Lusane, author of The Black History of the White House, and co-founder of CODEPINK, Medea Benjamin, I want to thank you both, as we wrap with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, speaking, a year to the day before he was assassinated, about his opposition to the war in Vietnam.

REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions.

It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism. With this powerful commitment, we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."

A genuine revolution of values means, in the final analysis, that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft-misunderstood, this oft-misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man.

When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response, I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I’m speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the First Epistle of Saint John: "Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us."

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says, "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word," unquote.

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam writes, "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now, let us begin. Now, let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter—but beautiful—struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speaking April 4th, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York in his "Beyond Vietnam" speech, a year to the day before he was assassinated. Today is the federal holiday honoring Dr. King’s birthday and the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. If you want a copy of today’s five-hour special, go to our website at democracynow.org. Tomorrow we’ll be at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, speaking with Rick Rowley and Jeremy Scahill about their new film, Dirty Wars.