In an inaugural address many saw as a blueprint for a more progressive second-term domestic agenda than his first, President Obama vowed a continued fight for equality of women and for the rights of gays and lesbians, to push for immigration reform and gun control, to address income inequality, and to tackle the warming of the planet. Also speaking on the National Mall were Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers, and the Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco, who recited the poem “One Today.” With their remarks, Evers-Williams became the first woman and first layperson to deliver an inaugural invocation, and Blanco the first Latino and openly gay poet to read at a presidential inaugural ceremony. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Washington, D.C., where some 800,000 people packed into the National Mall to witness the second inauguration of President Obama on Monday, the second-largest inauguration in history only behind Obama’s first one four years ago that was the largest event in Washington, D.C.’s history.
Myrlie Evers-Williams became the first woman and first layperson to deliver an inaugural invocation. She’s the widow of Medgar Evers, the civil rights activist who was assassinated 50 years ago.
MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS: 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.
AMY GOODMAN: Myrlie Evers, delivering the inaugural invocation. Moments later, President Obama gave his inaugural address.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: 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.
AMY GOODMAN: After President Obama delivered his inaugural address on Monday, Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco recited his poem called “One Today.” Blanco is the first Latino, as well as the first openly gay, poet to read at an inaugural ceremony.
RICHARD BLANCO: 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.
AMY GOODMAN: Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco reciting the poem “One Today” at President Obama’s inauguration on Monday.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we are here in Park City, Utah, at the Sundance Film Festival. One of the films that has just premiered is called Dirty Wars. We’ll speak with the subject of that film and its producer, investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill and its director, Rick Rowley. Stay with us.