WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has called on lawmakers to find common ground, while previewing his goals for a second term after being sworn in for a second term at a cermony in front of the U.S. Capitol.
The oath of office was administered by Chief Justice John Roberts. The formal swearing-in follows a private one yesterday, on the day the Constitution calls for the presidential term to begin.
Hundreds of thousands gathered on the National Mall to witness Obama's swearing in and inaugural address. The celebrations will extend across the nation's capital, including the traditional inaugural parade and a pair of glitzy formal balls.
The mood surrounding Obama's second inaugural is more subdued than it was four years ago, when the swearing in of the nation's first black president drew 1.8 million people to the Mall. Still, organizers were expecting up to 700,000 to attend the events in chilly weather.
Sen. Charles Schumer opened the 57th inaugural ceremonies by invoking the innate majesty and sacred meaning of the proceedings. The duty falls to the New York Democrat as chairman of the inauguration committee.
Schumer says that the entrusting of power from the people to our chosen leaders "never fails to make our hearts beat faster, as it will today."
Said Schumer: "America always rises to the occasion, America prevails and America prospers."
Meantime Myrlie Evers-Williams called on Americans to work together to build on the nation's progress in her invocation.
The widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers' message of inclusion for the inaugural ceremonies comes 50 years after her husband was gunned down in the driveway of his Mississippi home.
The inauguration falls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Evers-Williams is a distinguished scholar at Alcorn State University in Lorman, Miss. She was chairwoman of the NAACP from 1995 to 1998.
After taking the oath, the president discussed a number of topics during his second inaugural address including climate change and immigration reform.
Obama said "we must act" even if our work is imperfect. He said we cannot afford to delay.
In a message that could be aimed at the divided Congress where battles await him in his second term, Obama cautioned against mistaking absolutism for principle, substituting spectacle for politics or treating "name-calling as reasoned debate."
Even so, Obama says that today's accomplishments will be partial, and it will be up to people four, 40 or even 400 years from now to advance them further.
President Obama said that a decade of war is now ending and an economic recovery has begun. America's possibilities are limitless, he said, and that we will seize this moment if we seize it together.
Obama said that America can't succeed when only a few at the top do well and a growing many can barely make it. The country's prosperity must rest on a rising middle class, he said.
The president spoke about "the threat of climate change" and said that failing to do something about it would be a betrayal of the nation's children, and of future generations.
He said that while some might deny the "overwhelming judgment of science" — a reference to those who say they don't believe in global warming — no one can escape extreme weather like raging fires, drought and storms.
Obama tried and failed in his first term to get a climate change bill through Congress.
On health care and the size of the deficit, President Obama said the nation must make the "hard choices."
But the president said every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity, and he held up Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as commitments that strengthen America.
Obama said he rejected the belief that the country must choose between caring for the generation that built the country — or investing in the generation that will build the future.
Struggles with Republicans over reducing the deficit and paring back costly entitlement programs loom for Obama in his second term.
The president also pointed to the recent deadly shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and said the nation's children must be protected from harm.
Obama said, "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."
Obama's second term promises a battle with Congress over the sweeping gun control measures the president outlined last week in response to the elementary school massacre in Connecticut.
President Obama also referenced the Stonewall gay-rights riots in his address, classing them as a civil rights watershed along with key moments in the struggles for blacks and women.
The president said that the truth that all are created equal guides us today "just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall."
The Stonewall riots happened in New York City in 1969 when patrons at a gay bar reacted to police harassment, and the events helped found the modern gay-rights movement.
Obama, who has become increasingly outspoken in favor of gay rights and same-sex marriage, also said the nation's journey is not complete "until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law."