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Inauguration Speech: Obama Starts Second Term With Remarks At U.S. Capitol (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

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President Barack Obama marked the start of his second term with an inaugural speech at the U.S. Capitol.

Obama weighed in on "what makes us exceptional" as Americans during his address. His speech took place just after his public swearing-in, which was administered by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Below, the full text of Obama's remarks as prepared for delivery:

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.

For more than two hundred 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 resolved 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 society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But 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; an 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. 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 harder, learn more, and 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 health care 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 is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped 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 will 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, 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 forty years, and four hundred 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 ideals.

Let 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.

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The U.S. Capitol is shown following the public ceremonial inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on January 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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@ FLOTUS : Just danced to "Let's Stay Together" with the love of my life and the President of the United States. I’m so proud of Barack. –mo

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HuffPost reports:

It seems like only yesterday that First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage at the Inaugural Ball in that sparkling white gown and immediately made Jason Wu a household name.

Four years later, at the Obamas' second and final inauguration, Michelle stunned in a long high-neck red Jason Wu gown with velvet details and an armful of sparkly bangles. She wore Jimmy Choo shoes, and a ring by Kimberly McDonald.

Click here to read more and see a photo of FLOTUS's gown.

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Per a White House pool report:

From a WH official: After today's swearing in ceremony at the Capitol this afternoon, at the request of the King family, the President and Chief Justice Roberts inscribed the traveling King family Bible.

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Guests at Monday night's main inaugural ball for President Obama will be well served to eat a hearty dinner beforehand, and bring plenty of cash.

The main ballroom floor of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center was festooned with disco balls and thumping Madonna's "Holiday" as the doors opened to guests at around 6:45 p.m., but the bars and food tables were far from lavish: A cash bar required that customers purchase drink tickets from a separate location, while the food laid out on tables consisted of peanuts and pretzels.

Inauguration officials said in December that this year's festivities would be scaled back -- Obama's first inauguration included 10 balls, a fireworks show and a Bruce Springsteen concert. This time around only two official balls were scheduled, the main ball and the Commander In Chief's Ball, for military personnel and VIPs.

The main ballroom space was the least exclusive of the various events taking place tonight in the convention center -- upper floors contained various receptions for donors, diplomats and administration officials. Still, tickets for the main ball initially sold for ,000, a lot of money to pay for for pretzels and a cash bar.

The cost of tickets was cut to 0 in recent weeks, leading to speculation that inauguration fundraising was lagging behind expectations.

cash bar

peanuts pretzels

-- Christina Wilkie

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HuffPost reports:

A .gif of Sasha Obama is becoming quite the viral smash, after the younger First Daughter was caught yawning during her father's inauguration speech.

sasha obama yawn

According to the Atlantic Wire, 11-year-old Sasha's mighty yawn was captured on camera Monday while President Obama was speaking about education policy.

"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," the president had said, before pausing for applause.

Click here to read more.

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@ ChadPergram : DC's security and emergency mgt agency says turnout for #inaug2013 was 800,000 and maybe higher.

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HuffPost reports:

Most kids get squeamish at the sight of their parents canoodling, but Sasha and Malia Obama love them some good parental PDA.

While watching the Inauguration Day Parade on Monday, the First Daughters got President and Michelle Obama to pose for a quick kiss -- and captured it on their cell phones. First FLOTUS gave her best duck face, then she and POTUS locked lips ever so briefly... then Malia and Sasha examined the results on their small screens and tried out some duck faces of their own.

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The AP reports:

That's how it goes with kids. You hardly notice how fast they're growing up, then suddenly big sis is nearly as tall as Mom and the little one is a tween, gently sassing Dad.

On the inaugural platform again four years later, a more mature Malia Obama, 14, and Sasha, 11, smiled, sometimes giggled, and chatted with their cousin Avery Robinson as they awaited their father's arrival. Sasha bounced on her feet a bit as if chilly in temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, and later huddled in her seat. Malia, looking poised in calf-high black boots, rivaled her mother's 5 feet 11 inches. Like any girls their age, they whipped out their smartphones in the parade reviewing stand to take photos.

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HuffPost reports:

Al Roker scored a split-second, wild chat with President Obama and got a handshake from Vice President Biden during the inaugural parade on Monday.

Roker was standing in the crowd, watching Obama go by. NBC colleague Brian Williams wondered if he was going to be able to get Obama's attention.

"I think we can pretty much assume that it's going to be a failure," Roker said. When Obama got near enough, he started hollering with everything he had: "MR. PRESIDENT! MR. PRESIDENT! MR. PRESIDENT! HOW'S IT GOING!"

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@ ChadPergram : White House estimates attendance for #inaug2013 is at least 1 million.

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HuffPost's Luke Johnson and Sabrina Siddiqui report:

Four years ago, as the United States inaugurated its first black president amidst the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an estimated 1.8 million swarmed the National Mall to savor the historical moment and looked to incoming President Barack Obama for his message of hope and change.

On Monday, that hallowed affair was altogether routine. Jobs continue to grow -- albeit not fast enough for those under- or unemployed -- and the housing and financial markets appear stable.

The atmosphere was less dramatic, but the excitement had not dissipated. Much like in 2009, the crowd erupted into cheers at the sight of the first family on a Jumbotron.

Click here to read more.

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@ samsteinhp : joe biden is PUMPED UP right now

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After Monday's inauguration ceremony, Vice President Joe Biden sent an email to supporters about the road forward:

Taking the oath of office is a serious piece of business.

And being part of an inauguration has a way of focusing the mind on what's to come. That's what President Obama meant earlier today when he said, "My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together."

In the months ahead, we're going to be tested, and nothing about the challenges we face will be easy.

So we're going to need you with us -- to build support for solutions, to help move the country forward.

...

As citizens of the United States, we're a people who draw strength from our diversity of opinion. We take pride in that.

When we disagree, we debate. And where there's common ground, we act -- even though those solutions may be less than perfect.

But we never stop moving forward. That's our obligation, the responsibility for which we've been entrusted.

And a duty like that is impossible to fulfill if you act alone.

We need you to step up. Pledge to stand with us, and we'll reach out to add your voices to the debates in Washington, to work with you to make this country a better place for everyone.

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@ mpoindc : DC's metro system (@wmata) saw about 466,000 riders today, per DC Metro Police. That's about 63% of the ridership in '09.

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The Huffington Post's Elise Foley reports:

Immigration reform activists came to the National Mall on Monday with a slightly different attitude than other revelers. They, like everyone else, were excited to be there and happy for the president to be starting another term. They were thankful to him for a policy implemented last year that gives some undocumented young people deferred action so they can work and remain in the country for at least two years.

But the 120 people from the immigration advocacy group Casa de Maryland who gathered near the Washington Monument want more. For many, their attendance was part celebratory, part a call for action.

"What do we want?" asked Ricardo Campos, an undocumented 23-year-old from El Salvador, his voice growing hoarse from yelling.

Click here to read more.

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President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have arrived at the White House, where they are scheduled to watch the remainder of the Inauguration parade from the official review stand opposite Lafayette Park.

-- Michael Grass

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parade

(AP photo)

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@ mpoindc : GHW Bush: "Barbara and I send President and Mrs. Obama -- and their wonderful girls -- our best wishes and prayers on this historic day."

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The Associated Press reports:

The second inauguration of President Barack Obama gave television networks a chance to bask in the majesty of a Washington event that unites Americans of all beliefs and ideologies – at least for a moment.

Then it was back to business as usual: the dissemination of widely divergent views on what people had just seen for themselves.

ABC, CBS and NBC, along with the cable news networks, cast aside regular programming on Monday to carry the ceremonial swearing-in and Obama's inaugural address. It didn't carry the same sense of history that Obama's first inauguration did. In 2009, even ESPN and MTV covered the swearing-in. This year, ESPN stuck to talk about the upcoming Super Bowl, and MTV aired "Catfish: The TV Show."

Click here to read more.

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@ markknoller : These parades date back to a time when few Americans had ever seen the President. Now there's hardly an event that cannot be seen LIVE.

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President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, after getting out of their limousine near the Navy Memorial, walked about three blocks before getting back into their limousine just outside the Old Post Office Pavilion.

-- Michael Grass

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@ markknoller : The Obamas walk a few blocks and now are back in the limosine continuing parade to the WH.

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President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama got out of their limousine around the Navy Memorial and are walking up Pennsylvania Avenue toward Freedom Plaza and the White House.

-- Michael Grass

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Obama has stepped out of the presidential limo and is now walking down Pennsylvania Avenue with First Lady Michelle Obama.

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From the Associated Press:

The Barack Obama "brand" was on full display along the parade route as fans waited for the president to travel from Capitol Hill to the White House.

Many wore Obama t-shirts, ski caps, hoodies and buttons. One woman wrapped herself in an Obama beach towel for extra warmth. A popular item was the canvas tote bag with pictures of the Obama family on the front and back. Some waved small flags with Obama's likeness on them.

Meanwhile, TV cameras are busy "pre-positioning." They're getting ready to get video of Obama's limo in the motorcade, including when he gets out to walk the route.

Four flatbed trucks – after being given the once-over by Secret Service, of course – are allowed to join the motorcade in front of Obama's car. Reporters, photographers, TV cameramen and anchors ride in the open-air bed, facing the motorcade to take pictures, to film tape and to see what's happening. You may even see some anchors doing live stand-ups with the motorcade in the background behind them.

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The Huffington Post's Arthur Delaney reports:

In almost every major speech during his first term, President Barack Obama has lamented that the American Dream -- in his view, the promise of a good life in return for hard work -- is under threat.

In his second inauguration speech on Monday, Obama evoked the threat by pointing to income inequality, tying the woes of the middle class to the gains of the super rich.

"For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it," the president said. "We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class."

Click here to read more.

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The inauguration parade, which features 59 groups and about 8,800 people, left Capitol Hill more than 40 minutes behind schedule.

-- Michael Grass

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inauguration

(AP Photo)

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