If there was indeed a single message that resonated above all else in President Barack Obama's second inaugural address, it was the power of a unified American voice. That’s not to say that all Americans must agree on specific policies, but that we must all agree that fighting with each other does nothing to advance the cause of all.
In borrowing some of the most powerful words of the US Constitution, “We the people” was summoned in much of Obama’s inaugural message. By invoking the words of the nation’s founders, it served as a powerful reminder that those who govern today cannot lose sight of their influence on generations to come. Change is not only inevitable, its necessity was recognized in the founding documents of the United States, which are inherently flexible.
The president conveyed that message with these words:
"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, 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."
Few words could have better highlighted the war that has emerged between Democrats and Republicans. And few could make it clearer that the anti-American behavior of a handful of ultra-conservative Republican zealots cannot stand if the nation is to endure for future generations.
“We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate,” Obama added.
In the most fundamentally patriotic sense, Republicans who have been personally responsible for deliberately holding the country back, for whatever reasons, should have been embarrassed for their past behavior today. With the backdrop of this inaugural event, with all its history and tradition, it has never been more obvious that America has no place for anti-American politicians.
Patriotic speeches are good for history books, but the reality of Washington politics is far from pure democracy. However if nothing else, it should be every American’s hope that Republicans will realize in Obama’s second term, fighting a president who has the support of the people only makes the opposition look desperate and foolish. It takes much more to prove worthiness to govern, than just saying "no" to absolutely everything that might help the American people.
If the Republicans ever hope to hold the power of the White House again, they must first show respect for the office. Over the past four years, they have not.
In concluding his 2013 inaugural remarks, Obama said:
"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 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."
Despite what some radical politicians might think, Americans know that the war in Washington must end, even if the losers don’t agree with the outcome. That is the only real way democracy can endure.
Click here to read the transcript of Obama’s second inaugural address.