US Excitement Tempered
for Obama's Second Inaugural
January 16, 2013
President Barack Obama will be inaugurated for a second four-year term
in office before a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people gathered
Monday near the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of
purpose over conflict and discord," Obama told the nearly two million
gathered to witness the swearing in of the country’s first
African-American president in January of 2009.
But four years later, the national mood has been tempered by political
realities of a divided government that has frustrated voters around the
country. Like many second-term presidents, Obama faces the challenge of
rallying support for the next four years after bruising first-term
battles with Congress.
“Four years later, most presidents have discovered it is not as easy
to bring about fundamental change," says presidential historian Richard
Norton Smith. "You pick up a lot of scars in the course of four years,
let alone eight.”
But regardless of changed political sentiments, each inauguration
provides the country an opportunity for national unity and a pause in
Washington's partisan battles.
“It is something that takes place every four years, war or peace, no
matter what," says Marvin Kranz, who has researched presidential
inaugurations for years with the Library of Congress, and describes the
event as a kind of ritual of "American civil religion" in which the
orator has a chance to make their mark on history.
Franklin Roosevelt did it in 1933 with his first inaugural address at
the height of the Great Depression: “Let me assert my firm belief that
the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
President John Kennedy did it in 1961 with a famous appeal for citizens
to engage public service: “And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your
country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
to Republican analyst Scot Faulkner, President Obama will be thinking of
his place in history as he delivers his second inaugural address.
“Obama is looking at legacy now," says Faulkner. "He is not looking at
re-election, and he has got the [upcoming] State of the Union message
where he can deal with a much more detailed legislative agenda. So my
assumption is his inaugural address will be one for the ages.”
The U.S. Constitution says about specifics of a presidential
inauguration, other than requiring the president to take an oath
swearing to “faithfully execute the Office of President” and “to
preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.”
The other rituals now associated with presidential inaugurals – the
inaugural address, the parade and formal balls – evolved as traditions