(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)
President Barack Obama in his second inaugural address did more than just signal his intent to lead the United States toward an unmistakably progressive future; he attempted to recast the meaning of the nation’s founding principles to support his vision of an expanded, activist Washington, D.C.
Particularly through Obama’s repetition of the opening line of the Constitution, “we the people,” which the president recited with a distinct pause between the words “we” and “the,” he moved to link his agenda for the government to play a larger, more central role in Americans’ lives to the founders and the country’s founding documents. Obama essentially asserted that America could only live up to its most cherished virtues when citizens are protected by, rather than from, the government.
“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,” Obama said. “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.”
Howls could be heard coming from the right even before the 20-minute, 2,100-word speech concluded.