“We Do Not Believe That in This Country, Freedom is Reserved for the Lucky or Happiness for the Few” – President Obama
It was a speech that spanned the entire history of the United States – a speech filled with references to the American Revolution, the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement.
There were also references to World War Two, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the War on Terror.
But on Monday, even as he looked back at our nation’s past, President Obama also painted a word picture of the future – a future where peace, prosperity and freedom will be possible for all Americans, if we live up to the ideals of the people who founded our nation.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” he said, quoting from the Declaration of Independence.
But in his speech at his second inauguration, Mister Obama also made it clear that those freedoms extend not just to men, but also to women, minorities and people of all kinds.
“We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few,” Mister Obama said. “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.”
And on Martin Luther King Day, it was a speech that echoed the preachings of Doctor King himself.
Mister Obama spoke about the many battles that have been fought for equal rights in this country – not only for African-Americans but for women and other minority groups as well.
“We learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free,” Mister Obama said, looking back to the time before the Civil War. “(So) we made ourselves anew and vowed to move forward together.”
But the President also reminded us that the battle for equal rights is not over.
“It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began,” he said. “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 everyone else under the law … Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quite lanes of Newtown (Connecticut) know that they are cared for, cherished and always safe from harm.”
Mister Obama also spoke of an America “that rewards effort and determination.”
“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,” he said. “Because she is an American, she is free and she is equal — not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”
Despite all of the political battles he has faced in the past four years, the President still put forth a hopeful vision for the future.
“A decade of war is now ending,” he said. “An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless.”
He outlined many challenges – fighting climate change, fighting for immigration reform and fighting for peace and freedom around the world.
“We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully,” he said. “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.”
He also outlined a vision where all of us look out for each other, regardless of our age or circumstances.
“Every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity,” he said. “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.
“We must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice,” he added.
In the end, the President said that America’s future is up to us – all of us.
“You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course,” he said. “Let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.”