Upon entering the Alice Haynes Room Monday to watch President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, students and faculty were greeted by a life-sized cardboard cutout of a smiling photograph of Obama.
Obama began by reminding the audience, “what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith … what makes us American is our allegiance to an idea.” About 10 people gathered to watch the president’s live speech on TV.
Though acknowledging the United States’ adherence to the Constitution created by the Founding Fathers, Obama emphasized that the country must make the adjustments to it that must be made together, as the world begins to change.
“Fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires action,” he said.
Some of these changes are the end of the decade-long war and the beginning of economic recovery, Obama said.
The nation “cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” he said. “America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.”
Cheers erupted in Washington, D.C. when Obama said, “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.”
Obama acknowledged the need to “revamp our tax code” and “make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.” He said generations, both old and young, would be cared for and aided in times of need.
The president addressed climate change and said that if America’s avoided the issue, they would be doing a disservice to those who came after.
Obama also talked about the need to move to sustainable energy, America’s support of democracy worldwide, the necessity of equal pay for men and women and gay rights.
The president called for action: “Knowing that our work will be imperfect … We must act, knowing that today’s victories will only be partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.”
Sophomore Jennyfer Hernandez and senior Blanca Flores were both happy and surprised to hear the president directly address many topics, specifically immigration, they said.
“He’s not trying to get reelected this time, so he was much braver with what he said,” Hernandez said. She said she looked forward to Obamacare being implemented during the president’s second term.
Both women, from immigrant families, would like to see immigrant rights grow in the coming years, they said.
Ashley Graham, a 2010 graduate, and Amy St. John, both employees at the university, came to watch the speech. Graham interned with Obama’s 2008 campaign, she said. St. John said she had been inspired by the president’s speech and was hopeful for the next four years.
“I thought his speech was incredible and invigorating,” senior Chelsea Metivier said. “It makes a statement that America reelected him and didn’t backtrack.” Metivier hopes to see Obama fulfill his plans to expand gay rights on a national scale, as well as uphold his pledges on climate change and energy efficiency, she said.
Contact staff writer Renée Ruggeri at email@example.com