Obama: ‘An Economic Recovery Has Begun’

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President Barack Obama waves before speaking during the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama waves before speaking during the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Declaring “our journey is not complete,” President Barack Obama took the oath of office for his second term before a crowd of hundreds of thousands Monday, urging the nation to set an unwavering course toward prosperity and freedom for all its citizens and protect the social safety net that has sheltered the poor, elderly and needy.

“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together,” Obama said, moments after taking the oath of office on a crisp day in the nation’s capital.

The president didn’t dwell on any first-term accomplishments but looked to hard work ahead in a country still grappling with a sluggish economy.

“A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun,” Obama said.

The president said during his speech that for the economy to succeed, the middle class needs to rise again.

“We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit,” he said. “But 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.”

In addition to the throng of people fanned out across the Mall, millions more watched on television, as Obama took the oath of office to begin his second term.

Sandwiched between the bruising presidential campaign and looming fiscal fights, Monday’s inaugural celebrations marked a brief respite from the partisan gridlock that has consumed the past two years.

Standing in front of the flag-bedecked Capitol, he implored Washington to find common ground over his next four years. And seeking to build on the public support that catapulted him to the White House twice, the president said the public has “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,” Obama said.

Looking ahead to his second-term agenda, the president said the nation must “respond to the threat of climate change,” sayings it’s time to stop listening to the people who “deny the overwhelming judgment of science.”

He talked about tackling the comprehensive immigration reform that has eluded Washington for years.

“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity,” he said.

Obama also talked about his administration focusing on gay rights during his second term, saying “if we are truly created equal,” the United States will allow gays and lesbians the same rights as every other American.

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” Obama said.

CBS News’ Scott Pelley says Obama’s second inaugural address could be perceived as a civil rights speech with the president addressing gay rights.

CBS News’ Bob Schieffer added that he “didn’t hear a line” that sums up the president’s speech.

“This was more like a State of the Union speech,” Schieffer said. “I did not hear him ask the American people for anything.”

Obama placed his hand on two Bibles — one used by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the other by Abraham Lincoln — and recited the brief oath of office. Michelle Obama held the Bibles, one on top of the other, as daughters Malia and Sasha looked on.

Vice President Joe Biden was also sworn in for his second term as the nation’s second in command. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, several Cabinet secretaries and dozens of lawmakers were on hand to bear witness to history.

Monday’s oaths were purely ceremonial. The Constitution stipulates that presidents begin their new terms at noon on Jan. 20, and in keeping with that requirement, Obama was sworn in Sunday in a small ceremony at the White House. Because inaugural celebrations are historically not held on Sundays, organizers pushed the public events to Monday, the same day the nation marked the late civil rights leader King’s birthday.

Obama soaked in the history on a day full of traditions as old as the Republic. Gazing over the crowd before retreating into the Capitol, he said, “I want to take a look, one more time. I’m not going to see this again.”

After a stunning sunrise, the weather for the swearing-in and parade was chilly — upper 30s rising into the lower 40s — and overcast.

Once the celebrations subside, Obama will be confronted with an array of pressing priorities: an economy still struggling to fully a recover, the fiscal fights with a divided Congress, and new threats of terrorism in North Africa. The president has also pledged to tackle immigration reform and stricter gun laws in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., — sweeping domestic reforms that will require help from reluctant lawmakers.

Obama is also facing fresh concerns about terrorism in North Africa. In the midst of the inaugural celebrations, a U.S. official said two more Americans died in Algeria, bringing the U.S. death toll from a four-day siege at a natural gas plant to three. Seven Americans survived, the official said.

The president did not offer any specific prescriptions for addressing the challenges ahead, though he is expected to offer more detail in his Feb. 12 State of the Union address.

Asserting “America’s possibilities are limitless,” he declared at the Capitol: “My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together.”

“We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit,” he said. “But 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.”

Obama’s second inaugural lacked the electric enthusiasm of his first, when 1.8 million people crammed onto the National Mall to witness the swearing-in of the nation’s first black president. Far fewer people attended this year’s inauguration — officials estimated up to 700,000 people — but the crowd still stretched from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. And shortly before the president spoke, U.S. Park Police announced that the public viewing areas on the Mall were full.

Security was tight across Washington, with streets closed off for blocks around the White House and Capitol Hill. Military Humvees and city buses were being used to block intersections. Volunteers fanned out near the Mall to help direct the crowds.

David Richardson of Atlanta and his two young children were among the early-goers who headed to the Mall before sunrise.

“We wanted to see history, I think, and also for the children to witness that anything is possible through hard work,” Richardson said.

Wendy Davis of Rome, Ga., was one of thousands of inaugural attendees who packed Metro trains. Davis came four years ago as well but was among the many ticketholders who couldn’t get in then because of the massive crowds.

“I thought I was early last time, but I obviously wasn’t early enough,” she said.

By 8 a.m. thousands of people were also waiting in security lines that stretched a block to gain access to the spots along the parade route that were accessible to the general public without a special ticket.

The cold weather was easily tolerated by Marie-France Lemaine of Montreal, who received the trip to the inaugural as a birthday present from her husband. She headed up an Obama advocacy group in Quebec that cheered on the president from north of the border.

“The American president affects the rest of the world,” she said.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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