Before hearing President Barack Obama's second inaugural address, I expected him to shift his gravity to international affairs; an issue he may consider more important to his legacy than the domestic fight with Congress.
No such shift took place, even though throughout the whole speech, he was considering his place in history when he emphasized his policies as the continuation of the values and beliefs articulated by the founding fathers of the country; "Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time."
The president stood by what he has always believed and by what originally motivated him to go into politics and seek this position: The idea that "What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago," followed by the famous quote from the Declaration of Independence.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
This famous quote set the central theme of his inaugural address; equality and the pursuit of happiness for all. From this, he further articulated his belief that "a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune."
He asked for collective effort, "preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action." Let us do it together for, "no single person can train all the math and science teachers we'll need to equip our children for the future ... "
For the equality and the happiness of every Americans, the president further defended his position of asking the top 1% to pay more instead of burdening the middle class. "Our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class."
For the president, the founding father's words meant, "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, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own."
To the president, the "unalienable rights" means "every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity," especially those in their "twilight years" of life. This is a clear message to those who have demanded deficit reduction by compromising this "basic measure of security and dignity" of the seniors and the underprivileged.
The president quoted this phrase again — "that all of us are created equal" — when he talked about equal treatment of women, gay, and minorities in this country. The belief in equality has in the past guided women in Seneca Falls, black Americans in Selma, Alabama and the gay community in Stonewall.
Of course, the president has not forgotten immigrants and the American dreams that originally attracted them to this land.
The president reiterated the importance of carrying out the idea of the founding fathers saying that our generation's task was "to make these words, these rights, these values – of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — real for every American."
One digression from this theme was when the president changed to the topic of climate change and our obligations to the future generations: "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms."
As the president concluded his speech, he put things in a historic perspective, conveying a sense of urgency: "For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today's victories will be only 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."
"With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom."