Barack Obama: Equality, Diversity and the American Transformation

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office to President Barack Obama during the official swearing-in ceremony in the Blue Room of the White House on Inauguration Day, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013. First Lady Michelle Obama, holding the Robinson family Bible, along with daughters Malia and Sasha, stand with the President. © Lawrence Jackson |

Notes anticipating the Inaugural Address:

By electing its first African American, bi-racial president, America redefined itself. Barack Obama’s singular achievement has been, and will be for the ages, his election, and his confirming re-election. The significance of this cannot be overestimated. It colors all aspects of Obama’s presidency, as it tends to be publicly ignored. Today, at Obama’s second inauguration, he will highlight his and our achievement, as he will take his oath of office on the bibles of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.

Of course, Obama is not just a pretty dark face. He has a moderate left of center political program. He is a principled centrist. He is trying to transform the American center, moving it to the left, informing commonsense, changing the story we tell ourselves about ourselves, re-inventing American political culture. This will clearly be on view in today’s speech.

Obama has changed how America is viewed in the larger world, as he has slowly but surely shifted American foreign policy, ending two wars, developing a more multilateral approach, reforming the American military in a way that is more directed to the challenges of the 21st century. I should add: I am disappointed with some of this, particularly concerning drone warfare (more on this in a later piece). The President has finally established the principle of universal healthcare as a matter of American law, putting an end to a very unfortunate example of American exceptionalism. Another dark side of American life, the centrality of guns and gun violence in our daily lives, is now being forthrightly addressed by the President. His second term promises to address climate change in a way that has been foreclosed by the Republican opposition to . . .

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