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Nation/World

January 22, 2013

Time to act, Obama declares, taking his 2nd oath

(Continued)

The former community organizer made it clear he views government as an engine of progress. While that was far from surprising for a Democrat, his emphasis on the need to combat global climate change was unexpected, as was his firm new declaration of support for full gay rights.

In a jab at climate-change doubters, he said, “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.” He said America must lead in the transition to sustainable energy resources.

He likened the struggle for gay rights to earlier crusades for women’s suffrage and racial equality.

“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,” said the president, who waited until his campaign for re-election last year to announce his support for gay marriage.

His speech hinted only barely at issues likely to spark opposition from Republicans who hold power in the House.

He defended Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as programs that “do not make us a nation of takers; they free is to take the risks that made this country great.”

He referred briefly to making “the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit,” a rhetorical bow to a looming debate in which Republicans are seeking spending cuts in health care programs to slow the rise in a $16.4 trillion national debt.

He also cited a need for legislation to ease access to voting, an issue of particular concern to minority groups, and to immigration reform and gun-control legislation that he is expected to go into at length in his State of the Union speech on Feb. 12.

But his speech was less a list of legislative proposals than a plea for tackling challenges.

“We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect,” he said, and today’s “victories will only be partial.”

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