By Amber Daugherty
President Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, was inaugurated to his second and final term today.
The recitation of the oath of office was followed by a speech that targeted issues such as healthcare, gay and lesbian rights, and the economy.
He highlighted the importance of the country coming together to make the U.S. great, saying, “My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.”
But the next four years of Obama’s presidency may prove rocky, Steven Taylor, associate professor of government at the American University of Washington, told Humber News Monday.
“It’s a situation where he’s got a house of representatives that’s politically hostile towards him and his party doesn’t control it, so just like in the second half of his first term, most of his initiatives are going to be up against some strong opposition,” he said.
Obama is working on pushing through an agenda that includes tougher gun control laws that have been met with strong opposition, and reforms to immigration.
Seva Gunitsky, assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto, told Humber News Monday that while most second terms generally focus on foreign policy, Obama may change that pattern.
“National debt is still the looming issue in Washington,” he said, “which means more negotiations over the debt ceiling and the massive cuts to spending and some sort of compromise over budget resolution.”
And Gunitsky said that even though the primary focus might not be on foreign issues, the decisions that are made will be closely watched by the rest of the world.
“America is at a crucial point in it’s political trajectory and the president’s agenda and his vision for the country for the next three years will shape not just US policy but the direction of the world in general,” he said.
“What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago”
-President Obama in his inauguration speech earlier today
The inauguration today coincides with Martin Luther King Day – an importance many people are drawing parallels between. The president used two bibles today – one, Dr. King’s, the other – Abraham Lincoln’s.
But Taylor said one major parallel between King and Obama hasn’t had as much of an effect as anticipated.
“In 2008 he carried 43 per cent of the white vote and by 2012 he only carried 39 per cent of the white vote, so that’s within a margin of significance – that’s a four per cent drop,” he said. “So I don’t know that we can say that this shows that there’s been an opening up of peoples’ minds on the issue.”
As many as 600,000 people were expected to watch the president make his speech and then lead a parade through Washington, D.C., a significantly smaller crowd from the 1.8 million people who were at the 2009 inauguration.
“The first inauguration was a historical event and this is somewhat of a rerun,” Gunitsky said.
Security was tight – CBS News reported that over 6,000 officers, both from the capital and out-of-town will be providing security along with the FBI, Secret Service and other agencies.
Thousands of people around the world were also expected to watch the inauguration via live blogs online, and television broadcasts.
Chris Whitaker, Humber College’s president, said the differences between U.S. and Canadian politics are interesting.
“It’s a cult of leadership and they really hold up their leaders with great reverence,” he said.
“There’s this sort of aura around the United State’s president that’s been created through their culture that is a little different than here, so there is a lot of pomp and pageantry.”
Obama ended his speech to the people this afternoon thanking God and blessing America, and calling on all Americans to move forward with him.
“Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. 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.”