The 57th inauguration

Photo by Richard Jung

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.”

I had the privilege of attending the 57th U.S. Presidential Inauguration—which took place on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013—and witness the winds of change that had seemingly disappeared near the end of President Obama’s first term in office.

This moment marked a special day in inauguration history, as it took place on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, 50 years after the civil rights movement, and 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. As President Obama himself admitted, it would not have been possible for him to become president without the effort of the people of those past eras. A strong sense of symbolism could be felt when President Obama used Dr. King’s and President Lincoln’s bibles for his inauguration, both of whom were champions of social movements of their generation.

Over 800,000 people from all over the United States and around the world—including Canada—arrived to watch the inauguration. My friends and I were up at 5:30 a.m. to head over to the National Mall, only to find that thousands of other people had been waiting there even earlier.

The speech President Obama delivered may not have had memorable quotes such as John F. Kennedy’s famous “ask not” speech; rather, it gave a sense of the future for America. When President Obama delivered the first speech of his second term, it brought a sense of direction and hope for the U.S.

Obama mentioned various issues that the people must be united towards repairing, emphasizing that these difficulties only makes the union stronger. Certain aspects of his speech evoked a strong response from the crowd, such as the reconstruction of the middle class to give each and everyone an equal opportunity of success if they worked for it, tackling climate change and continuing to develop alternative energy sources, and, most importantly, fixing the budget and reducing the debt of the United States.

This truly marks a new period for the Democratic Party of the United States. Four major winds of change have occurred over the history of the Union: the first being the inaugural shift in the party in power which occurred from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, the second being Abraham Lincoln’s restoration of the Union, the third being Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and birth of social security, and the fourth was the presidency of Ronald Reagan. I believe that if President Obama can accomplish all of his objectives, this would put him amongst Roosevelt in terms of social reform, and could mark the fifth major shift in American history.

During his speech, President Obama sent a message to the world that with four years of experience under his belt and the grassroots support that won him the election, he intends to make the most of this opportunity to reconstruct the United States.

Remember, history has taught us that this is not the first time the United States was on the verge of bankruptcy; never forget that after the War of Independence from 1775-1783, the independent states could not afford to pay for the war debt until Alexander Hamilton introduced the idea of a federal government in charge of national fiscal management.

Reforming healthcare, education, and entitlement programs will not be an easy task, but just as many of the people loved President Lincoln, so too do many love President Obama. Together, with the people, this moment could mark the beginning of the greatest social reform of the 21st century in the United States.

And in the following quote, President Obama summed up the task that lies ahead:

“That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.”