By DONNA MILES
American Forces Press Service
President Barack Obama took the ceremonial oath of office for his second term as the 44th U.S. president and commander in chief on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Monday, honoring the men and women in uniform who have preserved America’s freedoms throughout its history.
More than 5,000 military members—some participating in the Inaugural Parade, others playing musical accompaniment, firing artillery rounds into the sky or providing behind-the-scenes support—were among more than a half million people who gathered on the National Mall to watch Obama and Vice President Joe Biden enter their second term.
Recognizing the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan and the ramping down of more than a decade of conflict, Obama offered high praise during his inaugural address for U.S. service members, their contributions and sacrifices.
“Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage,” he said. “Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm.”
Obama expressed hope for a more peaceful future, noting that Americans understand that “enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”
Americans are “heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends,” the president said. “And we must carry those lessons into this time as well.”
The president affirmed the nation’s resolve to defend its people and uphold its values through both the “strength of arms and rule of law”—and with an arm extended to its friends as well as adversaries to help lay conditions for long-term peace.
“We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully—not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear,” he said.
Meanwhile, “America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe,” he said. “We will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation.”
The United States will support democracy around the world, “because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom,” Obama said. “And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice—not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.”
Obama urged the nation to put partisanship aside and come together to support their universal ideals. “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,” he said.