President Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term as 44th President of the United States Monday, in a star-studded ceremony that looked toward the country's future as much as it paid tribute to long-established ceremonies.
Politicians in attendance included President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator John McCain, President Jimmy Carter and former Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Neither President George H.W. Bush or President George W. Bush attended the ceremony.
After being sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts around noon, Obama spoke for several minutes, addressing recent tragic events like Hurricane Sandy and the Newtown shootings.
"We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few," Obama said in his remarks. "We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other ... these things do not sap our initiative. They strengthen us."
Obama's speech also indicated that his second term will focus on issues including climate change, gay marriage, gun control and equal pay for women.
"Our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves but to all posterity," Obama said. "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."
"Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts," the President continued. "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like everyone 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. ... Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm."
The symbolism of America's first black president being sworn in for a second term on a national holiday that honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not lost on those in attendance, nor on Obama himself.
"We the people declare today that the most evident of truths, that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still," Obama said. "Just as it guided our forebearers through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall, just as it guided all those men and women sung and unsung who left footprints along this great Mall to hear a preacher say that we could not walk alone, to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth. It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began."
The Inauguration also featured entertainment by James Taylor, who performed "America the Beautiful" before Obama was sworn in; Kelly Clarkson, who sang "Let Freedom Ring" after Obama gave his inauguration speech; and Beyonce, who closed out the ceremony with the National Anthem.