For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.Obama sketched out a broad vision of the struggles we face today, to move forward in the way the nation moved forward by declaring independence or by abolishing slavery. He was explicit about the threats posed by climate change, and the work needed to address it:
For more than two hundred years, we have.
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. 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. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.Invoking the fights for equal rights of "Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall," Obama addressed the continuing need for a movement for equality, linking equal pay, marriage equality, voting rights, and immigration reform:
[O]ur journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. 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. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.In this speech, Obama laid out a moral vision for America, grounded in the nation's own history and its current debates. We know how hard the fight to put Obama's vision into practice will be—we've seen it time and time again in the past struggles he cited, and we see it every day in the extremism of today's Republicans. But it's a promising note on which to kick off his second term.