Barack Obama Second Inaugural Address

On January 21st, 2013, Barack H. Obama was inaugurated for his second term as president of the United States. The president's second inaugural address, which lasted about twenty minutes, outlined an openly liberal agenda with references to issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, immigration reform, and fighting climate change. Obama called on the American people to work together, stating that each individual's responsibility is to uphold the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

Barack Obama Second Inaugural Address Barack Obama Second Inaugural Address

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Table of contents

    Barack Obama's Second Inaugural Address: A Summary

    Barack Obama's second inaugural address begins by stating that the process of inaugurating a new president is part of reaffirming the principles of democracy and equality outlined in the Constitution. He quotes from the Constitution:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

    Obama then discusses the challenges of bringing these principles into the modern day and how this responsibility rests with each generation of Americans. He mentions how previous generations have upheld the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; through abolishing slavery, developing modern industry and infrastructure, regulating the free market, and caring for vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society.

    Barack Obama second inaugural address, US Constitution, StudySmarterFig. 1: Obama begins his address by quoting the United States Constitution.

    He points out that, though the principles have remained the same, new strategies have been required to adapt these ideals to the changing world. The most important thing is that Americans continue working together in unity.

    Obama then alludes to some of the success of his first term, including the end of the war in Iraq and recovery from the Great Recession. He argues that the United States is poised to flourish; all that is required is that Americans work together.

    All Americans, he insists, understand and believe that equality is central to the United States' guiding principles and that we must uphold those principles for future generations.

    He mentions the need to address climate change, invest in renewable energy sources, and advocate for democracy worldwide.

    He refers to great events in United States history that affirmed the American ideals of freedom and equality: the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, voters' rights marches in Selma, the Stonewall riots, and the March on Washington.

    Barack Obama second inaugural address, Washington Monument, StudySmarterFig. 2: Obama refers to the significant events that have occurred on the National Mall.

    The task of this generation of Americans, Obama argues, is to continue this work. He then alludes to several specific issues that can bring about greater American equality, including equal pay for men and women, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration reform, and gun control.

    He reiterates that all Americans deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and he argues that Americans can be true to this fundamental belief without agreeing on every detail. Rather, the important thing to do is to act.

    Obama then argues that his inaugural oath is not unlike the pledge of allegiance that all American citizens make. It is a pledge to the United States and God, not to a particular political party.

    Each American has made a similar pledge and must continue upholding the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    The Main Idea of Barack Obama's Second Inaugural Address

    The main idea of Barack Obama's second inaugural address is a call to action for all Americans. He argues that each American has an obligation to uphold the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and that everyone must work together to create positive change.

    Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Barack Obama's Second Inaugural Address

    Barack Obama used ethos, pathos, and logos in his second inaugural address to make the speech more impactful.

    Ethos

    Although Barack Obama does not explicitly state his own authority in his second inaugural address, he uses ethos by invoking the credibility of American history and democracy.

    Ethos is a rhetorical device in which speakers use their authority on a subject to convince the audience of the validity of their argument.

    Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy."

    In his second inaugural address, Obama refers to the importance of the inaugural event and the history it is endowed with to lend authority to his message. He repeatedly invokes the Constitution and asserts his own authority by affirming his place in the American political process.

    Pathos

    There are many examples of pathos in Obama's second inaugural address. He frequently uses emotional language and imagery designed to invoke listeners' emotional responses.

    Pathos is a rhetorical device in which the speaker appeals to the audience's emotions to influence the audience.

    We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own."

    In this example, Obama uses the moving image of a little girl born into poverty to emphasize the importance of equality in the United States. The girl's innocence inspires the audience's sympathy and strengthens Obama's argument that all Americans should be awarded the same opportunities regardless of their background.

    Logos

    Barack Obama used logos in his second inaugural address to reason with his audience, insisting that the right thing to do is logical. He presents

    Logos is a rhetorical device in which the speaker uses logic to validate their argument.

    We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher."

    In this example, Obama appeals to his audience with the argument that Americans already know what must be done. Furthermore, the problem has a logical solution. In contrast with his more emotional arguments, this example uses facts and strong words like "must" to suggest that the way forward is clear.

    Barack Obama's Second Inaugural Address: A Rhetorical Analysis

    In addition to ethos, pathos, and logos, Barack Obama uses various rhetorical devices in his second inaugural address, including allusion and repetition.

    Throughout the address, Obama alludes to various historical events to make his message more impactful and convey the symbolic importance of the inauguration. He refers to events like the Civil War, the Newtown massacre, and the 1963 March on Washington without mentioning them explicitly, leaving it up to his audience to make the connections. This use of allusion helps Obama to connect his call to action to essential moments in the history of the United States.

    Barack Obama second inaugural address, Obama speaking, StudySmarterFig. 3: Barack Obama uses various rhetorical devices in his second inaugural address.

    Barack Obama also uses repetition several times throughout his address. Although he repeats several phrases, one of the best examples is the repetition of "We, the people." This phrase, the first line of the US Constitution, appears in the twenty-minute speech five times. Its repeated use helps Obama continue to reconnect to the significance of the United States' founding documents and the importance of upholding the country's core values.

    Barack Obama's Second Inaugural Address: An Analysis of Key Quotes

    The premise of Barack Obama's second inaugural address, outlined in this example, is bringing the values of the Constitution into the modern era.

    Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they've 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."

    He argues that the truth of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness might be clear, but they cannot be fulfilled without the people's work. Furthermore, he argues that it is the responsibility of each generation of Americans to interpret and apply these values in a way that is appropriate for the times they live in.

    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; just as it guided our forebears 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 cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth."

    In this quote, Obama says that the belief in equality is what has guided important social movements throughout the history of the United States. He mentions Seneca Falls, New York, which was the location of the first convention for women's rights in 1848. Next, he refers to Selma, Alabama, known for being at the center of the Civil Rights movement, including three marches for voting rights that began in Selma and ended in Montgomery, Alabama.

    Finally, Stonewall refers to the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, widely considered the start of the gay rights movement. Obama closes this paragraph with a reference to the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech.

    You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country's course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals."

    At the end of his address, Obama calls on all American citizens to uphold the principles of freedom and equality. He argues that each American has the ability and the responsibility to shape the country.

    Barack Obama Second Inaugural Address - Key takeaways

    • Barack Obama's second inaugural address took place on January 21st, 2013.
    • In the address, the president outlined an openly liberal agenda with references to issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, immigration reform, and fighting climate change.
    • The speech is a call to action in which Obama argues that each American has an obligation to uphold the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
    • Barack Obama used ethos, pathos, and logos in his second inaugural address to make the speech more impactful.
    • Obama also uses other rhetorical devices, such as repetition and allusion.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Barack Obama Second Inaugural Address

    What was the main idea of Obama's second inaugural address?

    The main idea of Obama's second inaugural address is that each American has the ability and obligation to uphold the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


    What was the purpose of Obama's inaugural address?

    The purpose of Obama's inaugural address was a call to action for Americans to work together and bring the principles of the United States' founding documents into the 21st century.

    What rhetorical devices did Obama use in his second inaugural address?


    Obama uses a variety of rhetorical devices in his second inaugural address, including ethos, pathos, logos, repetition, and allusion.

    How long was Obama's inauguration speech?

    Obama's second inauguration speech was just under twenty minutes long.

    What did Obama say in his victory speech?

    In his second inaugural address, Obama talked about how to uphold the core American principles of freedom and equality in the modern day.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What rhetorical device did Obama NOT use in his second inaugural address?

    Which historical event did Obama NOT allude to in his second inaugural address?

    The following quote is an example of what rhetorical device?"We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher."

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