A decade of war is ending: Obama

Washington, Jan 22 (IANS) Saying "a decade of war is now ending," President Barack Obama began his second term in office by exhorting Americans to seize the moment and "answer the call of history" as he laid out a progressive agenda to tackle challenging issues such as gun control and immigration reform.

"Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time - but it does require us to act in our time," Obama said in his second inaugural address Monday making a forceful plea to "answer the call of history".

"My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it - so long as we seize it together," said Obama outlining the vision for his second term in an 18 minute address running into a little more than 2,100 words.

Extolling the importance of democracy across the world, Obama said: "America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe."

"For no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation," he added, suggesting "a decade of war is now ending" without making a direct reference to the impending drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan next year.

Stressing the need to "respond to the threat of climate change" he said, "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."

In embracing the liberal agenda, Obama listed three turning points: Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall saying the "notion that all of us are created equal is the idea that has powered men and women for generations."

But the journey for equality "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."

"This has stretched through Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall," he said making the first ever reference to gays in an inaugural address. "It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began."

Seneca Falls is the town in New York where a convention in 1848 helped launch the women's rights movement. Selma refers to a civil rights march in Alabama in 1965 and Stonewall Inn in New York City is where modern gay-rights movement was born in 1969 after a police raid.

In addition, this work will be unfinished until the country figures out how to tackle immigration and deals with the difficulties of voting, Obama said.

The media reaction to the President's speech was on expected lines.

"With this speech, he has made a forceful argument for a progressive agenda that meets the nation's needs," said the influential New York Times in an editorial hoping "he has the political will and tactical instincts to carry it out".

In the Washington Post's view Obama had offered "concrete goals at home, wishful thinking abroad".

"America's adversaries are not in retreat; they will be watching Mr. Obama in his second term to see if the same can be said of the United States," it suggested.

But in the conservative Washington Times, columnist Robert Knight suggested in an opinion piece Obama was "shooting holes in the Constitution".

"Leave it to Barack Obama to come into his inaugural weekend with a bang, and not just on guns. He's made it clear that he intends more spending, more regulation, more radical appointees and less national defence in his second term," he wrote.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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