WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama began his second term Monday by setting an agenda for the next four years built on bedrock Democratic social policies, in a provocative speech coming at a time of deep partisanship in the capital and lingering economic uncertainty across the country.
With specifics not usually offered in inaugural addresses, Mr. Obama promised to preserve government health-care programs, expand rights for women and gay couples, and press for gun controls, overhauls of the tax code and immigration laws, as well as climate-change measures.
His priorities sent a message to Washington’s leaders that he is looking beyond the fiscal battles set to dominate the coming weeks, while signaling to the nation that he sees a large part of his legacy to be advocacy for underprivileged Americans.
“For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” Mr. Obama said in a 15-minute speech that drew repeatedly on the opening phrase of the Constitution.
Mr. Obama laid out a governing agenda rooted in Democratic policy goals and equal rights, citing Seneca Falls, N.Y., Selma, Ala., and New York City’s Stonewall Inn, birthplaces of the movements for women’s equality, civil rights and gay liberation, respectively. “That is our generation’s task—to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American,” the president said.
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