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The loudest response from the audience at the National Mall coincided with Obama's remarks supporting equal pay for women and equal treatment for sexual minorities, when he stated that America's journey to equality is incomplete "until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts," and "until our gay brothers and sisters are t

The loudest response from the audience at the National Mall coincided with Obama's remarks supporting equal pay for women and equal treatment for sexual minorities, when he stated that America's journey to equality is incomplete "until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts," and "until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law."[28][55] Obama "made history", said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, when Obama connected the struggle of gay couple to the equal rights movement writ large. "By lifting up the lives of LGBT families for the very first time in an inaugural address, President Obama sent a clear message to LGBT young people from the Gulf Coast to the Rocky Mountains that this country's leaders will fight for them until equality is the law of the land," Griffin said in a release.[56] This was however rejected by Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which has led campaigns against legalizing same-sex marriage. Brown said gay couples are "already treated equally under the law."[56] "They have the same civil rights as anyone else; they have the right to live as they wish and love whom they choose," he said in a release. "What they don't have is the right to redefine marriage for all of society."[56]

Obama's second inaugural speech was regarded as laying out a broad liberal or progressive agenda, supporting gay rights and climate change reform.[57][58] David Gergen, professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, for example, called the speech "the strongest embrace of 20th-century liberalism since Lyndon Johnson and the [57][58] David Gergen, professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, for example, called the speech "the strongest embrace of 20th-century liberalism since Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society.[59] And Brian Balogh, a professor of history at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, added that Obama's second inaugural address mattered in comparison to previous second inaugural speeches "because future historians will mark it as the moment that Obama explained why he is a progressive. The programs that Obama called for were characteristically liberal: reaffirming the social safety net, equal pay for women, etc. Nothing new here -- just the Obama classic. What differed this time, and what this moment was made for (to twist the president's own words) was articulating the progressive rationale for these programmatic ends. "Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action," Obama proudly told the nation."[60] The Washington Post's Zachary A. Goldfarb, who covers economic policy and the White House for the Post, rejected the notion that Obama's speech was liberal. He wrote: "Obama did not advance a liberal agenda. A consequential one, certainly, but one that reflects centrist views or center-left ones at most. The agenda seems liberal only when judged against the liberal-conservative divide we're used to in Washington. ... Obama's inaugural speech sounded liberal because he offered the kind of robust defense of government's role in the nation's life that has seldom been heard from Democratic politicians after President Bill Clinton declared in 1996 that "the era of big government is over.""[61]

Republican congressional leaders had a muted, bipartisan response to Obama's second inaugural address and expressed their hope for cooperation between their party and Obama. "There are plenty of areas of disagreement but there are also some things that, fundamentally, we agree on -- and that is this country is one of opportunity," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said.[35] He added that there were partisan differences over "the way we get there to help everybody. ... Hopefully, we can bridge those differences."[35] Cantor however warned, that, if Obama follows what Cantor called a liberal agenda, then that agenda it's not designed to bring Republicans and the president together.[62] Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated in a written statement that every four years on Inaugural Day America shows the world that its major political parties can disagree with civility and mutual respect. McConnell wrote that Obama's speech was a "fresh start" to address the issue of federal spending and debt: "Republicans are eager to work with the president on achieving this common goal and we firmly believe that divided government provides the perfect opportunity to do so. Together, there is much we can achieve."[35] He also praised Obama's speech as "a really good speech. People can criticize President Obama about a lot of things. But not his ability to communicate. I think he communicated to the American people a message of hope, a message of action and I liked it very much."[62]

Other Republicans were critical of Obama. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said Obama mischaracterized Republicans' position on federal entitlement programs. "No one is suggesting that what we call our earned entitlements – entitlements you pay for, like payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security – are putting you in a 'taker' category."[62] Ryan contended that Obama made a "switcheroo" in his speech by suggesting that Republicans have referred to beneficiaries of those programs as "takers." In reality, he said, that term refers to recipients of welfare and other non-"earned" entitlements.[62] U.S. Senator Mike Lee, a frequent Obama critic, expressed his opinion that Obama chose not to unite the country, but to divide the American people. "This is not the approach of a leader attempting to find solutions to problems but rather the tactics of a partisan trying to pick political fights. His vision for the next four years is clear: defend a broken system, ignore the fiscal crisis, and drive future generations further into debt."[62] Other Republicans like John McCain ("I didn't hear any conciliatory remarks")[63] and "pundits from the D.C. establishment"[63] also complained about Obama's speech.[63] The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, for example, wrote that Obama's address "was less an inaugural address for the ages than a leftover campaign speech combined with an early draft of the State of the Union address."[64]

While Professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University Julian Zelizer called the speech a "powerful oration for a contentious moment in national politics",[60] Georgetown University professor Donna Brazile called it "a deeply moving and patriotic speech" and "one of the most effective usages of the founding documents' principles as a supporting narrative -- drawing us from the past to the present to the future" by "a president sharing with the nation his values most personal and vision most spiritual."[60] Oxford University historian Timothy Stanley wrote that Obama, compared to "one of those "bring us together", delivered "a more policy specific speech that reflected the difficult, partisan reality of 2013."[60] Obama's moral commitment to gay rights - expressed in the words "for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well" was "controversial but admirably courageous."[60] For Maria Cardona, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, "Obama's message is still one of hope and change. ... He gave his supporters hope he will continue to fight for them. He gave all Americans the assurance the country will continue to change for the better."[60]

Senior political columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast John Avlon lauded Obama for "an audacious speech to the extent that Obama sought to reclaim politicized concepts like American exceptionalism from their conservative contexts, making the case that the combination of diversity and opportunity makes the American Dream possible for each new generation."[60] But Avlon also criticed Obama writing that "the scope of the speech was sprawling and dotted with policy references more suited to a State of the Union address. It was not tightly framed or focused on a single concept, nor was there a single clear phrase that summed up the speech, at least at first listen."[60]

President Jimmy Carter former deputy chief speechwriter Gordon Stewart wrote that Obama's "magnificent" second inaugural address was far better than his first inaugural address. Stewart lauded that Obama for emerging "as a leader who has stopped splitting differences and is prepared to make choices and fight for them."[65] According to Stewart both Obama's supporters and opponents have a clearer idea what Obama will do in his second term.[65] Former CNN producer and correspondent Frida Ghitis complained that Obama devoted nearly all his inaugural speech to domestic issues and said that international disengagement isn't an option for American. According to Ghitis the aspirations Obama "expressed for America are the ones he should express for our tumultuous planet."[39] She expressed her hopes that Obama "can remember America's leadership position and devote more attention to those around the world who see it as a source of inspiration and encouragement."[39] After neglecting to mention a single foreign country by name during his address, The Economist concluded that Obama's "second term will have little emphasis on foreign affairs."[66]

Gergen noticed that Obama stressed equality in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream". According to Gergen the speech Obama's was "firmest attempt to build upon Lincoln and King - and in effect, his address made him their modern heir."[59] President Obama's green jobs adviser in 2009, Van Jones, called Obama's speech "offered the best rebuttal to date" since "President Ronald Reagan launched an era of anti-government politics with his first inaugural address.".[67] Comparing Reagan and Obama, Van Jones wrote: "Instead of "government is the problem," the president reminded us that we could all fall victim to sudden misfortune. Instead of pinning blame for every social problem on the size of government, the president recognized both individual responsibility and the role of community in giving each child the opportunity to succeed."[67] Van Jones noted both presidents invoked famous places of American history in their inaugural addresses but differed substantially in these places. While Reagan chose places of battles, Obama "tied Stonewall in with Selma and cemented his declaration that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights are civil rights."[67] David Rothkopf, CEO and editor-at-large of the FP Group (publishers of Foreign Policy magazine), wrote that Obama rightly demanded equal rights for gays and equal pay for women. According to Rothkopf Obama's words sketched an America better than what the Founding Fathers of the United States imagined. Rothkopf wrote: "The great beauty of the speech was not in any particular phrase, but in that the man in question and the country he leads were in so many ways far beyond what the Founders could have imagined. And that, despite our natural tendency to glorify our origins, that this America was in virtually every way better than the one they offered up to us."[68]