PRESIDENT Barack Obama has told America it must make “hard choices” to reduce the cost of health care and the size of its financial deficit.
But the president said every citizen deserved a basic measure of security and dignity, and he held up Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as commitments that strengthen the country.
Speaking in his inaugural address at the US Capitol, Mr Obama said he rejected the belief that the country must choose between caring for the generation that built the country – or investing in the generation that will build the future.
Struggles with Republicans over reducing the deficit and paring back costly entitlement programs loom for him in his second term.
Mr Obama promised to respond to the “threat of climate change'' and lead the way on renewable energy sources.
And he declared that a decade of war was ending, the nation’s economy was recovering and “America’s possibilities are limitless”.
“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together,” he said, moments after taking the oath of office.
Trumpets blew fanfare and cannons fired as the country watched the president take the oath of office as the world’s most powerful elected leader.
Mr Obama’s address touched on the broad gifts that bring the country together, and pointed to the work ahead, “the realities of our time.”
He was officially sworn in yesterday, as required by law, but the glitter of Inauguration Day – the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House, the night of balls, the ceremonial beginning of a new four-year presidential term – still enlivened staid Washington.