AP News
Posted: Jan 21, 2013 7:42 PM

Sally Buzbee, AP's Washington bureau chief, unpacks one piece of President Barack Obama's inaugural address.


I'm not like you. You're not like her. She's not like him. Yeah, so what? We can — must — still find common ground.

That was the point of the somewhat subtle argument used today by President Barack Obama to make a basic point: Government officials shoulder a responsibility to take action and solve problems, even if they disagree on some basic beliefs.

"Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life," the president asserted in his inaugural address. "It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness."

But, he said, even if Americans can't settle "centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time," officials do have the responsibility to take action to try to make progress on the immediate problems the country faces.

The idea that liberty can be defined in different ways and that there are different paths to happiness has particular resonance, of course, in a country that is becoming ever more diverse. Polls show that increasing diversity makes some Americans uncomfortable.

But beyond that sweeping philosophical point, the president's argument also had a clear, pragmatic — and more immediate — political purpose: to unite people who are deeply dug in on their beliefs and harness their energy to seek common ground and practical solutions.

"For now, decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle," the president said. It's a highly relevant point for a president who must will spend the next several years trying to seek compromise with politicians who believe things quite different than he does.

— By Sally Buzbee


Inauguration Watch follows the events of President Barack Obama's second inaugural. Look for short items and photos throughout the day.