Mr. Obama, standing before a crowd of hundreds of thousands outside of the U.S. Capitol, spoke of the ongoing struggle to make principles of equality and justice an actuality in American society.
"Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time," Mr. Obama said, after quoting the Declaration of Independence. "For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth."'
Fidelity to the nation's founding principles, he argued, "requires new responses to new challenges."
"We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional - what makes us American - is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago," he said. "When times change, so must we."
Reflecting on themes familiar to his first term, Mr. Obama made the case that America isn't living up to its constitutional principles while disparities between the rich and poor continue to grow. Until "a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else," he said, America has a ways to go.
"For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it," he said. "We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed."