Second term begins

It is no longer remarkable that an African-American man is the president of the United States. In choosing whether to re-elect him to a second term, we trust that the vast majority of Americans judged President Obama not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character and the successes and failures of his presidency thus far. A majority found him worthy to remain.

How appropriate then, on this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, to recognize that while this is not a post-racial America, it is a nation that has fundamentally changed because of this president's election and re-election. Overcoming future barriers will not be as formidable.

As for the speech, we expect to hear a return to the optimism that was sorely tested by four years of fiercely partisan political battles. After witnessing the continuing post-election bickering over the fiscal cliff, the citizenry yearns for some signal that things can change, that it does not have to be more of the same.

In a second term, the administration will have the opportunity to implement the universal health care plan. Recent statements from important Republican leaders suggest an immigration reform policy, with a path to citizenship for those 12 million undocumented immigrants now living as contributing members of our society, will be attainable in a second term. Even on the contentious issue of gun control, consensus appears possible on universal background checks and steps to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable.

While inaugural addresses are not traditionally the time for introducing the nitty-gritty of policy proposals, we would welcome President Obama's sending of a strong message to Republicans and, most appropriately, to all Americans that he stands prepared to make the tough choices to reduce the deficit through a balanced approach of tax reform and spending reductions.

To the world, President Obama must signal that while America does not seek war, it does not fear engagement, remains committed to the fight against terrorism, and will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.

President Obama has an oratory gift for rising to these occasions. America loves fresh starts and new beginnings. This is the president's.

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