Miller Center

Riding The Tiger

“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

Miller Center’s Balogh Explains Why Obama’s Second Inaugural Matters

Barack Obama Takes Oath of Office, January 2013

United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office to President Barack Obama during the Inaugural swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on 21 January 2013. White House photo by Sonya Hebert, PD.

Brian Balogh, the Compton Professor at the Miller Center and the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia, opines on CNN.com that President Obama’s second inaugural address matters because future historians will mark it as the moment the president 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...

His second election behind him, Obama linked his fate and the nation's to a rationale that propelled tens of millions of Americans into the middle class. By making collective action explicit, Obama yoked a century-old progressive agenda to the nation's founding documents and its past history. "Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people." To achieve America's lofty goals of "life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" will require back watching, backslapping and no shortage of back-scratching as well.

Read Brian’s full op-ed here.