The U.S. presidential inauguration is a unique institution in America's political life—actually, it is unique in the world in its insistence on viewing current challenges in light of the nation's founding principles.

In his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama used that history to chart a bold course of liberal progressivism that confirms his intent, and success so far, at altering the economic and social direction of the nation.

In his first campaign for high office in 2008, the president stirred controversy when he described his campaign as being about "fundamentally transforming" America. He also raised eyebrows (especially vis-à-vis his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton) when he told a Nevada newspaper he aspired to put the country on a different path in the way Reagan had done two decades earlier: "Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, that Bill Clinton did not."

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