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Obama urges collective action to solve nation's problems

Monday - 1/21/2013, 6:10pm  ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Although he's offered a preview of his second term, President Barack Obama's second inaugural address wasn't so much a list of legislative proposals as it was a plea for tackling challenges.

He said, "We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect," and that today's victories "will only be partial." In a plea for unity to politicians and to the nation at large, he called for "collective action" -- even amid continuing disagreement about the role of government.

In his 18-minute speech, Obama didn't dwell on the most pressing challenges of the past four years. He barely mentioned the struggle to reduce the federal deficit.

But he echoed a theme from his campaign in saying that the nation's prosperity "must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class."

He defended Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as programs that allow Americans to "take the risk that made this country great."

Parts of Obama's speech were more unexpected -- including his emphasis on the need to combat global climate change, and his firm new declaration of support for full gay rights.

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187-a-13-(President Obama, in inaugural address)-"as reasoned debate (applause fades)"-President Obama says there's an urgent need for decisions on critical issues, without showmanship and grandstanding. (21 Jan 2013)

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188-a-09-(President Obama, in inaugural address)-"be only partial"-President Obama says government cannot afford to delay action on critical issues, even though it will be up to people four, 40 or even 400 years from now to improve and advance the accomplishments of today. (21 Jan 2013)

<> 00:09 "be only partial"

GRAPHICSBANK: US President Barack Obama delivers inaugural address during 57th inauguration ceremony, Washington DC, graphic element on gray (21 Jan 2013)

APPHOTO DCMS119: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk down Pennsylvania Avenue en route to the White House, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, in Washington. Thousands marched during the 57th Presidential Inauguration parade after the ceremonial swearing-in of President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (21 Jan 2013)

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APPHOTO CAP339: President Barack Obama deliver his Inaugural address at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (21 Jan 2013)

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