COLLEGE PARK, Md (WUSA) -- Before we look forward to this year's Inauguration, we're take a moment to look back at the last one.
Did President Obama's deliver on the promises made in his historic first inaugural address?
"We the people," he said during his speech in the depths of the economic crisis. The President who campaigned on hope reached back to the founders belief that "We The People" have individual rights, but that we are also in this together. "The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit ... that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of devotion."
Donald Kettl, the dean of the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy, is struck by how the struggle between collective responsibility and individual rights is still at the heart of so many of our political arguments. "One of the most fundamental divides at the core," says Kettl, "is how much each of us as individual Americans ought to be able to do whatever it is we want, and how much collectively we have a responsibility to try and advance each other."
"We come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances, and false promises," thundered President Obama in his first inaugural address.
Here was aPresident who promised to get beyond the nasty Washington infighting that so many Americans hate And Kettl agrees he didn't succeed there at all. "We are now a more divisive nation than we were four years ago. We are split more deeply along fundamental divides."
Second inaugural addresses are particularly forgettable. With the exception of FDR's, "one third of a nation, ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished." Or Lincoln's "with malice toward none, with charity toward all." Kettl says the challenge for President Obama on Monday is to be short, strong, and inspiring.
But he says the President summarized what he's trying to accomplish during his first address. "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works. Whether it helps families finds jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that's dignified."
The question for his second inaugural is whether he can unite America around that idea.
With the President and Congress still debating how to pay our debts and renew America, Kettl says the stakes for President Obama's second inaugural are perhaps just as high as for his first.
Written and Reported by Bruce Leshan