President Obama took the oath of office on Monday with his hand on two Bibles -- one once owned by President Lincoln and one that had belonged to the Rev Martin Luther King, the late civil rights leader whose day of honour coincided with President Obama's Inauguration. Thus America's past was integrated with its future as the President set out his programme for the next four years. This Barack Obama was different from that of 2009 -- after his re-election, more confident and more aware of the realities of Washington politics. Although he called for unity in handling the nation's business he also made clear that if he encounters negative opposition he would take strength from the nation's vote of confidence in him.
Among the ambitious list of domestic initiatives to be undertaken one stood out as of international importance -- the President's specific endorsement of the science of global warming and his undertaking to respond to the threat of climate change. The necessary universal action on climate change has not yet been achieved because of the reservations of the world's biggest producer of harmful emissions. If President Obama can commit America to this cause before he leaves office he will have rendered a great service to humanity. Monday's Inaugural address was less rhetorical than in 2009 but it was impressive in scope and bold in purpose. It raised expectations to a high level.