When lawmakers of both parties raised their glasses in toast of President Barack Obama at a Capitol Hill luncheon Monday, House Speaker John Boehner remarked that the room, with its poor acoustics, had been the House chamber many decades earlier -- "at a time when our leaders weren't hearing each other all that well to begin with."
"But here, it's a century-and-a-half and many architectural improvements later, and we gather in the old hall to better hear one another and to renew the appeal to better angels," Boehner said. "We do so amid the rituals and symbols of unity, none more important than our flag," he continued, giving Obama and Vice President Joe Biden the flags which had earlier in the day flown over the Capitol.
His presentation as the nation's top lawmaker held more significance than a convergence of the two government branches: it was about two parties which waged bitter campaigns for federal office coming together to codify the administration.
But Republicans largely laid low on Monday, as Obama's second term opened with ceremony on the National Mall and an address in which he laid out the basics of an agenda. His biographer, David Maraniss, described the speech as one where "I could feel his heart beating."
"What he did is he took the Founding Fathers' riffs and language, Martin Luther King's language, so of King, and melded it into his own and put it into a sort of statement of action -- what he wants to do in the next four years," Maraniss said on CNN.
Obama identified specific objectives, saying, "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law" and that his administration "will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."
The late Monday banner of the Drudge Report said it all for conservatives: "1,461 More Days."
The conservative group Americans for Prosperity described Obama's address as "a harshly ideological, aggressively partisan speech more appropriate for the campaign trail than for the solemn occasion of his inaugural ceremony. His address read like a liberal laundry list with global warming at the top. Americans have rejected environmental extremism in the past and they will again."
There were no Republican former presidents in attendance, as George H.W. Bush - recently released from the hospital - stayed home, as did his son, George W. Bush, who did not provide a reason but offered Obama "best wishes and prayers on this historic day" in a statement.
Obama's 2012 White House challenger, Mitt Romney, was off of the radar, while his 2008 challenger, Sen. John McCain, was in the audience. Obama's 2008 primary rival, Hillary Clinton, has served the past four years in his administration and attended the ceremony with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.