As President Barack Obama walked into the Capitol Monday after the inauguration ceremony, he turned back to take one more look at the cheering crowd on the National Mall, noting he'll never see it again.
Indeed, it's a rare view. And only 16 other presidents have had the opportunity to set the course of the nation for a second time. And fewer still were recognized as successful in those efforts.
So as the president embarks on his second term, we know, as does he and all who are watching and paying attention, that he has a short window of time in which to make his mark and burnish his legacy.
That's why in many ways his speech was a good first step as he specifically noted issues that will get his attention. Climate change, immigration reform, equal pay for women, same-sex marriage, peace in place of war. We agree with the president (even though we didn't support his bid for a second term) that these are issues that need serious consideration in Washington.
However, we will gladly get back on board with the president should he do what he has been unable to do in his first four years -- end the partisan bickering and move forward with clear progress on rebuilding the economy and reducing the national debt and federal deficit.
His legacy will in fact be built upon how he leads in those areas. Can he learn from his mistakes in his first term and work with a Republican majority in the House? Can he successfully push his agenda while also recognizing, as he said in his inauguration speech, that "we cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate"?
Both sides have engaged in that rhetoric and both sides need to disengage from that divisiveness.
Reasonable debate means looking for compromise -- providing leadership to move America forward rather than to see it stagnate as it has the last two years.
Obama's words on Monday seem to recognize that when he said, "Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness."
He spoke of America's limitless possibilities, that its citizens ultimately have "the power to set this country's course."
And that is something upon which we all should agree: As citizens, we need to let our elected officials know that gridlock is not the way to move the country forward.
With the spectacle and good cheer of the inauguration over, when our elected leaders in Washington get back to business, that is what they need to remember and that is what all of us need to insist upon.