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President Barack Obama made a forceful case for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in his second inaugural address Monday, surrounded by members of Congress who have clashed on what role those programs should play in solving the nation’s budget problems.

“We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit,” Obama said. “But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.”

Although much of the crowd was a partisan cheering section, the stage on the Capitol steps held the nation’s lawmakers, who have battled rancourously during recent years over how to reduce the deficit, cut spending and raise more revenue. Obama made the case for the programs that serve as important insurance against life’s uncertainties.

“The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us,” he said. “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

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Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert

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