Obama reaches out to GOP at lunch


President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), center, after the traditional Inaugural Luncheon in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

After an inaugural speech that was focused on liberal principles rather than bipartisan compromise, President Obama took a more conciliatory tack at the traditional post-inauguration lunch. Lawmakers of both parties hosted the Obamas at Statuary Hall, presenting Obama with a series of gifts, including a flag flown over the Capitol this morning.

After the lunch, Obama thanked all the members of Congress for their service and expressed hope for the future.

"To the Speaker of the House and Nancy Pelosi, to Democratic Leader Harry Reid, as well as Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and to all the congressional leaders and all the members of Congress who are here -- I recognize that democracy is not always easy, and I recognize there are profound differences in this room, but I just want to say thank you for your service and I want to thank your families for their service, because regardless of our political persuasions and perspectives, I know that all of us serve because we believe that we can make America for future generations," the president said. "And I'm confident that we can act at this moment in a way that makes a difference for our children and our children's children. "

He noted the limits of the presidency, saying that the longer you are in office, "the more mindful you are that it is beyond your poor powers individually to move this great country."

Obama also thanked his Cabinet, Vice President Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and first lady Michelle Obama. "There is controversy about the quality of the president, no controversy about the quality of our first lady," he said.

Biden also expressed hope of bridging some divides, calling the lunch a bipartisan "new beginning."

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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