Text of Obama's Inaugural Address

 

 

Text of President Barack Obama's inaugural address on Tuesday, as

prepared for delivery and released by the Presidential Inaugural

Committee.

 

OBAMA: My fellow citizens:

 

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the

trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our

ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well

as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this

transition.

 

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words

have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters

of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds

and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not

simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because

we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears,

and true to our founding documents.

 

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is

at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our

economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and

irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to

make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have

been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too

costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence

that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten

our planet.

 

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less

measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our

land a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the

next generation must lower its sights.

 

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are

serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short

span of time. But know this, America they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity

of purpose over conflict and discord.

 

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and

false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far

too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has

come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our

enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that

precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to

generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and

all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that

greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never

been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for

the faint-hearted for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek

only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-

takers, the doers, the makers of things some celebrated but more

often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up

the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

 

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled

across oceans in search of a new life.

 

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the

lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

 

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg;

Normandy and Khe Sahn.

 

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and

worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life.

They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions;

greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most

prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less

productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less

inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last

week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished.

But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and

putting off unpleasant decisions that time has surely passed.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and

begin again the work of remaking America.

 

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the

economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act not only to

create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build

the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our

commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful

place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality

and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil

to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our

schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new

age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions who

suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their

memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has

already done; what free men and women can achieve when

imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted

beneath them that the stale political arguments that have

consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is

not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it

works whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care

they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is

yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs

will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held

to account to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business

in the light of day because only then can we restore the vital trust

between a people and their government.

 

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or

ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched,

but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market

can spin out of control and that a nation cannot prosper long when

it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always

depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on

the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to

every willing heart not out of charity, but because it is the surest

route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our

safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can

scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the

rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those

ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for

expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who

are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village

where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each

nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace

and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

 

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not

just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring

convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us,

nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our

power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the

justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering

qualities of humility and restraint.

 

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once

more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort

even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We

will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-

earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will

 

work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter

of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will

we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims

by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that

our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and

we will defeat you.

 

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a

weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus

and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture,

drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the

bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark

chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the

old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon

dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall

reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new

era of peace.

 

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual

interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who

seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West know

that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you

destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit

and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of

history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench

your fist.

 

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to

make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved

bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that

enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to

suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's

resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we

must change with it.

 

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with

humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol

far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us

today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through

the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our

liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to

find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this

moment a moment that will define a generation it is precisely this

spirit that must inhabit us all.

 

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the

faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation

relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break,

the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see

a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is

the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also

a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet

them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends

hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and

curiosity, loyalty and patriotism these things are old. These things

are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our

history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is

required of us now is a new era of responsibility a recognition, on

the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our

nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but

rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so

satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all

to a difficult task.

 

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence the knowledge that God calls on

us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed why men and

women and children of every race and every faith can join in

celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father

less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local

restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far

we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of

months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the

shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was

advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the

outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation

ordered these words be read to the people:

 

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when

nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the

country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our

hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue,

let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may

come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were

tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back

nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace

upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it

safely to future generations.