President Obama's Inaugural Address (full transcript)
President Barack Obama's Inaugural Address in full, as prepared for delivery:
VicePresident Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress,distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
Eachtime we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduringstrength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of ourdemocracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not thecolors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of ournames. What makes us exceptional - what makes us American - is ourallegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than twocenturies ago:
"Wehold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that theyare endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among theseare Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
Todaywe continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words withthe realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truthsmay be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom isa gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. Thepatriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with theprivileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, agovernment of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keepsafe our founding creed.
Formore than two hundred years, we have.
Throughblood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union foundedon the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave andhalf-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forwardtogether.
Together,we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speedtravel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.
Together,we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensurecompetition and fair play.
Together,we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect itspeople from life's worst hazards and misfortune.
Throughit all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, norhave we succumbed to the fiction that all society's ills can be cured throughgovernment alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; ourinsistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in ourcharacter.
Butwe have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity toour founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; thatpreserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today's world by actingalone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communismwith muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math andscience teachers we'll need to equip our children for the future, or build theroads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses toour shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as onenation, and one people.
Thisgeneration of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve andproved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economicrecovery has begun. America's possibilities are limitless, for we possessall the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth anddrive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift forreinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, andwe will seize it - so long as we seize it together.
Forwe, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking fewdo very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America'sprosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pridein their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brinkof hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into thebleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else,because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyesof God but also in our own.
Weunderstand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp ourtax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills theyneed to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the meanswill change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort anddetermination of every single American. That is what this momentrequires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.
We,the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure ofsecurity and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost ofhealth care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief thatAmerica must choose between caring for the generation that built this countryand investing in the generation that will build its future. For weremember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty,and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do notbelieve that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happinessfor the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live ourlives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, ora home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other -through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security - these things do not sapour initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation oftakers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.
We,the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just toourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climatechange, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and futuregenerations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science,but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and cripplingdrought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energysources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resistthis transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations thetechnology that will power new jobs and new industries - we must claim itspromise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and ournational treasure - our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcappedpeaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care byGod. That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers oncedeclared.
We,the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not requireperpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flamesof battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared bythe memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid forliberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilantagainst those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those whowon the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest offriends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.
Wewill defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and ruleof law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences withother nations peacefully - not because we are naive about the dangers we face,but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. Americawill remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and wewill renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad,for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerfulnation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americasto the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to acton behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hopeto the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice - not out ofmere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance ofthose principles that our common creed describes: tolerance andopportunity; human dignity and justice.
We,the people, declare today that the most evident of truths - that all of us arecreated equal - is the star that guides us still; just as it guided ourforebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided allthose men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this greatMall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaimthat our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soulon Earth.
Itis now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. Forour journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters canearn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete untilour gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law - forif we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one anothermust be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen isforced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is notcomplete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrantswho still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students andengineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from ourcountry. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from thestreets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown,know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.
Thatis our generation's task - to make these words, these rights, these values - ofLife, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness - real for everyAmerican. Being true to our founding documents does not require us toagree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty inexactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role ofgovernment for all time - but it does require us to act in our time.
Fornow decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistakeabsolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treatname-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work willbe imperfect. We must act, knowing that today's victories will be onlypartial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, andforty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit onceconferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
Myfellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recitedby others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not partyor faction - and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration ofour service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from theoath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrantrealizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we allmake to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.
Theyare the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.
Youand I, as citizens, have the power to set this country's course.
Youand I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time - notonly with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our mostancient values and enduring ideals.
Leteach of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lastingbirthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion anddedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertainfuture that precious light of freedom.
Thankyou, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.