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President Barack Obama’s 2013 Presidential Inauguration Speech

President Barack Obama’s 2013 Presidential Inauguration Speech

By Floyd Miller

 

 

 

Vice President Biden,Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests,and fellow citizens: Each time we gather toinaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of ourConstitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what bindsthis nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faithor the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American- is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than twocenturies ago: President Barack Obamadelivers his second inaugural speech, discussing how as a country we will movetogether, and that “America’s possibilities are limitless.” “We hold thesetruths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they areendowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these areLife, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”  {{more}} Today we continue anever-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realitiesof our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident,they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, itmust be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fightto replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of amob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people,entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed. For more than twohundred years, we have. Through blood drawn bylash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on theprinciples of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. Wemade ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together. Together, wedetermined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speedtravel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers. Together, wediscovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensurecompetition and fair play. Together, we resolvedthat a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people fromlife’s worst hazards and misfortune. Through it all, wehave never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have wesuccumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured throughgovernment alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistenceon hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character. But we have alwaysunderstood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our foundingprinciples requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving ourindividual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the Americanpeople can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone thanAmerican soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism withmuskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and scienceteachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roadsand networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to ourshores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation,and one people. This generation ofAmericans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved ourresilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun.America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities thatthis world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness;an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans,we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize ittogether. For we, the people,understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very welland a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity mustrest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that Americathrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when thewages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are trueto our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that shehas the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, sheis free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own. We understand thatoutworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness newideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform ourschools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder,learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purposeendures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every singleAmerican. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give realmeaning to our creed. We, the people, stillbelieve that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. Wemust make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size ofour deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caringfor the generation that built this country and investing in the generation thatwill build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilightyears were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability hadnowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reservedfor the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter howresponsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss,or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitmentswe make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security -these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make usa nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this countrygreat. We, the people, stillbelieve that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to allposterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that thefailure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some maystill deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid thedevastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerfulstorms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimesdifficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. Wecannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and newindustries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain oureconomic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; ourcroplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet,commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed ourfathers once declared. We, the people, stillbelieve that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, areunmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those wehave lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge oftheir sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do usharm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war,who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry thoselessons into this time as well. We will defend ourpeople and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We willshow the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nationspeacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but becauseengagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain theanchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renewthose institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no onehas a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We willsupport democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East,because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of thosewho long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick,the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, butbecause peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principlesthat our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity andjustice. We, the people,declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are createdequal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebearsthrough Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those menand women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to heara preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that ourindividual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. It is now ourgeneration’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is notcomplete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal totheir efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sistersare treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal,then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Ourjourney is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours toexercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a betterway to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a landof opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in ourworkforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not completeuntil all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachiato the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, andalways safe from harm. That is ourgeneration’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life,and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being trueto our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour oflife; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, orfollow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us tosettle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – butit does require us to act in our time. For now decisions areupon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism forprinciple, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling asreasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We mustact, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will beup to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundredyears hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a sparePhiladelphia hall. My fellow Americans,the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others whoserve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction -and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service.But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is takeneach time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. Myoath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that wavesabove and that fills our hearts with pride. They are the words ofcitizens, and they represent our greatest hope. You and I, ascitizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, ascitizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only withthe votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancientvalues and enduring ideals. Let each of us nowembrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. Withcommon effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answerthe call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light offreedom. Thank you, God Blessyou, and may He forever bless these United States of America.