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Obama-inauguration-speech
This is the transcript of President Obama’s inauguration speech. I have edited out the applause lines and made other cosmetic changes for clarity.

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 forbearers, 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, 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 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 our 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 costs.

 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. 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 knowledge 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. The 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 the 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 that 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 we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the 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’ll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard- earned peace in Afghanistan.

 With old friends and former foes, we’ll 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 nonbelievers. 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 the 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, 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, honesty and hard work, 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 60 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 in 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 nine 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.

Thank you. God bless you.

And God bless the United States of America.

[source]

Part 1 of 2:

Part 2 of 2:

now, Mr. President – get to work.

UPDATE: here’s video of President Obama’s inauguration speech (in two parts) from YouTube. And here’s the transcript and word cloud.

Barack Obama strove to avoid race as a defining issue for his campaign. Part of this was pragmatic; running as an explicitly “Black” candidate would have hurt his electability beyond the racial silo, not because of racism per se but rather because tying yourself to any one identity too strongly by necessity pushes other identities further away. The Reverend Wright affair forced Obama’s hand, but even then he did not acknowledge race so much as retire it. The speech on race he gave was perhaps a defining moment in American politics, the seed for a post-racial future ideal, a triumph by any definition – and yet also, another successful changing of the topic away from race.

In fact even as Obama prepares to take the oath of office tomorrow, the day after a national holiday honoring the dream of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. of which Obama is the literal manifestation, Obama still seeks to minimize the racial aspect of his historic victory:

Barack Obama will have a rival for the spotlight at Tuesday’s Inauguration: the nation’s First Black President.

The swearing-in of the country’s first-ever African-American
commander-in-chief will be a central storyline for the media and for
many in the jubilant crowd — but it is not the tale Team Obama is
trying to tell.

There’s a natural temptation to situate Obama’s inauguration in the arc
of the civil rights movement. A huge sign in a Georgetown shop window
recounts a saying that circulated during the campaign: “Rosa sat so
Martin could walk; Martin walked so Obama could run; Obama is running
so our children can fly!”

But aside from the inescapable — the location of the Lincoln Memorial,
where King gave his “I Have a Dream Speech,” and the fact that the King
holiday comes a day before the inauguration – Obama’s Inauguration
celebrations will do little to promote him as the carrier of that torch.

“We’ve tried to make sure that from the people’s point of view, this is
about them,” says Douglass. “This is not a celebration of an election —
it is a celebration of our common values.

This is the right thing to do – history itself will do its part in framing Obama within the arc of the civil rights movement and evaluating how his presidency meets the ideals of the civil rights era. By necessity, these are comparisons and analyses that must come at the end of the Obama Presidency, not it’s beginning.

And yet, it is also true that the symbolism matters. A fantastic retrospective biography of Obama in the Washington Post draws the timeline explicitly – Obama was literally born at the same time as the civil rights movement itself:

He was born on Aug. 4, 1961. On that day in Alabama and Mississippi,
an early voting rights battle was waged, with lawsuits filed in three
counties where voting officials imposed prohibitively rigid standards
on black applicants. In one Mississippi county, there were 2,490 blacks
¿ and none was registered to vote. In New Orleans that day, a federal
appeals court ruled on the expulsion of six black students from Alabama
State College who staged a sit-in at the Montgomery County Courthouse
lunch grill, where African Americans could not eat. In Washington, five
blacks who had been arrested by security police for trying to integrate
the Glen Echo Amusement Park in the Maryland suburbs were asking the
U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

And in Shreveport, La., on
the day Obama was born, a squadron of policemen assembled in the
Continental Trailways bus depot to uphold local and state laws
prohibiting black people from stepping foot in a waiting room reserved
for whites. Across the Deep South that summer, black and white Freedom
Riders had encountered violence and arrests as they challenged Jim Crow
laws by trying to integrate buses and bus stations. At 5:20 that August
morning, four African Americans arrived at the Trailways depot with
tickets to take the 5:45 from Shreveport to Jackson, Miss., the hub of
protests where hundreds of Freedom Riders had been arrested in previous
months. When the four attempted to enter the white waiting room, they
were met by the Shreveport police chief and 40 officers. The riders
refused orders to leave and were arrested for disturbing the peace,
along with two compatriots who had driven them to the bus station and
were accused of “counseling and encouraging” them.

Aug. 4, 1964,
the day Obama turned 3, was one of the seminal tragic dates in civil
rights history. It was on that day that FBI agents in Mississippi, at
the end of a two month search, discovered the bodies of Michael
Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney after bulldozing a partly
constructed earthen dam in the woods outside the town of Philadelphia.
The three men ¿ Goodman and Schwerner white, Chaney black, all
voting-rights organizers during what was known as Freedom Summer ¿ had
been murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan with the implicit
acquiescence of racist local authorities.

This historical context gives us a sense of just how much distance has been covered from a civil rights perspective – how short a time ago, was America the home of the brave indeed but not the land of the free, and still failing to live up to the promise of its founding!

It is fitting that Obama invoke the Founders, then, tomorrow. What MLK Jr. did was to remind America of the promise of its origins, not define some new level of liberty for America to reach beyond. It is the Founding vision of America that Obama represents, and the Reverend was a moral guide along that journey to full fruition. Obama himself does not represent the end of that journey, but rather the beginning. We have only truly arrived now. This is the new Freedom Ride.

related: My previous post on the Freedom Riders. Also a must-read is the full text of Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.