Vice President Cheney, Mr. Chief Justice, President Carter, President Bush, President Clinton, members of the United States Congress, reverend clergy, distinguished guests, fellow citizens:
On this day, prescribed by law and marked by ceremony, we celebrate the durable wisdom of our Constitution and recall the deep commitments that unite our country. I am grateful for the honor of this hour, mindful of the consequential times in which we live and determined to fulfill the oath that I have sworn and you have witnessed.
At this second gathering, our duties are defined not by the words I use, but by the history we have seen together. For a half-century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical-and then there came a day of fire. [This phrase contains three religious allusions. The first is reminiscent of Hebrew Bible language, which refers throughout to Judgment Day as a day of fire; the second allusion is to the New Testament Book of Revelation, which also refers to Judgment Day as a day of fire; the third reference is to the story of Pentecost, found in the New Testament Book of Acts, in which the Holy Spirit descends to earth as wind and fire. In addition, "Day of Fire" is the name of an up-and-coming Christian rock band.]
We have seen our vulnerability, and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny-prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder-violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders and raise a mortal threat.
There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment and expose the pretensions of tyrants and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant. And that is the force of human freedom.
We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.
America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this Earth has rights, and dignity and matchless value because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and Earth. [Elegant phrasing that resonates with Christians, Jews, and Muslims.]
Across the generations, we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. [This is a reference to the Apostle Paul, writing in Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.]
Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security and the calling of our time.
So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.
This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen and defended by citizens and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own.
America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way.
The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause.
My most solemn duty is to protect this nation and its people from further attacks and emerging threats. Some have unwisely chosen to test America's resolve and have found it firm.
We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation -- the moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.