The complete text of President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address and the complete text of the “We Are One” speech delivered Sunday, January 18, at the Lincoln Memorial, are presented at the end of this article.
At noon today, Senator Barack Obama became President Barack Obama, a few minutes before he actually took the oath of office. The transfer of power is dictated by law, and law says at 12 noon on January 20th.
In the ballroom at Austin Peay State University, students, teachers and guests watched as the hand of the clock ticked 12, triggering cheers, cries of “yes” and emotional tears of joy and hope, watching the event unfold on a projection screen. Minutes later, with his hand on the famed Lincoln Bible, Obama stood tall at the podium, swearing to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” His wife Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha, stood by his side. The APSU ballroom again filled with applause, cheers and tears.
It was a scene repeated across the country in the obvious places like Times Square in New York, Atlanta, Pasadena, and downtown Chicago, but also in places like Harlem, where large screens on street corners gave everyone a chance to view. In churches, public halls, classrooms and other venues, all eyes were on Washington, where more than two million people braved 20 degree temperatures and near single-digit wind chills to stand, wait and watch this piece of history unfold.
Terry McMoore, chairman of the local Clarksville for Obama, and his wife, Wanda, were on hand for the celebration, which did not come without solemnity and thought. McMoore, who successfully used technology to navigate the 2008 election campaign process, continues to keep his part of the Obama movement alive, with a new focus on the issue of community service that is dear to the new president’s heart.
“For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.”– President Barack Obama
For McMoore, one piece of that work began last Saturday with the first “National Day of Service.” Locally, a Clarksville for Obama-sponsored effort brought volunteers and donors to the city’s Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen, which serves up to 200 meals a day, six days a week, to the city’s less fortunate citizens. It’s the kind of event McMoore wants to see more of.
“Clarksville for Obama did its part to entrust (Obama) as our President; we worked with a mix of cultures that have come together. Obama has kept us active,” McMoore said. “People feel like they are a part of government, that they have a voice. We have a lot of work to do.”
Local NAACP Chapter President Jimmie Garland Sr., who on Monday marched in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade, watched a dream fulfilled. Garland summed up the day with a single word: “Awesome.”
“I never thought I would witness this. I saw him in the Kerry campaign (2004) and in 2006.” To see Obama move to the highest office in the land is inspirational, Garland said, voicing the hope that Obama’s success will inspire young people across the country. Following the inauguration ceremonies, Garland was heading off to call his mother, 85, and share feelings about this moment in history.
NEHS junior Bobby LaPlante, who volunteered with the Democratic Party, and his sister, Rochelle, an APSU freshman, watched the event unfold in the company of their mother, CO photographer Kelly LaPlante, and grandmother (this author).
“Having three generations of our family at this event is amazing and inspiring; what we do as a country in the next few years under the Obama administration will shape the direction of their lives.” — Christine Piesyk
Ronnie Hester, an APSU sophomore majoring in social work, was among the first to arrive for this event, and stayed riveted to the screen from the front of the room. Ecstatic but thoughtful, he said it was “a wonderful day, a new beginning.” He’s hoping to see reform that will assist more students in accessin and affording higher education.
Artist Debbie Boen, of the FreeThinkers for Peace and Civil Liberties, is working on a new background for the groups website, which currently has a picture of President Bush with the famous “No” symbol: a red circle with a slash through it. “She’s leaning toward a paraphrasing the Obama stumping theme, “Yes we can!” — turning it to “Yes we did!”
Sandra Shirley, an English major at APSU, took advantage of the opportunity to use designated class time to instead view the inauguration. As Obama took the oath of office, Shirley said “We have a man who deserves the title (President).”
A sign-in sheet for students forgave a class absence for attendance at this inauguration event, which was sponsored by the Austin Peay State University Student Government Association (SGA) and the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) , which includes Sigma Gamma Rho, Delta Sigma Theta, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, and Phi Beta Sigma.
Photos by Bill Larson
President Obama’s Inaugural Address
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 forebearers, 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 fainthearted — 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 toward 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 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 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 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 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.
“We Are One!”
The following are the prepared remarks for President-elect Barack Obama’s pre-inaugural “We Are One” speech at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, January 18.
I want to thank all the speakers and performers for reminding us, through song and through words, just what it is that we love about America. And I want to thank all of you for braving the cold and the crowds and traveling in some cases thousands of miles to join us here today.
Welcome to Washington, and welcome to this celebration of American renewal.
In the course of our history, only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now. Our nation is at war. Our economy is in crisis. Millions of Americans are losing their jobs and their homes; they’re worried about how they’ll afford college for their kids or pay the stack of bills on their kitchen table. And most of all, they are anxious and uncertain about the future – about whether this generation of Americans will be able to pass on what’s best about this country to our children and their children.
I won’t pretend that meeting any one of these challenges will be easy. It will take more than a month or a year, and it will likely take many. Along the way there will be setbacks and false starts and days that test our fundamental resolve as a nation.
But despite all of this – despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead – I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure – that the dream of our founders will live on in our time.
What gives me that hope is what I see when I look out across this mall. For in these monuments are chiseled those unlikely stories that affirm our unyielding faith – a faith that anything is possible in America. Rising before us stands a memorial to a man who led a small band of farmers and shopkeepers in revolution against the army of an Empire, all for the sake of an idea. On the ground below is a tribute to a generation that withstood war and depression – men and women like my grandparents who toiled on bomber assembly lines and marched across Europe to free the world from tyranny’s grasp. Directly in front of us is a pool that still reflects the dream of a King, and the glory of a people who marched and bled so that their children might be judged by their character’s content. And behind me, watching over the union he saved, sits the man who in so many ways made this day possible.
And yet, as I stand here tonight, what gives me the greatest hope of all is not the stone and marble that surrounds us today, but what fills the spaces in between. It is you – Americans of every race and region and station who came here because you believe in what this country can be and because you want to help us get there.
It is the same thing that gave me hope from the day we began this campaign for the presidency nearly two years ago; a belief that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; Latino, Asian, and Native American; black and white, gay and straight, disabled and not – then not only would we restore hope and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe, just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process.
This is what I believed, but you made this belief real. You proved once more that people who love this country can change it. And as I prepare to assume the presidency, yours are the voices I will take with me every day I walk into that Oval Office – the voices of men and women who have different stories but hold common hopes; who ask only for what was promised us as Americans – that we might make of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did.
It is this thread that binds us together in common effort; that runs through every memorial on this mall; that connects us to all those who struggled and sacrificed and stood here before.
It is how this nation has overcome the greatest differences and the longest odds – because there is no obstacle that can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change.
That is the belief with which we began this campaign, and that is how we will overcome what ails us now. There is no doubt that our road will be long. That our climb will be steep. But never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard. I ask you to help me reveal that character once more, and together, we can carry forward as one nation, and one people, the legacy of our forefathers that we celebrate today.