Barack Obama Inauguration Address - January 21, 2013

Dublin Core


Barack Obama Inauguration Address - January 21, 2013


Inauguration Address Delivered During a Major US War


Thank you. Thank you so much.

Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States
Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the
enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our
democracy. We recall that what binds this Nation together is not the
colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or 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 two
centuries ago:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal;
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;
that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those
words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while
these truths may be self-evident, they've never been self-executing;
that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people
here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny
of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave
to us a republic, a government of and by and for the people, entrusting
each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

And for more than 200 years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no
union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive
half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move
forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and
highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are
rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable
and protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central
authority nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society's ills
can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and
enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility,
these are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that
fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new
challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires
collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands
of today's world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met
the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single
person can train all the math and science teachers we'll need to equip
our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and
research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now
more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our
resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An
economic recovery has begun. America's possibilities are limitless, for
we possess all the qualities that this 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 it together.

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a
shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe
that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising
middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find
independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor
liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed
when a little girl born into the bleakest 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 eyes of God, but also in our own.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our
time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our
government, revamp our Tax Code, reform our schools, and empower our
citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach
higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation
that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That
is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic
measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce
the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the
belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that
built this country and investing in the generation that will build its
future. For we remember 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 not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the
lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how
responsibly 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
commitments we 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 us a nation of takers; 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 to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat
of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our
children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming
judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging
fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.

The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes
difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it.
We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs
and new industries, we must claim its promise. That's how we will
maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure-our forests and
waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will
preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That's what will lend
meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace
do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform,
tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage.
Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well
the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice
will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. 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 those
lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms
and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our
differences with other nations peacefully-not because we are naive about
the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift
suspicion and fear.

America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of
the globe. And we will 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 powerful nation. We will support 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 those who 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, but
because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those
principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity,
human dignity and justice.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths-that all
of us are created equal-is the star that guides us still; just as it
guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall; just
as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left
footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot
walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is
inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began.
For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and
daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not
complete until our gay brothers and sisters are 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. Our journey is not complete
until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to
vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome
the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of
opportunity-until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in
our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not
complete until all our children, from the streets 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.

That is our generation's task-to make these words, these rights, these
values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every
American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to
agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty
in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness.
Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the
role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.

For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot
mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics or
treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our
work will be imperfect. We must act, we must act knowing that today's
victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand
here in 4 years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless
spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the
one recited by others who serve 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 taken each time a soldier
signs up for duty or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so
different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and
that fills our hearts with pride.

They are the words of citizens and they represent our greatest hope. You
and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country's course. You and
I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time-not
only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of
our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let us, each of us, now embrace with solemn duty and awesome joy what is
our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with
passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into
an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you. God bless you, and may He forever bless these United States
of America.


January 21, 2013



“Barack Obama Inauguration Address - January 21, 2013,” Presidential Inaugural Addresses on the Brink of War, accessed December 13, 2017,