Obama Vows Not to Waver in America's Defense
(January 22, 2009)
President Barack Obama waves to the crowd at the conclusion of his inaugural address. DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2009 –
President Barack Obama pledged a “prudent use”
of military power as the nation works toward
“ushering in a new era of peace” in his
inaugural address to the nation today.
“Our security emanates from the justness of our
cause, the force of our example, the tempering
qualities of humility and restraint,” he said
from the west side of the Capitol here after
taking the oath of office as the 44th president.
An estimated 2 million people crowded the
National Mall and surrounding area to hear his
The use of these principles will allow America
to develop greater understanding of other nations
and greater cooperation against common threats
from them, he said.
“We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq
to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in
Afghanistan,” Obama said. “With old friends and former foes,
we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll
back the specter of a warming planet.” |
Obama said Americans will not apologize for their way of
life, nor 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,” he said.
America is a country of doers and risk-takers; it is an
immigrant country where each generation worked hard to
provide for the next, he said.
“For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and
traveled across oceans in search of a new life,” Obama said.
“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,” he continued. “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.”
Americans today must continue this journey, he said. It is
time for hard decisions and a time of change. “Our time of
standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off
unpleasant decisions, that time has surely passed,” he said.
“Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves
off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”
Obama rejected the idea that the nation has to choose
between its safety and its 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
In the United States, all languages are spoken, all
religions are practiced, and all good people are welcomed,
he said. “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,” he said.
Obama reached out to the nations of the world in his speech.
He told them 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.”
He also spoke to the Muslim world, saying America seeks a
new way forward, based on mutual interest and respect.
“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,”
the president said. “They have something to tell us, just as
the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington [National Cemetery]
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.”
He called on all Americans to shoulder that burden of
service. He said it is the faith and determination of the
American people upon which this nation relies.
“Greatness is never a given. It must be earned,” he said.
“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.”
The faith and determination of Americans can serve the
nation well in a time rife with challenges.
“Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of
violence and hatred,” the president said. “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.”
Americans have lost their homes, their jobs, their
businesses, and health care is too costly, he said. Schools
are failing too many, and the American energy policy plays
into the hands of the nation's enemies.
“These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and
statistics,” he said.
These are disturbing, but more disturbing is a sapping of
confidence and the fear that with this decline the next
generation must lower its sights, he said.
“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real,”
the president said. “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.”
While the challenges of this age are new, the values which
have seen the country through in the past will best serve
the nation, Obama said. “Honesty and hard work, courage and
fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism
-- these things are old, but these things are true,” he
America must return to these truths, he said. “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,” Obama said.
“This is the price and the promise of citizenship,” he said.
“This is the source of our confidence, the knowledge that
God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.”
If Americans seize this responsibility, then the challenges
will be surmounted, he said.
“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,” Obama said.
Article by Jim Garamone
DoD photos by Navy Petty
Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
American Forces Press Service
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Pictorial of President Barack Obama's Inauguration
President Barack Obama's 2009 Inauguration Address
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