Open thread on Obama’s inauguration speech

In case you missed it…

What did you think of the speech? Right tone? Right content? What was missing? Share your thoughts, but no potshots between commenters, please.

Read the speech as prepared for delivery, after the jump…

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 have 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.

For more than two hundred 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 workers.

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, 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 people.

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. 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, and 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 creed.

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 is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped 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 naïve 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 will 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, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred 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 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.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • JAFO

    We can be grateful for the wisdom a past Congress and state legislatures showed when they passed and later ratified the 22nd Amendment. We’re over the hump now, the countdown begins. Only 1459 days until the country inaugurates a new president.

  • JohnW

    Re: #1 Only 1459 days until the country inaugurates a new president.

    Yes. Looking forward to her taking the oath of office.

  • JAFO

    Even “she” might be better than the Messianic narcissist we have now. The most that can be said about his inaugural address is that he carefully checked all the boxes.

  • JohnW

    I thought it was a very good address. Obviously a warmup for his State of the Union. No enduring quotes. But the last inaugural address people quote from extensively was delivered in 1961.

    “Messianic narcissist?” That’s an “oldie but goodie” from the 2008 campaign. But apparently 63 million voters either disagree or have a thing for messianism.

  • Elwood

    ” No enduring quotes.”

    Plenty of cliches though.

    And the oaf garbled the oath.

    ” But apparently 63 million voters either disagree or have a thing for messianism.”

    63 million kids, gays, minorities and an ever growing entitlement constituency.

    “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” –H.L. Mencken

  • GV Haste

    Thank God Jean Quan was there to represent Oakland.

    Once again, our mayor willing to go anywhere at any time to give creds to Oakland.

    You go girl! We’ll man the home front until you can retake command.

  • RR Senile Columnist

    Beyonce’s singing will be remembered longer than the speech.

  • JohnW

    Re: #5

    “63 million kids, gays, minorities and an ever growing entitlement constituency.”

    Is that you, Mitt?

  • Elwood

    @ John W #8

    No, it’s reality calling.

    The majority isn’t always correct. It’s just the majority.

  • JohnW

    Re: #9 Elwood

    Well, “reality calling,” I have to agree that, if only older white Protestant straight men were allowed to vote, Obama would have lost in a landslide.

    Obama did not get 63 million votes, or even a majority of his vote total from “gays, minorities and a growing entitlement constituency.”

    Voters 65+ are the largest bloc of the “entitlement constituency,” but that age group went for Romney. So, I guess you could say that Romney came as close as he did because of his support from the “entitlement constituency.”

    It’s true that Obama won to varying degrees among young voters, minorities and gays. He also won 55% of women and 69% of Jewish voters. So? The problem there isn’t the voters. It’s the clueless GOP, as even they are beginning to realize.

    African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians account for about 40% of Obama’s vote total, so they obviously aren’t solely responsible for his victory. In any event, their votes are as legitimate as anybody else’s.

    Obama got 60% of voters under 30, but Romney got 56% of voters over 65. And the over 65 group made up a larger share of the 2012 electorate than the under 30 group. So, the age thing is pretty much a wash. If anything, it was slightly in Romney’s favor.

    You are correct in saying that “the majority isn’t always correct.” I can think of some California propositions that prove that point. And I had that same sentiment when Bush won in 2000. Oh, I forgot, he didn’t get the most votes.

  • Alcoahead

    @9 —

    Yes, and thank God (wherever she is) for democracy, and saving us from the likes of would-be minority-fueled tyrants, yourself excluded, of course 😉

    I for one truly hope that Obama makes good on the pledge to ensure that millions of people in this great and wonderful country (the best on Earth, last time I checked) don’t have to wait on line for hours just to exercise their communistic, er, democratic right to vote.

  • Elwood

    Hillary Freaks Out!

    Calm, reasoned testimony from the next dimmiecrat presidential nominee!


  • Alcoahead

    @12 —

    Boehner Freaks Out!

    He says that Obammy is out to crush the GOP, and does so right in front of video cameras!

    To which I say to him, and others who “post” (the word “post” used VERY generously here):

    Evolve or die.

    Don’t let the casket lid hit you on the way down…and remember that you brought it down on yourselves.

    Team Obama 2012 is going to have a target painted on every GOP member of the House whose CD went for Obama in 2012, starting with…wait for it…Paulie Lyin of Janesville, WI!

  • JohnW

    Re: 12

    I’ve always wished that some person testifying before a Congressional committee of sanctimonious, abusive blowhards (R or D), would show them the middle finger and tell them to go xxxx themselves. Ollie North came pretty close when he testified on Iran-Contra. Hillary too. That was no freak out.

  • Elwood

    @ John W #14

    If that wasn’t a freak out, what would you call it, John?

    Acceptable behavior from the Secretary of State of the most powerful nation on earth, once and future presidential candidate?

    I don’t think so. Her Arkansas roots are showing.

  • JohnW


    Her Arkansas roots? Try Park Ridge, Illinois. I don’t think Arkansas ever rubbed off on her.

    I would call it vintage HRC. If Chris Christie had been testifying instead and had responded exactly as HRC did, nobody would call it “freaking out.” They would be cheering him for putting a dumb Tea Party Senator from Wisconsin in his place for his stupid questions.

  • Elwood

    Acceptable behavior from the Secretary of State of the most powerful nation on earth, once and future presidential candidate?

  • Elwood

    “”Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided they would go kill some Americans?” –Hillary

    Yeah, right. Hillary is a notorious liar, and a notoriously poor liar. Some guys out for a walk one night just happened to be carrying their RPGs and just decided to set up some mortars while they were at it.

    This reminds me of the cock and bull story she told during the primary campaign of rapidly descending into some airport somewhere, dropping flares to confuse heat seeking missiles. I guess she was unaware of the tape showing her being greeted by flower girls.

  • JohnW

    Re: 17 & 18

    Acceptable behavior? Oh, come off it! Your faux indignation is amusing.

    You make it sound like HRC was actually suggesting that it might have been just some guys out for a walk. Her point was that we’ve run the matter of Ambassador Rice and the “talking points” (which killed nobody) into the ground and that what everybody should be focussed on is addressing the issues and recommendations in the Accountability Review Board report (which Sen. Johnson evidently hadn’t bothered to read) to prevent as much as possible this kind of thing from happening elsewhere.

    I didn’t see her entire testimony, but I saw some excellent questions and answers in exchanges she had with better-informed and more serious-minded committee members. People like Sen. Barrasso (R-WY) and Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), neither of whom would be mistaken for RINO’s.

  • Elwood

    Hillary is a notorious liar, and a notoriously poor liar.

    The stink of corruption hangs around the Clintons like tule fog in the delta in winter.