Tuesday, January 20, 2009
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 forbearers, 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, 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
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict
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 faint-hearted—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