spend. We must act now to protect future generations from Government's
desire to spend its citizens' money and tax them into servitude when
the bills come due. Let us make it unconstitutional for the Federal
Government to spend more than the Federal Government takes in.
We have already started returning to the people and to State and local
governments responsibilities better handled by them. Now, there is a
place for the Federal Government in matters of social compassion. But
our fundamental goals must be to reduce dependency and upgrade the
dignity of those who are infirm or disadvantaged. And here a growing
economy and support from family and community offer our best chance for
a society where compassion is a way of life, where the old and infirm
are cared for, the young and, yes, the unborn protected, and the
unfortunate looked after and made self-sufficient.
And there is another area where the Federal Government can play a part.
As an older American, I remember a time when people of different race,
creed, or ethnic origin in our land found hatred and prejudice
installed in social custom and, yes, in law. There is no story more
heartening in our history than the progress that we have made toward
the "brotherhood of man" that God intended for us. Let us resolve there
will be no turning back or hesitation on the road to an America rich in
dignity and abundant with opportunity for all our citizens.
Let us resolve that we the people will build an American opportunity
society in which all of us - white and black, rich and poor, young and
old - will go forward together arm in arm. Again, let us remember that
though our heritage is one of blood lines from every corner of the
Earth, we are all Americans pledged to carry on this last, best hope of
man on Earth.
I have spoken of our domestic goals and the limitations which we should
put on our National Government. Now let me turn to a task which is the
primary responsibility of National Government - the safety and security
of our people.
Today, we utter no prayer more fervently than the ancient prayer for
peace on Earth. Yet history has shown that peace will not come, nor
will our freedom be preserved, by good will alone. There are those in
the world who scorn our vision of human dignity and freedom. One
nation, the Soviet Union, has conducted the greatest military buildup
in the history of man, building arsenals of awesome offensive weapons.
We have made progress in restoring our defense capability. But much
remains to be done. There must be no wavering by us, nor any doubts by
others, that America will meet her responsibilities to remain free,
secure, and at peace.
There is only one way safely and legitimately to reduce the cost of
national security, and that is to reduce the need for it. And this we
are trying to do in negotiations with the Soviet Union. We are not just
discussing limits on a further increase of nuclear weapons. We seek,
instead, to reduce their number. We seek the total elimination one day
of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.
Now, for decades, we and the Soviets have lived under the threat of
mutual assured destruction; if either resorted to the use of nuclear
weapons, the other could retaliate and destroy the one who had started
it. Is there either logic or morality in believing that if one side
threatens to kill tens of millions of our people, our only recourse is
to threaten killing tens of millions of theirs?
I have approved a research program to find, if we can, a security
shield that would destroy nuclear missiles before they reach their
target. It wouldn't kill people, it would destroy weapons. It wouldn't
militarize space, it would help demilitarize the arsenals of Earth. It
would render nuclear weapons obsolete. We will meet with the Soviets,
hoping that we can agree on a way to rid the world of the threat of
We strive for peace and security, heartened by the changes all around
us. Since the turn of the century, the number of democracies in the
world has grown fourfold. Human freedom is on the march, and nowhere
more so than our own hemisphere. Freedom is one of the deepest and
noblest aspirations of the human spirit. People, worldwide, hunger for
the right of self-determination, for those inalienable rights that make
for human dignity and progress.
America must remain freedom's staunchest friend, for freedom is our
And it is the world's only hope, to conquer poverty and preserve peace.
Every blow we inflict against poverty will be a blow against its dark
allies of oppression and war. Every victory for human freedom will be a
victory for world peace.
So we go forward today, a nation still mighty in its youth and powerful
in its purpose. With our alliances strengthened, with our economy
leading the world to a new age of economic expansion, we look forward
to a world rich in possibilities. And all this because we have worked
and acted together, not as members of political parties, but as
My friends, we live in a world that is lit by lightning. So much is
changing and will change, but so much endures, and transcends time.
History is a ribbon, always unfurling; history is a journey. And as we
continue our journey, we think of those who traveled before us. We
stand together again at the steps of this symbol of our democracy - or
we would have been standing at the steps if it hadn't gotten so cold.
Now we are standing inside this symbol of our democracy. Now we hear
again the echoes of our past: a general falls to his knees in the hard
snow of Valley Forge; a lonely President paces the darkened halls, and
ponders his struggle to preserve the Union; the men of the Alamo call
out encouragement to each other; a settler pushes west and sings a
song, and the song echoes out forever and fills the unknowing air.
It is the American sound. It is hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic,
daring, decent, and fair. That's our heritage; that is our song. We
sing it still. For all our problems, our differences, we are together
as of old, as we raise our voices to the God who is the Author of this
most tender music. And may He continue to hold us close as we fill the
world with our sound - sound in unity, affection, and love - one people
under God, dedicated to the dream of freedom that He has placed in the
human heart, called upon now to pass that dream on to a waiting and
God bless you and may God bless America.
Friday, January 20, 1989
Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. President, Vice President Quayle, Senator
Mitchell, Speaker Wright, Senator Dole, Congressman Michel, and fellow
citizens, neighbors, and friends:
There is a man here who has earned a lasting place in our hearts and in
our history. President Reagan, on behalf of our Nation, I thank you for
the wonderful things that you have done for America.
I have just repeated word for word the oath taken by George Washington
200 years ago, and the Bible on which I placed my hand is the Bible on
which he placed his. It is right that the memory of Washington be with
us today, not only because this is our Bicentennial Inauguration, but
because Washington remains the Father of our Country. And he would, I
think, be gladdened by this day; for today is the concrete expression
of a stunning fact: our continuity these 200 years since our government
We meet on democracy's front porch, a good place to talk as neighbors
and as friends. For this is a day when our nation is made whole, when
our differences, for a moment, are suspended.
And my first act as President is a prayer. I ask you to bow your heads:
Heavenly Father, we bow our heads and thank You for Your love. Accept
our thanks for the peace that yields this day and the shared faith that
makes its continuance likely. Make us strong to do Your work, willing
to heed and hear Your will, and write on our hearts these words: "Use
power to help people." For we are given power not to advance our own
purposes, nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is
but one just use of power, and it is to serve people. Help us to
remember it, Lord. Amen.
I come before you and assume the Presidency at a moment rich with
promise. We live in a peaceful, prosperous time, but we can make it
better. For a new breeze is blowing, and a world refreshed by freedom
seems reborn; for in man's heart, if not in fact, the day of the
dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas blown
away like leaves from an ancient, lifeless tree. A new breeze is
blowing, and a nation refreshed by freedom stands ready to push on.
There is new ground to be broken, and new action to be taken. There are
times when the future seems thick as a fog; you sit and wait, hoping
the mists will lift and reveal the right path. But this is a time when
the future seems a door you can walk right through into a room called
Great nations of the world are moving toward democracy through the door
to freedom. Men and women of the world move toward free markets through
the door to prosperity. The people of the world agitate for free
expression and free thought through the door to the moral and
intellectual satisfactions that only liberty allows.
We know what works: Freedom works. We know what's right: Freedom is
right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on
Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections, and the
exercise of free will unhampered by the state.
For the first time in this century, for the first time in perhaps all
history, man does not have to invent a system by which to live. We
don't have to talk late into the night about which form of government
is better. We don't have to wrest justice from the kings. We only have
to summon it from within ourselves. We must act on what we know. I take
as my guide the hope of a saint: In crucial things, unity; in important
things, diversity; in all things, generosity.
America today is a proud, free nation, decent and civil, a place we
cannot help but love. We know in our hearts, not loudly and proudly,
but as a simple fact, that this country has meaning beyond what we see,
and that our strength is a force for good. But have we changed as a
nation even in our time? Are we enthralled with material things, less
appreciative of the nobility of work and sacrifice?
My friends, we are not the sum of our possessions. They are not the
measure of our lives. In our hearts we know what matters. We cannot
hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We
must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a
loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town
better than he found it. What do we want the men and women who work
with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to
succeed than anyone around us? Or that we stopped to ask if a sick
child had gotten better, and stayed a moment there to trade a word of
No President, no government, can teach us to remember what is best in
what we are. But if the man you have chosen to lead this government can
help make a difference; if he can celebrate the quieter, deeper
successes that are made not of gold and silk, but of better hearts and
finer souls; if he can do these things, then he must.
America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral
principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make
kinder the face of the Nation and gentler the face of the world. My
friends, we have work to do. There are the homeless, lost and roaming.
There are the children who have nothing, no love, no normalcy. There
are those who cannot free themselves of enslavement to whatever
addiction - drugs, welfare, the demoralization that rules the slums.
There is crime to be conquered, the rough crime of the streets. There
are young women to be helped who are about to become mothers of
children they can't care for and might not love. They need our care,
our guidance, and our education, though we bless them for choosing life.
The old solution, the old way, was to think that public money alone
could end these problems. But we have learned that is not so. And in
any case, our funds are low. We have a deficit to bring down. We have
more will than wallet; but will is what we need. We will make the hard
choices, looking at what we have and perhaps allocating it differently,
making our decisions based on honest need and prudent safety. And then
we will do the wisest thing of all: We will turn to the only resource
we have that in times of need always grows - the goodness and the
courage of the American people.
I am speaking of a new engagement in the lives of others, a new
activism, hands-on and involved, that gets the job done. We must bring
in the generations, harnessing the unused talent of the elderly and the
unfocused energy of the young. For not only leadership is passed from
generation to generation, but so is stewardship. And the generation
born after the Second World War has come of age.
I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community
organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing
good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading,
sometimes being led, rewarding. We will work on this in the White
House, in the Cabinet agencies. I will go to the people and the
programs that are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every
member of my government to become involved. The old ideas are new again
because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice,
commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part
and pitching in.
We need a new engagement, too, between the Executive and the Congress.
The challenges before us will be thrashed out with the House and the
Senate. We must bring the Federal budget into balance. And we must
ensure that America stands before the world united, strong, at peace,
and fiscally sound. But, of course, things may be difficult. We need
compromise; we have had dissension. We need harmony; we have had a
chorus of discordant voices.
For Congress, too, has changed in our time. There has grown a certain
divisiveness. We have seen the hard looks and heard the statements in
which not each other's ideas are challenged, but each other's motives.
And our great parties have too often been far apart and untrusting of
each other. It has been this way since Vietnam. That war cleaves us
still. But, friends, that war began in earnest a quarter of a century
ago; and surely the statute of limitations has been reached. This is a
fact: The final lesson of Vietnam is that no great nation can long
afford to be sundered by a memory. A new breeze is blowing, and the old
bipartisanship must be made new again.
To my friends - and yes, I do mean friends - in the loyal opposition -
and yes, I mean loyal: I put out my hand. I am putting out my hand to
you, Mr. Speaker. I am putting out my hand to you, Mr. Majority Leader.
For this is the thing: This is the age of the offered hand. We can't
turn back clocks, and I don't want to. But when our fathers were young,
Mr. Speaker, our differences ended at the water's edge. And we don't
wish to turn back time, but when our mothers were young, Mr. Majority
Leader, the Congress and the Executive were capable of working together
to produce a budget on which this nation could live. Let us negotiate
soon and hard. But in the end, let us produce. The American people
await action. They didn't send us here to bicker. They ask us to rise
above the merely partisan. "In crucial things, unity" - and this, my
friends, is crucial.
To the world, too, we offer new engagement and a renewed vow: We will
stay strong to protect the peace. The "offered hand" is a reluctant
fist; but once made, strong, and can be used with great effect. There
are today Americans who are held against their will in foreign lands,
and Americans who are unaccounted for. Assistance can be shown here,
and will be long remembered. Good will begets good will. Good faith can
be a spiral that endlessly moves on.
Great nations like great men must keep their word. When America says
something, America means it, whether a treaty or an agreement or a vow
made on marble steps. We will always try to speak clearly, for candor
is a compliment, but subtlety, too, is good and has its place. While
keeping our alliances and friendships around the world strong, ever
strong, we will continue the new closeness with the Soviet Union,
consistent both with our security and with progress. One might say that
our new relationship in part reflects the triumph of hope and strength
over experience. But hope is good, and so are strength and vigilance.
Here today are tens of thousands of our citizens who feel the
understandable satisfaction of those who have taken part in democracy
and seen their hopes fulfilled. But my thoughts have been turning the
past few days to those who would be watching at home, to an older
fellow who will throw a salute by himself when the flag goes by, and
the women who will tell her sons the words of the battle hymns. I don't
mean this to be sentimental. I mean that on days like this, we remember
that we are all part of a continuum, inescapably connected by the ties
Our children are watching in schools throughout our great land. And to
them I say, thank you for watching democracy's big day. For democracy
belongs to us all, and freedom is like a beautiful kite that can go
higher and higher with the breeze. And to all I say: No matter what
your circumstances or where you are, you are part of this day, you are
part of the life of our great nation.
A President is neither prince nor pope, and I don't seek a window on
men's souls. In fact, I yearn for a greater tolerance, an
easy-goingness about each other's attitudes and way of life.
There are few clear areas in which we as a society must rise up united
and express our intolerance. The most obvious now is drugs. And when
that first cocaine was smuggled in on a ship, it may as well have been
a deadly bacteria, so much has it hurt the body, the soul of our
country. And there is much to be done and to be said, but take my word
for it: This scourge will stop.
And so, there is much to do; and tomorrow the work begins. I do not
mistrust the future; I do not fear what is ahead. For our problems are
large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will
is greater. And if our flaws are endless, God's love is truly boundless.
Some see leadership as high drama, and the sound of trumpets calling,
and sometimes it is that. But I see history as a book with many pages,
and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning. The
new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds. And so today a
chapter begins, a small and stately story of unity, diversity, and
generosity - shared, and written, together.
Thank you. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.
First Inaugural Address
Wednesday, January 21, 1993
My fellow citizens:
Today we celebrate the mystery of American renewal.
This ceremony is held in the depth of winter. But, by the words we
speak and the faces we show the world, we force the spring.
A spring reborn in the world's oldest democracy, that brings forth the
vision and courage to reinvent America.
When our founders boldly declared America's independence to the world
and our purposes to the Almighty, they knew that America, to endure,
would have to change.
Not change for change's sake, but change to preserve America's ideals -
life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Though we march to the music
of our time, our mission is timeless.
Each generation of Americans must define what it means to be an
On behalf of our nation, I salute my predecessor, President Bush, for
his half-century of service to America.
And I thank the millions of men and women whose steadfastness and
sacrifice triumphed over Depression, fascism and Communism.
Today, a generation raised in the shadows of the Cold War assumes new
responsibilities in a world warmed by the sunshine of freedom but
threatened still by ancient hatreds and new plagues.
Raised in unrivaled prosperity, we inherit an economy that is still the
world's strongest, but is weakened by business failures, stagnant
wages, increasing inequality, and deep divisions among our people.
When George Washington first took the oath I have just sworn to uphold,
news traveled slowly across the land by horseback and across the ocean
by boat. Now, the sights and sounds of this ceremony are broadcast
instantaneously to billions around the world.
Communications and commerce are global; investment is mobile;
technology is almost magical; and ambition for a better life is now
universal. We earn our livelihood in peaceful competition with people
all across the earth.
Profound and powerful forces are shaking and remaking our world, and
the urgent question of our time is whether we can make change our
friend and not our enemy.
This new world has already enriched the lives of millions of Americans
who are able to compete and win in it. But when most people are working
harder for less; when others cannot work at all; when the cost of
health care devastates families and threatens to bankrupt many of our
enterprises, great and small; when fear of crime robs law-abiding
citizens of their freedom; and when millions of poor children cannot
even imagine the lives we are calling them to lead - we have not made
change our friend.
We know we have to face hard truths and take strong steps. But we have
not done so. Instead, we have drifted, and that drifting has eroded our
resources, fractured our economy, and shaken our confidence.
Though our challenges are fearsome, so are our strengths. And Americans
have ever been a restless, questing, hopeful people. We must bring to
our task today the vision and will of those who came before us.
From our revolution, the Civil War, to the Great Depression to the
civil rights movement, our people have always mustered the
determination to construct from these crises the pillars of our history.
Thomas Jefferson believed that to preserve the very foundations of our
nation, we would need dramatic change from time to time. Well, my
fellow citizens, this is our time. Let us embrace it.
Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of
our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be
cured by what is right with America.
And so today, we pledge an end to the era of deadlock and drift - a new
season of American renewal has begun.
To renew America, we must be bold.
We must do what no generation has had to do before. We must invest more
in our own people, in their jobs, in their future, and at the same time
cut our massive debt. And we must do so in a world in which we must
compete for every opportunity.
It will not be easy; it will require sacrifice. But it can be done, and
done fairly, not choosing sacrifice for its own sake, but for our own
sake. We must provide for our nation the way a family provides for its
Our Founders saw themselves in the light of posterity. We can do no
less. Anyone who has ever watched a child's eyes wander into sleep
knows what posterity is. Posterity is the world to come - the world for
whom we hold our ideals, from whom we have borrowed our planet, and to
whom we bear sacred responsibility.
We must do what America does best: offer more opportunity to all and
demand responsibility from all.
It is time to break the bad habit of expecting something for nothing,
from our government or from each other. Let us all take more
responsibility, not only for ourselves and our families but for our
communities and our country.
To renew America, we must revitalize our democracy.
This beautiful capital, like every capital since the dawn of
civilization, is often a place of intrigue and calculation. Powerful
people maneuver for position and worry endlessly about who is in and
who is out, who is up and who is down, forgetting those people whose
toil and sweat sends us here and pays our way.
Americans deserve better, and in this city today, there are people who
want to do better. And so I say to all of us here, let us resolve to
reform our politics, so that power and privilege no longer shout down
the voice of the people. Let us put aside personal advantage so that we
can feel the pain and see the promise of America.