Let us resolve to make our government a place for what Franklin
Roosevelt called "bold, persistent experimentation," a government for
our tomorrows, not our yesterdays.
Let us give this capital back to the people to whom it belongs.
To renew America, we must meet challenges abroad as well at home. There
is no longer division between what is foreign and what is domestic -
the world economy, the world environment, the world AIDS crisis, the
world arms race - they affect us all.
Today, as an old order passes, the new world is more free but less
stable. Communism's collapse has called forth old animosities and new
dangers. Clearly America must continue to lead the world we did so much
While America rebuilds at home, we will not shrink from the challenges,
nor fail to seize the opportunities, of this new world. Together with
our friends and allies, we will work to shape change, lest it engulf us.
When our vital interests are challenged, or the will and conscience of
the international community is defied, we will act - with peaceful
diplomacy when ever possible, with force when necessary. The brave
Americans serving our nation today in the Persian Gulf, in Somalia, and
wherever else they stand are testament to our resolve.
But our greatest strength is the power of our ideas, which are still
new in many lands. Across the world, we see them embraced - and we
rejoice. Our hopes, our hearts, our hands, are with those on every
continent who are building democracy and freedom. Their cause is
The American people have summoned the change we celebrate today. You
have raised your voices in an unmistakable chorus. You have cast your
votes in historic numbers. And you have changed the face of Congress,
the presidency and the political process itself. Yes, you, my fellow
Americans have forced the spring. Now, we must do the work the season
To that work I now turn, with all the authority of my office. I ask the
Congress to join with me. But no president, no Congress, no government,
can undertake this mission alone. My fellow Americans, you, too, must
play your part in our renewal. I challenge a new generation of young
Americans to a season of service - to act on your idealism by helping
troubled children, keeping company with those in need, reconnecting our
torn communities. There is so much to be done - enough indeed for
millions of others who are still young in spirit to give of themselves
in service, too.
In serving, we recognize a simple but powerful truth - we need each
other. And we must care for one another. Today, we do more than
celebrate America; we rededicate ourselves to the very idea of America.
An idea born in revolution and renewed through 2 centuries of
challenge. An idea tempered by the knowledge that, but for fate, we -
the fortunate and the unfortunate - might have been each other. An idea
ennobled by the faith that our nation can summon from its myriad
diversity the deepest measure of unity. An idea infused with the
conviction that America's long heroic journey must go forever upward.
And so, my fellow Americans, at the edge of the 21st century, let us
begin with energy and hope, with faith and discipline, and let us work
until our work is done. The scripture says, "And let us not be weary in
well-doing, for in due season, we shall reap, if we faint not."
From this joyful mountaintop of celebration, we hear a call to service
in the valley. We have heard the trumpets. We have changed the guard.
And now, each in our way, and with God's help, we must answer the call.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Second Inaugural Address
January 20, 1997
My fellow citizens:
At this last presidential inauguration of the 20th century, let us lift
our eyes toward the challenges that await us in the next century. It is
our great good fortune that time and chance have put us not only at the
edge of a new century, in a new millennium, but on the edge of a bright
new prospect in human affairs - a moment that will define our course,
and our character, for decades to come. We must keep our old democracy
forever young. Guided by the ancient vision of a promised land, let us
set our sights upon a land of new promise.
The promise of America was born in the 18th century out of the bold
conviction that we are all created equal. It was extended and preserved
in the 19th century, when our nation spread across the continent, saved
the union, and abolished the awful scourge of slavery.
Then, in turmoil and triumph, that promise exploded onto the world
stage to make this the American Century.
And what a century it has been. America became the worlds
mightiest industrial power; saved the world from tyranny in two world
wars and a long cold war; and time and again, reached out across the
globe to millions who, like us, longed for the blessings of liberty.
Along the way, Americans produced a great middle class and security in
old age; built unrivaled centers of learning and opened public schools
to all; split the atom and explored the heavens; invented the computer
and the microchip; and deepened the wellspring of justice by making a
revolution in civil rights for African Americans and all minorities,
and extending the circle of citizenship, opportunity and dignity to
Now, for the third time, a new century is upon us, and another time to
choose. We began the 19th century with a choice, to spread our nation
from coast to coast. We began the 20th century with a choice, to
harness the Industrial Revolution to our values of free enterprise,
conservation, and human decency. Those choices made all the difference.
At the dawn of the 21st century a free people must now choose to shape
the forces of the Information Age and the global society, to unleash
the limitless potential of all our people, and, yes, to form a more
When last we gathered, our march to this new future seemed less certain
than it does today. We vowed then to set a clear course to renew our
In these four years, we have been touched by tragedy, exhilarated by
challenge, strengthened by achievement. America stands alone as the
worlds indispensable nation. Once again, our economy is the
strongest on Earth. Once again, we are building stronger families,
thriving communities, better educational opportunities, a cleaner
environment. Problems that once seemed destined to deepen now bend to
our efforts: our streets are safer and record numbers of our fellow
citizens have moved from welfare to work.
And once again, we have resolved for our time a great debate over the
role of government. Today we can declare: Government is not the
problem, and government is not the solution. We - the American people -
we are the solution. Our founders understood that well and gave us a
democracy strong enough to endure for centuries, flexible enough to
face our common challenges and advance our common dreams in each new
As times change, so government must change. We need a new government
for a new century - humble enough not to try to solve all our problems
for us, but strong enough to give us the tools to solve our problems
for ourselves; a government that is smaller, lives within its means,
and does more with less. Yet where it can stand up for our values and
interests in the world, and where it can give Americans the power to
make a real difference in their everyday lives, government should do
more, not less. The preeminent mission of our new government is to give
all Americans an opportunity - not a guarantee, but a real opportunity
- to build better lives.
Beyond that, my fellow citizens, the future is up to us. Our founders
taught us that the preservation of our liberty and our union depends
upon responsible citizenship. And we need a new sense of responsibility
for a new century. There is work to do, work that government alone
cannot do: teaching children to read; hiring people off welfare rolls;
coming out from behind locked doors and shuttered windows to help
reclaim our streets from drugs and gangs and crime; taking time out of
our own lives to serve others.
Each and every one of us, in our own way, must assume personal
responsibility - not only for ourselves and our families, but for our
neighbors and our nation. Our greatest responsibility is to embrace a
new spirit of community for a new century. For any one of us to
succeed, we must succeed as one America.
The challenge of our past remains the challenge of our future - will we
be one nation, one people, with one common destiny, or not? Will we all
come together, or come apart?
The divide of race has been Americas constant curse. And each new
wave of immigrants gives new targets to old prejudices. Prejudice and
contempt, cloaked in the pretense of religious or political conviction
are no different. These forces have nearly destroyed our nation in the
past. They plague us still. They fuel the fanaticism of terror. And
they torment the lives of millions in fractured nations all around the
These obsessions cripple both those who hate and, of course, those who
are hated, robbing both of what they might become. We cannot, we will
not, succumb to the dark impulses that lurk in the far regions of the
soul everywhere. We shall overcome them. And we shall replace them with
the generous spirit of a people who feel at home with one another.
Our rich texture of racial, religious and political diversity will be a
Godsend in the 21st century. Great rewards will come to those who can
live together, learn together, work together, forge new ties that bind
As this new era approaches we can already see its broad outlines. Ten
years ago, the Internet was the mystical province of physicists; today,
it is a commonplace encyclopedia for millions of schoolchildren.
Scientists now are decoding the blueprint of human life. Cures for our
most feared illnesses seem close at hand.
The world is no longer divided into two hostile camps. Instead, now we
are building bonds with nations that once were our adversaries. Growing
connections of commerce and culture give us a chance to lift the
fortunes and spirits of people the world over. And for the very first
time in all of history, more people on this planet live under democracy
My fellow Americans, as we look back at this remarkable century, we may
ask, can we hope not just to follow, but even to surpass the
achievements of the 20th century in America and to avoid the awful
bloodshed that stained its legacy? To that question, every American
here and every American in our land today must answer a resounding
This is the heart of our task. With a new vision of government, a new
sense of responsibility, a new spirit of community, we will sustain
Americas journey. The promise we sought in a new land we will
find again in a land of new promise.
In this new land, education will be every citizens most prized
possession. Our schools will have the highest standards in the world,
igniting the spark of possibility in the eyes of every girl and every
boy. And the doors of higher education will be open to all. The
knowledge and power of the Information Age will be within reach not
just of the few, but of every classroom, every library, every child.
Parents and children will have time not only to work, but to read and
play together. And the plans they make at their kitchen table will be
those of a better home, a better job, the certain chance to go to
Our streets will echo again with the laughter of our children, because
no one will try to shoot them or sell them drugs anymore. Everyone who
can work, will work, with todays permanent under class part of
tomorrows growing middle class. New miracles of medicine at last
will reach not only those who can claim care now, but the children and
hardworking families too long denied.
We will stand mighty for peace and freedom, and maintain a strong
defense against terror and destruction. Our children will sleep free
from the threat of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Ports and
airports, farms and factories will thrive with trade and innovation and
ideas. And the worlds greatest democracy will lead a whole world
Our land of new promise will be a nation that meets its obligations - a
nation that balances its budget, but never loses the balance of its
values. A nation where our grandparents have secure retirement and
health care, and their grandchildren know we have made the reforms
necessary to sustain those benefits for their time. A nation that
fortifies the worlds most productive economy even as it protects
the great natural bounty of our water, air, and majestic land.
And in this land of new promise, we will have reformed our politics so
that the voice of the people will always speak louder than the din of
narrow interests - regaining the participation and deserving the trust
of all Americans.
Fellow citizens, let us build that America, a nation ever moving
forward toward realizing the full potential of all its citizens.
Prosperity and power - yes, they are important, and we must maintain
them. But let us never forget: The greatest progress we have made, and
the greatest progress we have yet to make, is in the human heart. In
the end, all the worlds wealth and a thousand armies are no match
for the strength and decency of the human spirit.
Thirty-four years ago, the man whose life we celebrate today spoke to
us down there, at the other end of this Mall, in words that moved the
conscience of a nation. Like a prophet of old, he told of his dream
that one day America would rise up and treat all its citizens as equals
before the law and in the heart. Martin Luther Kings dream was
the American Dream. His quest is our quest: the ceaseless striving to
live out our true creed. Our history has been built on such dreams and
labors. And by our dreams and labors we will redeem the promise of
America in the 21st century.
To that effort I pledge all my strength and every power of my office. I
ask the members of Congress here to join in that pledge. The American
people returned to office a President of one party and a Congress of
another. Surely, they did not do this to advance the politics of petty
bickering and extreme partisanship they plainly deplore. No, they call
on us instead to be repairers of the breach, and to move on with
America demands and deserves big things from us - and nothing big ever
came from being small. Let us remember the timeless wisdom of Cardinal
Bernardin, when facing the end of his own life. He said: It is
wrong to waste the precious gift of time, on acrimony and
Fellow citizens, we must not waste the precious gift of this time. For
all of us are on that same journey of our lives, and our journey, too,
will come to an end. But the journey of our America must go on.
And so, my fellow Americans, we must be strong, for there is much to
dare. The demands of our time are great and they are different. Let us
meet them with faith and courage, with patience and a grateful and
happy heart. Let us shape the hope of this day into the noblest chapter
in our history. Yes, let us build our bridge. A bridge wide enough and
strong enough for every American to cross over to a blessed land of new
May those generations whose faces we cannot yet see, whose names we may
never know, say of us here that we led our beloved land into a new
century with the American Dream alive for all her children; with the
American promise of a more perfect union a reality for all her people;
with Americas bright flame of freedom spreading throughout all
From the height of this place and the summit of this century, let us go
forth. May God strengthen our hands for the good work ahead - and
always, always bless our America.
George W. Bush
Saturday, January 20, 2001
President Clinton, distinguished guests and my fellow citizens, the
peaceful transfer of authority is rare in history, yet common in our
country. With a simple oath, we affirm old traditions and make new
As I begin, I thank President Clinton for his service to our nation.
And I thank Vice President Gore for a contest conducted with spirit and
ended with grace.
I am honored and humbled to stand here, where so many of Americas
leaders have come before me, and so many will follow.
We have a place, all of us, in a long story - a story we continue, but
whose end we will not see. It is the story of a new world that became a
friend and liberator of the old, a story of a slave-holding society
that became a servant of freedom, the story of a power that went into
the world to protect but not possess, to defend but not to conquer.
It is the American story - a story of flawed and fallible people,
united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals.
The grandest of these ideals is an unfolding American promise that
everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, that no
insignificant person was ever born.
Americans are called to enact this promise in our lives and in our
laws. And though our nation has sometimes halted, and sometimes
delayed, we must follow no other course.
Through much of the last century, Americas faith in freedom and
democracy was a rock in a raging sea. Now it is a seed upon the wind,
taking root in many nations.
Our democratic faith is more than the creed of our country, it is the
inborn hope of our humanity, an ideal we carry but do not own, a trust
we bear and pass along. And even after nearly 225 years, we have a long
way yet to travel.
While many of our citizens prosper, others doubt the promise, even the
justice, of our own country. The ambitions of some Americans are
limited by failing schools and hidden prejudice and the circumstances
of their birth. And sometimes our differences run so deep, it seems we
share a continent, but not a country.
We do not accept this, and we will not allow it. Our unity, our union,
is the serious work of leaders and citizens in every generation. And
this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of
justice and opportunity.
I know this is in our reach because we are guided by a power larger
than ourselves who creates us equal in His image.
And we are confident in principles that unite and lead us onward.
America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound
by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our
interests and teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must
be taught these principles. Every citizen must uphold them. And every
immigrant, by embracing these ideals, makes our country more, not less,
Today, we affirm a new commitment to live out our nations promise
through civility, courage, compassion and character.
America, at its best, matches a commitment to principle with a concern
for civility. A civil society demands from each of us good will and
respect, fair dealing and forgiveness.
Some seem to believe that our politics can afford to be petty because,
in a time of peace, the stakes of our debates appear small.
But the stakes for America are never small. If our country does not
lead the cause of freedom, it will not be led. If we do not turn the
hearts of children toward knowledge and character, we will lose their
gifts and undermine their idealism. If we permit our economy to drift
and decline, the vulnerable will suffer most.
We must live up to the calling we share. Civility is not a tactic or a
sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of
community over chaos. And this commitment, if we keep it, is a way to
America, at its best, is also courageous.
Our national courage has been clear in times of depression and war,
when defending common dangers defined our common good. Now we must
choose if the example of our fathers and mothers will inspire us or
condemn us. We must show courage in a time of blessing by confronting
problems instead of passing them on to future generations.
Together, we will reclaim Americas schools, before ignorance and
apathy claim more young lives.
We will reform Social Security and Medicare, sparing our children from
struggles we have the power to prevent. And we will reduce taxes, to
recover the momentum of our economy and reward the effort and
enterprise of working Americans.
We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite
We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is
spared new horrors.
The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake: America
remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a
balance of power that favors freedom. We will defend our allies and our
interests. We will show purpose without arrogance. We will meet
aggression and bad faith with resolve and strength. And to all nations,
we will speak for the values that gave our nation birth.
America, at its best, is compassionate. In the quiet of American
conscience, we know that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of our
And whatever our views of its cause, we can agree that children at risk
are not at fault. Abandonment and abuse are not acts of God, they are
failures of love.
And the proliferation of prisons, however necessary, is no substitute
for hope and order in our souls.
Where there is suffering, there is duty. Americans in need are not
strangers, they are citizens, not problems, but priorities. And all of
us are diminished when any are hopeless.
Government has great responsibilities for public safety and public
health, for civil rights and common schools. Yet compassion is the work
of a nation, not just a government.
And some needs and hurts are so deep they will only respond to a
mentors touch or a pastors prayer. Church and charity,
synagogue and mosque lend our communities their humanity, and they will
have an honored place in our plans and in our laws.
Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen
to those who do.
And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded
traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.
America, at its best, is a place where personal responsibility is
valued and expected.
Encouraging responsibility is not a search for scapegoats, it is a call
to conscience. And though it requires sacrifice, it brings a deeper
fulfillment. We find the fullness of life not only in options, but in
commitments. And we find that children and community are the
commitments that set us free.
Our public interest depends on private character, on civic duty and
family bonds and basic fairness, on uncounted, unhonored acts of
decency which give direction to our freedom.
Sometimes in life we are called to do great things. But as a saint of
our times has said, every day we are called to do small things with
great love. The most important tasks of a democracy are done by
I will live and lead by these principles: to advance my convictions
with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for
greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility and try to
live it as well.
In all these ways, I will bring the values of our history to the care
of our times.
What you do is as important as anything government does. I ask you to
seek a common good beyond your comfort; to defend needed reforms
against easy attacks; to serve your nation, beginning with your
neighbor. I ask you to be citizens: citizens, not spectators; citizens,
not subjects; responsible citizens, building communities of service and
a nation of character.
Americans are generous and strong and decent, not because we believe in
ourselves, but because we hold beliefs beyond ourselves. When this
spirit of citizenship is missing, no government program can replace it.
When this spirit is present, no wrong can stand against it.
After the Declaration of Independence was signed, Virginia statesman
John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson: We know the race is not to
the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides
in the whirlwind and directs this storm?
Much time has passed since Jefferson arrived for his inauguration. The
years and changes accumulate. But the themes of this day he would know: