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.
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
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 that
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.