Full Text of President George W. Bush's Inaugural Speech

W A S H I N G T O N, Jan. 20, 2001 -- Below is the full text of President George W. Bush's inaugural speech on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2001.

President Clinton, distinguished guests and my fellowcitizens, the peaceful transfer of authority is rare in history, yetcommon in our country. With a simple oath, we affirm old traditionsand make new beginnings.

As I begin, I thank President Clinton for his service to ournation.

(APPLAUSE)

And I thank Vice President Gore for a contest conducted withspirit and ended with grace.

(APPLAUSE)

I am honored and humbled to stand here, where so many ofAmerica's leaders have come before me, and so many will follow.

We have a place, all of us, in a long story—a story wecontinue, but whose end we will not see. It is the story of a newworld that became a friend and liberator of the old, a story of aslave-holding society that became a servant of freedom, the story of apower that went into the world to protect but not possess, to defendbut not to conquer.

It is the American story—a story of flawed and falliblepeople, united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals.

The grandest of these ideals is an unfolding Americanpromise that everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, thatno insignificant person was ever born.

Americans are called to enact this promise in our lives and inour laws. And though our nation has sometimes halted, and sometimesdelayed, we must follow no other course.

Through much of the last century, America's faith in freedom anddemocracy 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 isthe inborn hope of our humanity, an ideal we carry but do not own, atrust we bear and pass along. And even after nearly 225 years, wehave 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 Americansare limited by failing schools and hidden prejudice and thecircumstances of their birth. And sometimes our differences run sodeep, it seems we share a continent, but not a country.

We do not accept this, and we will not allow it. Ourunity, our union, is the serious work of leaders and citizens in everygeneration. And this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build asingle nation of justice and opportunity.

(APPLAUSE)

I know this is in our reach because we are guided by a powerlarger 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 arebound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above ourinterests and teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child mustbe taught these principles. Every citizen must uphold them. Andevery immigrant, by embracing these ideals, makes our country more,not less, American.

(APPLAUSE)

Today, we affirm a new commitment to live out our nation'spromise through civility, courage, compassion and character.

America, at its best, matches a commitment to principle with aconcern for civility. A civil society demands from each of us goodwill and respect, fair dealing and forgiveness.

Some seem to believe that our politics can afford to bepetty because, in a time of peace, the stakes of our debates appearsmall.

But the stakes for America are never small. If our country doesnot lead the cause of freedom, it will not be led. If we do not turnthe hearts of children toward knowledge and character, we will losetheir gifts and undermine their idealism. If we permit our economy todrift and decline, the vulnerable will suffer most.

We must live up to the calling we share. Civility is not atactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust overcynicism, of community over chaos. And this commitment, if we keepit, is a way to shared accomplishment.

America, at its best, is also courageous.

Our national courage has been clear in times of depression andwar, when defending common dangers defined our common good. Now wemust choose if the example of our fathers and mothers will inspire usor condemn us. We must show courage in a time of blessing byconfronting problems instead of passing them on to future generations.

(APPLAUSE)

Together, we will reclaim America's schools, before ignorance andapathy claim more young lives.

We will reform Social Security and Medicare, sparing ourchildren from struggles we have the power to prevent. And we willreduce taxes, to recover the momentum of our economy and reward theeffort and enterprise of working Americans.

(APPLAUSE)

We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invitechallenge.

(APPLAUSE)

We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a newcentury 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, shapinga balance of power that favors freedom. We will defend our allies andour interests. We will show purpose without arrogance. We will meetaggression and bad faith with resolve and strength. And to allnations, we will speak for the values that gave our nation birth.

(APPLAUSE)

America, at its best, is compassionate. In the quiet of Americanconscience, we know that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of ournation's promise.

And whatever our views of its cause, we can agree thatchildren at risk are not at fault. Abandonment and abuse are not actsof God, they are failures of love.

(APPLAUSE)

And the proliferation of prisons, however necessary, is nosubstitute for hope and order in our souls.

Where there is suffering, there is duty. Americans in need arenot strangers, they are citizens, not problems, but priorities. Andall of us are diminished when any are hopeless.

(APPLAUSE)

Government has great responsibilities for public safety andpublic health, for civil rights and common schools. Yet compassion isthe work of a nation, not just a government.

And some needs and hurts are so deep they will only respond to amentor's touch or a pastor's prayer. Church and charity, synagogueand mosque lend our communities their humanity, and they will have anhonored place in our plans and in our laws.

(APPLAUSE)

Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we canlisten to those who do.

And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that woundedtraveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.

(APPLAUSE)

America, at its best, is a place where personalresponsibility is valued and expected.

Encouraging responsibility is not a search for scapegoats, it isa call to conscience. And though it requires sacrifice, it brings adeeper fulfillment. We find the fullness of life not only in options,but in commitments. And we find that children and community are thecommitments that set us free.

Our public interest depends on private character, on civic dutyand family bonds and basic fairness, on uncounted, unhonored acts ofdecency which give direction to our freedom.

Sometimes in life we are called to do great things. But as asaint of our times has said, every day we are called to do smallthings with great love. The most important tasks of a democracy aredone by everyone.

I will live and lead by these principles: to advance myconvictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage,to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call forresponsibility and try to live it as well.

In all these ways, I will bring the values of our historyto the care of our times.

What you do is as important as anything government does. I askyou to seek a common good beyond your comfort; to defend neededreforms against easy attacks; to serve your nation, beginning withyour neighbor. I ask you to be citizens: citizens, not spectators;citizens, not subjects; responsible citizens, building communities ofservice and a nation of character.

(APPLAUSE)

Americans are generous and strong and decent, not because webelieve in ourselves, but because we hold beliefs beyond ourselves.When this spirit of citizenship is missing, no government program canreplace it. When this spirit is present, no wrong can stand againstit.

(APPLAUSE)

After the Declaration of Independence was signed, Virginiastatesman John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson: "We know the race isnot to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think anangel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?"

Much time has passed since Jefferson arrived for hisinauguration. The years and changes accumulate. But the themes ofthis day he would know: our nation's grand story of courage and itssimple dream of dignity.

We are not this story's author, who fills time andeternity with his purpose. Yet his purpose is achieved in our duty,and our duty is fulfilled in service to one another.

Never tiring, never yielding, never finishing, we renew thatpurpose today, to make our country more just and generous, to affirmthe dignity of our lives and every life.

This work continues. This story goes on. And an angel stillrides in the whirlwind and directs this storm.

God bless you all, and God bless America.

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