Celebrating `Mystery' of Nation's Renewal
The following is the text of President Clinton's inaugural speech, given Wednesday after he took the oath of office as the 42nd president of the United States. Mr. Clinton urges Americans to be bold, embrace change, and share the sacrifices needed for the nation to progress.Skip to next paragraph
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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 American.
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 oceans 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 America today 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. Americans have ever been a restless, questing, hopeful people. And we must bring to our task today the vision and will of those who came before us.
From our revolution to the Civil War, to the Great Depression to the civil rights movement, our people have 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 Americans, 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.
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, and 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 children.
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.