President George W. Bush's Inaugural Address, January 20,
January 21, 2005
Vice President Cheney, Mr. Chief Justice, President Carter, President
Bush, President Clinton, members of the United States Congress,
reverend clergy, distinguished
guests, fellow citizens:
On this day, prescribed by law and marked by ceremony, we celebrate
the durable wisdom of our Constitution, and recall the deep commitments
that unite our country. I am grateful for the honor of this hour,
mindful of the consequential times in which we live, and determined
to fulfill the oath that I have sworn and you have witnessed.
At this second gathering, our duties are defined not by the words
I use, but by the history we have seen together. For a half a century,
America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders.
After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet,
years of repose, years of sabbatical and then there came a day
We have seen our vulnerability and we have seen its deepest source.
For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment
and tyranny prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder
violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross
the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is
only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and
resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the
hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human
We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The
survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success
of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world
is the expansion of freedom in all the world.
America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one.
From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man
and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless
value, because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth.
Across the generations, we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government,
because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be
a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our
nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it
is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling
of our time.
So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support
the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation
and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.
This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend
ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom,
by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained
by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the
soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may
reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America
will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our
goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their
own freedom, and make their own way.
The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work
of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding
it. America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the
oppressed, America's influence is considerable, and we will use
it confidently in freedom's cause.
My most solemn duty is to protect this nation and its people
from further attacks and emerging threats. Some have unwisely chosen
to test America's resolve, and have found it firm.
We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and
every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always
wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not
pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women
welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires
to live at the mercy of bullies.
We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear
that success in our relations will require the decent treatment
of their own people. America's belief in human dignity will guide
our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions
of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation
of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom,
and there can be no human rights without human liberty.
Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty though
this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance
of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all
people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually,
the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not
accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept
the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those
who love it.
Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:
All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United
States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors.
When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.
Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can
know: America sees you for who you are: The future leaders of your
The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as
Abraham Lincoln did: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve
it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot
long retain it."
The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to
know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them. Start
on this journey of progress and justice, and America will walk
at your side.
And all the allies of the United States can know: we honor your
friendship, we rely on your counsel, and we depend on your help.
Division among free nations is a primary goal of freedoms enemies.
The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a
prelude to our enemies defeat.
Today, I also speak anew to my fellow citizens:
From all of you, I have asked patience in the hard task of securing
America, which you have granted in good measure. Our country has
accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill, and would be
dishonorable to abandon. Yet because we have acted in the great
liberating tradition of this nation, tens of millions have achieved
their freedom. And as hope kindles hope, millions more will find
it. By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well as a fire in the
minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those
who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom
will reach the darkest corners of our world.
A few Americans have accepted the hardest duties in this cause
in the quiet work of intelligence and diplomacy the idealistic
work of helping raise up free governments the dangerous and necessary
work of fighting our enemies. Some have shown their devotion to
our country in deaths that honored their whole lives and we will
always honor their names and their sacrifice.
All Americans have witnessed this idealism, and some for the
first time. I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence
of your eyes. You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined
faces of our soldiers. You have seen that life is fragile, and
evil is real, and courage triumphs. Make the choice to serve in
a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself and in your
days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to
America has need of idealism and courage, because we have essential
work at home the unfinished work of American freedom. In a world
moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and
promise of liberty.
In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and
security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge
of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that
motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the G.I.
Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming
great institutions to serve the needs of our time. To give every
American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will
bring the highest standards to our schools, and build an ownership
society. We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement
savings and health insurance preparing our people for the challenges
of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of
his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater
freedom from want and fear, and make our society more prosperous
and just and equal.
In Americas ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on
private character on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and
the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies,
in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character
is built in families, supported by communities with standards,
and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the
Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths
of our people. Americans move forward in every generation by reaffirming
all that is good and true that came before ideals of justice and
conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.
In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled
by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all
does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies
on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost
with love. Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one
another, and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth.
And our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because
we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry
at the same time.
From the perspective of a single day, including this day of dedication,
the issues and questions before our country are many. From the
viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed
and few. Did our generation advance the cause of freedom? And did
our character bring credit to that cause?
These questions that judge us also unite us, because Americans
of every party and background, Americans by choice and by birth,
are bound to one another in the cause of freedom. We have known
divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes
and I will strive in good faith to heal them. Yet those divisions
do not define America. We felt the unity and fellowship of our
nation when freedom came under attack, and our response came like
a single hand over a single heart. And we can feel that same unity
and pride whenever America acts for good, and the victims of disaster
are given hope, and the unjust encounter justice, and the captives
are set free.
We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph
of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability;
it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves
a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence
because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in
dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared
a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for
a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage
under the banner "Freedom Now" they were acting on an
ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb
and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction,
set by liberty and the author of Liberty.
When the Declaration of Independence was first
read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration,
a witness said, "It
rang as if it meant something." In our time it means something
still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout
all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our
strength, tested, but not weary we are ready for the greatest achievements
in the history of freedom.
May God bless you, and may He watch over the United States of
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