Obama inaugural speech text

Transcript of President Obama’s inaugural address after being sworn in for a second term.  The President made a plug for gay marriage, and mentioned Stonewall, among other things.  Van Jones on gay rights being “civil rights”: “that argument has been settled.”

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

CNN’s legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin noted the importance of the President mentioning Stonewall alongside Selma, putting them in the same category in history. Here’s what the President said:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall;

Here’s the entire address:

January 21, 2013

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Inaugural Address
Monday, January 21, 2013
Washington, DC

As Prepared for Delivery –

Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

obama inaugural speech textToday we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

For more than two hundred years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.

obama inaugural speech textFor we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.

Poet Richard Blanco, who is gay, speaking at the Obama inaugural.

Poet Richard Blanco, who is gay, speaking at the Obama inaugural.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

Beyonce singing the Star Spangled Banner at the Obama inauguration.

Beyonce singing the Star Spangled Banner at the Obama inauguration.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.

They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.

You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • johnb3950

    Very fine speech -but I keep remembering a time in the first campaign when he said ” I believe with every fiber of my being that we can come together as Americans to …” I forget the tasks he names, but the point was the belief in coming together. I thought then “you don’t realize just what hardened depths of ignorance and meanness – and even perfectly sincere wrong-headedness – you are going to face.” Wondered where his optimism came from. Perhaps now he has reluctantly accepted that there are some on the “other side” who are just incorrigible, and you have to FIGHT them. Yes, they may be nice family folks, go to church, love animals, but if they are implacably hostile to you, you may never win them over or even meet them in compromise. And in some cases they can be fueled, sorry to say, by underlying bigotry. He may wish they could crack their minds open even a tiny bit, but for some, it will never happen. Or at least not in the next four years.

  • johnb3950

    LOL – Good one about warmth escaping!

  • Naja pallida

    As long as DOMA is still law of the land, it doesn’t matter if they aren’t defending it. The next President might decide to defend it, and Congress is obligated to consider it as law for any new legislation until it is repealed. So until he actually does something to get rid of it, there isn’t really anything to be too happy about with that. There are many benefits for government employees, including the military, which are still denied same-sex couples because of DOMA.

    As for DADT, he had to be dragged kicking and screaming the whole way across the finish line. He was looking for any and every way to blame it all on Congress and move on to another discussion. He doesn’t deserve a whole lot of credit there, besides being the guy who signed the paper after people in Congress, and gay rights groups (especially gay veterans) did the heavy lifting.

    I commend him on his speech, it was inspiring… but he’s made inspiring speeches before, and has left many, many of us under the bus when all was said and done. I just refuse to have any illusions about him this time around, and am not interested in lofty rhetoric. I want serious and meaningful action.

  • hoogley

    That seems to be the gist of what he’s saying.
    Not that I’m disagreeing — I’m hoping to God this speech pretty much means we finally get to see a more proactive Obama.
    The president’s gonna get demonized and blocked by the right no matter what he does. There’s very little to lose, and so much to gain. It’s time he’s willing to play the bad guy and PUSH.

  • http://www.bloomsburyreview.com Webster

    I want to thank all the activists who have led the way in this struggle–from Larry Kramer to Harvey Milk, from Leonard Matlovich to Zach Wahls. This is a landmark day.

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    When your gay spouse can collect your Social Security benefits, we’ll talk.

  • FLL

    Everyone, including Obama, understands that the game has changed and the GOP is on the defensive. It’s up to the Pres to take advantage of the changed circumstances, particularly regarding an ENDA executive order, a DOJ brief in the current Supreme Court cases and a push for including same-sex couples in immigration reform. Obama may act more freely now that he doesn’t need to campaign for a third term, or he may not.

    You know what I like about John Aravosis’s blogging style? He has never used ouija boards, tarot cards, tea leaves, seances, etc. He comes to a rational conclusion based on actual behavior, and that’s what makes a good blogger. For example, will Obama support the inclusion of the rights of same-sex couples in the immigration reform that Congress will inevitably consider this year? No need to use the occult arts to divine the answer. Obama’s intentions will be obvious soon enough. If those intentions are honorable, it’s a thumbs up; if dishonorable, call the SOB on it and raise holy hell, which has also been known to work. I’ve sometimes suggested that people use coffee grounds instead of tea leaves when attempting clairvoyance, but they only accuse me of inappropriate humor.

  • bob

    Are you aware he repealed DADT and stopped defending DOMA in the courts?

  • nicho

    Reminded me more of the black cap British judges put on when they deliver a death sentence.

  • 2patricius2

    It looked to me like the hat Thomas More wore.

  • nicho

    “But wait … there’s more….”

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I feel certain she couldn’t possibly yank it away again! She promised.

    (yeah…)

  • craigkg

    In many formal occasions, judges and academics wore cap or bonnets (along with robes) as a symbol of their office and degree. We still see the vestiges of that in College graduation ceremonies, especially with the vesting on those receiving masters and doctoral degrees. I don’t know perhaps he was continuing that tradition (after all it was a practice originating in the dark ages and Scalia would like us to go back to that time) or whether it was simply a function of it being quite cold and he wanted a hat to keep what little warmth his heart has from escaping through his empty balding head.

  • FunMe

    Those are great words and I hope this time will be different.

    President Obama now has an opportunity to LEAD to make our country equal for everyone. Now is his time to make up for the past when he had to be pressured and brought in kicking and screaming before he finally signed DADT out of our military.

    If President Obama can LEAD in making sure ENDA is the law of the land and DOMA is thrown, then and only then, will we know that his words meant something.

    Fingers crossed.

  • Badgerite

    What the hell was that thing on Scalia’s head. Looked like a hat from the Spanish Inquisition or something. Cue Monthy Python’s Flying Circus. (Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition,……). I loved his speech. I loved the invocation and the poem. I thought it was great.

  • caphillprof

    Regardless of how he may or may not govern, the President has lifted gay people into the civil rights pantheon–Seneca Falls (woman), Selma (African Americans) and now Stonewall (the gays). I keep thinking of Tony Kushner’s ending to Perestroika (the second part of Angels in America): “We will be citizens.”

  • Naja pallida

    Lucy has another football setup and ready to go.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    We’ve heard it all before. Does anybody seriously believe a word he says now?

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Next——- Obama: The human vegamatic

  • ronbo

    “God is in the mix”, said the Constitutional scholar. His core conviction is to follow. When it blows against the Constitution, the Constitution will be ignored. His assassination list tells the whole story. The Constitution is clear: the CIA, Business International Corporatation and the President are supreme. Don’t fu*k with the powers that be. They have an accepted assassination list.

  • pappyvet

    It was a wonderful address. If only he wasnt fillibustered everytime he turned,even when the idea he is promoting was a republican one ! If only “A good days work deserves a good days wage” was still the ethic. If only “I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can
    have two on every campus — living fossils” Rush Limbaugh, and “The day will come when unpleasant things are going to happen to a bunch of
    stupid liberals and it’s going to be very amusing to watch.” Lee Rogers, could be seen for the hatred and mythology that they are.
    If only.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Bedwell/1822575019 Michael Bedwell

    Words matter, but ACTION speaks louder than any words, however brilliant.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Bedwell/1822575019 Michael Bedwell

    IF YOU GENUINELY WANT YOUR “gay brothers and sisters [to be] treated like anyone else under the law,” Mr. President, if you TRULY believe that “if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” that “progress … require[s] us to act in our time,” that “decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay,” that “we must act… we must act….,” then there will be NO MORE DELAY—no WAITING on the NEXT Secretary of Defense to take office MONTHS
    away—YOU will use YOUR unequivocal authority to order the Pentagon to STOP treating both individual gay and lesbian service members and those in partnerships UNequally NOW; YOU will use that same authority to ban discrimination against LGBTs by federal contractors; and YOU will order YOUR
    Department of Justice to enter a friend of the court brief telling the Supreme Court that both DOMA and Prop 8 should be overturned. These words were beautiful, but on these issues it is past time to act, Mr. President. ACT!

  • S1AMER

    “Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall” is far and away the most brilliant tieing-together of civil rights struggles I have ever heard. Rhetorically brilliant.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    Climate Change got honorable mention, at least.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    Yes We Could!

  • UncleBucky

    Putting the GOP on notice. Amen, Liz!

    Every day we need to put the GOP ON NOTICE. Not letting go, not looking away and not straying from moving forward. By golly, the GOP is like a bratty 9-year old that needs to be led by the EAR and sent to his room without supper. Yeaahh.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    If only he governed and led the same way he talks…

  • 2patricius2

    I thought it was much better as well. And I was at the last Inauguration. But there was no homophobic “reverend” delivering an invocation, and the whole event was so much more inclusive. Loved the reference to Stonewall and the right to love in the address, as well as the singing by James Taylor and Kelly Clarkson, and Richard Blanco’s poem. Blanco is the first immigrant, first Hispanic, first openly gay poet and the youngest poet in Inauguration history. His poem had me in tears.

    Now comes the hard part, and the need for us as citizens to push our government forward.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I agree. And way inclusive on our stuff. A nice change :)

  • TheOriginalLiz

    I thought this inauguration was much better than the first. I also felt that, from the choice of music to the choice of artists, it was putting the GOP on notice that the game has changed. But then … I am an optomist …

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