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Contents > Author > Richard M. Nixon > Second Inaugural Address, 1973 1913- 1994
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Richard M. Nixon
Second Inaugural Address, 1973
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Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, Senator Cook,
Mrs. Eisenhower, and my fellow citizens of this great and good
country we share together:

When we met here four years ago, America was bleak in spirit,
depressed by the prospect of seemingly endless war abroad
and of destructive conflict at home.

As we meet here today, we stand on the threshold of a new
era of peace in the world.

The central question before us is: How shall we use that peace?
Let us resolve that this era we are about to enter will not be
what other postwar periods have so often been: a time of
retreat and isolation that leads to stagnation at home and
invites new danger abroad.

Let us resolve that this will be what it can become: a time
of great responsibilities greatly borne, in which we renew
the spirit and the promise of America as we enter our third
century as a nation.

This past year saw far-reaching results from our new policies
for peace. By continuing to revitalize our traditional friendships,
and by our missions to Peking and to Moscow, we were able
to establish the base for a new and more durable pattern
of relationships among the nations of the world. Because of
America's bold initiatives, 1972 will be long remembered as the
year of the greatest progress since the end of World War II
toward a lasting peace in the world.

The peace we seek in the world is not the flimsy peace which
is merely an interlude between wars, but a peace which can
endure for generations to come.

It is important that we understand both the necessity and
the limitations of America's role in maintaining that peace.

Unless we in America work to preserve the peace, there
will be no peace.

Unless we in America work to preserve freedom, there will
be no freedom.

But let us clearly understand the new nature of America's
role, as a result of the new policies we have adopted over
these past four years.

We shall respect our treaty commitments.

We shall support vigorously the principle that no country
has the right to impose its will or rule on another by force.

We shall continue, in this era of negotiation, to work for
the limitation of nuclear arms, and to reduce the danger
of confrontation between the great powers.

We shall do our share in defending peace and freedom
in the world. But we shall expect others to do their share.

The time has passed when America will make every other
nation's conflict our own, or make every other nation's future
our responsibility, or presume to tell the people of other
nations how to manage their own affairs.

Just as we respect the right of each nation to determine
its own future, we also recognize the responsibility of each
nation to secure its own future.

Just as America's role is indispensable in preserving the
world's peace, so is each nation's role indispensable in
preserving its own peace.

Together with the rest of the world, let us resolve to
move forward from the beginnings we have made. Let us
continue to bring down the walls of hostility which have
divided the world for too long, and to build in their place
bridges of understanding?so that despite profound differences
between systems of government, the people of the world
can be friends.

Let us build a structure of peace in the world in which the
weak are as safe as the strong?in which each respects the
right of the other to live by a different system?in which those
who would influence others will do so by the strength of their
ideas, and not by the force of their arms.

Let us accept that high responsibility not as a burden, but
gladly?gladly because the chance to build such a peace is the
noblest endeavor in which a nation can engage; gladly, also,
because only if we act greatly in meeting our responsibilities
abroad will we remain a great Nation, and only if we remain
a great Nation will we act greatly in meeting our challenges
at home.

We have the chance today to do more than ever before in
our history to make life better in America?to ensure better
education, better health, better housing, better transportation,
a cleaner environment?to restore respect for law, to make
our communities more livable?and to insure the God-given
right of every American to full and equal opportunity.

Because the range of our needs is so great?because the
reach of our opportunities is so great?let us be bold in our
determination to meet those needs in new ways.

Just as building a structure of peace abroad has required
turning away from old policies that failed, so building a new
era of progress at home requires turning away from old
policies that have failed.

Abroad, the shift from old policies to new has not been
a retreat from our responsibilities, but a better way to peace.

And at home, the shift from old policies to new will not be
a retreat from our responsibilities, but a better way to

Abroad and at home, the key to those new responsibilities
lies in the placing and the division of responsibility. We
have lived too long with the consequences of attempting to
gather all power and responsibility in Washington.

Abroad and at home, the time has come to turn away
from the condescending policies of paternalism?of
"Washington knows best."

A person can be expected to act responsibly only if he
has responsibility. This is human nature. So let us encourage
individuals at home and nations abroad to do more for
themselves, to decide more for themselves. Let us locate
responsibility in more places. Let us measure what we will
do for others by what they will do for themselves.

That is why today I offer no promise of a purely
governmental solution for every problem. We have lived
too long with that false promise. In trusting too much in
government, we have asked of it more than it can deliver.
This leads only to inflated expectations, to reduced individual
effort, and to a disappointment and frustration that erode
confidence both in what government can do and in what
people can do.

Government must learn to take less from people so that
people can do more for themselves.

Let us remember that America was built not by government,
but by people?not by welfare, but by work?not by shirking
responsibility, but by seeking responsibility.

In our own lives, let each of us ask?not just what will
government do for me, but what can I do for myself?

In the challenges we face together, let each of us ask?
not just how can government help, but how can I help?

Your National Government has a great and vital role to play.
And I pledge to you that where this Government should act,
we will act boldly and we will lead boldly. But just as important
is the role that each and every one of us must play, as an
individual and as a member of his own community.

From this day forward, let each of us make a solemn
commitment in his own heart: to bear his responsibility, to
do his part, to live his ideals?so that together, we can see
the dawn of a new age of progress for America, and together,
as we celebrate our 200th anniversary as a nation, we can do
so proud in the fulfillment of our promise to ourselves and to
the world.

As America's longest and most difficult war comes to an end,
let us again learn to debate our differences with civility and
decency. And let each of us reach out for that one precious
quality government cannot provide?a new level of respect
for the rights and feelings of one another, a new level of
respect for the individual human dignity which is the cherished
birthright of every American.

Above all else, the time has come for us to renew our faith
in ourselves and in America.

In recent years, that faith has been challenged.

Our children have been taught to be ashamed of their
country, ashamed of their parents, ashamed of America's
record at home and of its role in the world.

At every turn, we have been beset by those who find
everything wrong with America and little that is right. But
I am confident that this will not be the judgment of history
on these remarkable times in which we are privileged to live.

America's record in this century has been unparalleled in
the world's history for its responsibility, for its generosity,
for its creativity and for its progress.

Let us be proud that our system has produced and provided
more freedom and more abundance, more widely shared,
than any other system in the history of the world.

Let us be proud that in each of the four wars in which we
have been engaged in this century, including the one we are
now bringing to an end, we have fought not for our selfish
advantage, but to help others resist aggression.

Let us be proud that by our bold, new initiatives, and by
our steadfastness for peace with honor, we have made a
break-through toward creating in the world what the world
has not known before?a structure of peace that can last, not
merely for our time, but for generations to come.

We are embarking here today on an era that presents
challenges great as those any nation, or any generation,
has ever faced.

We shall answer to God, to history, and to our conscience
for the way in which we use these years.

As I stand in this place, so hallowed by history, I think of
others who have stood here before me. I think of the dreams
they had for America, and I think of how each recognized that
he needed help far beyond himself in order to make those
dreams come true.

Today, I ask your prayers that in the years ahead I may
have God's help in making decisions that are right for America,
and I pray for your help so that together we may be worthy
of our challenge.

Let us pledge together to make these next four years the
best four years in America's history, so that on its 200th birthday
America will be as young and as vital as when it began, and
as bright a beacon of hope for all the world.

Let us go forward from here confident in hope, strong in
our faith in one another, sustained by our faith in God who
created us, and striving always to serve His purpose.

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