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George W. Bush
Inaugural Address, 2001
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President Clinton, distinguished guests and my fellow citizens,
the peaceful transfer of authority is rare in history, yet common
in our country. With a simple oath, we affirm old traditions and
make new beginnings.

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

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

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

We have a place, all of us, in a long story?a story we continue,
but whose end we will not see. It is the story of a new world that
became a friend and liberator of the old, a story of a slave-holding
society that became a servant of freedom, the story of a power
that went into the world to protect but not possess, to defend but
not to conquer.

It is the American story?a story of flawed and fallible people,
united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals.

The grandest of these ideals is an unfolding American promise
that everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, that
no insignificant person was ever born.

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

Through much of the last century, America?s faith in freedom
and democracy 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 is
the inborn hope of our humanity, an ideal we carry but do not
own, a trust we bear and pass along. And even after nearly
225 years, we have 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
Americans are limited by failing schools and hidden prejudice
and the circumstances of their birth. And sometimes our
differences run so deep, it seems we share a continent, but
not a country.

We do not accept this, and we will not allow it. Our unity, our
union, is the serious work of leaders and citizens in every
generation. And this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build
a single nation of justice and opportunity.

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

Today, we affirm a new commitment to live out our nation?s
promise through civility, courage, compassion and character.

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

Some seem to believe that our politics can afford to be petty
because, in a time of peace, the stakes of our debates appear

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

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

America, at its best, is also courageous.

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

Together, we will reclaim America?s schools, before ignorance
and apathy claim more young lives.

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

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

We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new
century 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,
shaping a balance of power that favors freedom. We will defend
our allies and our interests. We will show purpose without
arrogance. We will meet aggression and bad faith with resolve
and strength. And to all nations, we will speak for the values
that gave our nation birth.

America, at its best, is compassionate. In the quiet of American
conscience, we know that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy
of our nation?s promise.

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

And the proliferation of prisons, however necessary, is no
substitute for hope and order in our souls.

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

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

And some needs and hurts are so deep they will only respond
to a mentor?s touch or a pastor?s prayer. Church and charity,
synagogue and mosque lend our communities their humanity,
and they will have an honored place in our plans and in our laws.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the Declaration of Independence was signed, Virginia
statesman John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson: ?We know
the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you
not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm??

Much time has passed since Jefferson arrived for his inauguration.
The years and changes accumulate. But the themes of this day
he would know: our nation?s grand story of courage and its
simple dream of dignity.

We are not this story?s author, who fills time and eternity 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 that
purpose today, to make our country more just and generous,
to affirm the dignity of our lives and every life.

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

God bless you all, and God bless America.

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