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Bill Clinton
First Inaugural Address
Wednesday, January 21, 1993

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 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 American's 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
unrivalled 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 own* people.

When George Washington first took the oath I have just sworn to uphold,
news travelled slowly across the land by horseback, and across the ocean
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 our enterprises, great and
small; when the 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 always 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.

And so today we pledge an end to the era of deadlock and drift, and 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 responsibilities. We must do what
America does best, offer more opportunity TO all and demand more
responsibility *from* all.

It is time to break the bad habit of expecting something for nothing:
from our government, or from each other.  Let us all take more
responsibility, not only for ourselves and our families, but for our
communities and our country.  To renew America we must revitalize our
democracy.  This beautiful capitol, like every capitol since the dawn of
civilization, is often a place of intrigue and calculation. Powerful
people maneuver for position and worry endlessly about who is *in* and
who is *out*, who is *up* and who is *down*, forgetting those people
whose toil and sweat sends us here and paves our way.

Americans deserve better, and in this city today there are people who
want to do better, and so I say to all of you here, let us resolve to
reform our politics, so that power and privilege no longer shout down
the voice of the people.  Let us put aside personal advantage, so that
we can feel the pain and see the promise of America.  Let us resolve to
make our government a place for what Franklin Roosevelt called "bold,
persistent experimentation, a government for our tomorrows, not our
yesterdays." Let us give this capitol back to the people to whom it
belongs.

To renew America we must meet challenges abroad, as well as at home.
There is no longer a clear division between what is foreign and what is
domestic.  The world economy, the world environment, the world AIDS
crisis, the world arms race:  they affect us all.  Today as an old order
passes, the new world is more free, but less stable.  Communism's
collapse has called forth old animosities, and new dangers.  Clearly,
America must continue to lead the world we did so much to make.  While
America rebuilds at home, we will not shrink from the challenges nor
fail to seize the opportunities of this new world. Together with our
friends and allies, we will work together to shape change, lest it
engulf us.  When our vital interests are challenged, or the will and
conscience of the international community is defied, we will act; with
peaceful diplomacy whenever possible, with force when necessary.  The
brave Americans serving our nation today in the Persian Gulf, in
Somalia, and wherever else they stand, are testament to our resolve, but
our greatest strength is the power of our ideas, which are still new in
many lands.  Across the world, we see them embraced and we rejoice.  Our
hopes, our hearts, our hands, are with those on every continent, who are
building democracy and freedom. Their cause is America's cause.  The
American people have summoned the change we celebrate today.  You have
raised your voices in an unmistakable chorus, you have cast your votes
in historic numbers, you have changed the face of congress, the
presidency, and the political process itself.  Yes, *you*, my fellow
Americans, have forced the spring.  Now *we* must do the work the season
demands.  To that work I now turn with *all* the authority of my office.
I ask the congress to join with me; but no president, no congress, no
government can undertake *this* mission alone.

My fellow Americans, you, too, must play your part in our renewal. I
challenge a new generation of *young* Americans to a season of service,
to act on your idealism, by helping troubled children, keeping company
with those in need, reconnecting our torn communities.  There is so much
to be done.  Enough, indeed, for millions of others who are still young
in spirit, to give of themselves in service, too.  In serving we
recognize a simple, but powerful, truth:  we need each other, and we
must care for one another.  Today we do more than celebrate America, we
rededicate ourselves to the very idea of America, an idea born in
revolution, and renewed through two centuries of challenge, an idea
tempered by the knowledge that but for fate, we, the fortunate and the
unfortunate, might have been each other; an idea ennobled by the faith
that our nation can summon from its myriad diversity, the deepest
measure of unity; an idea infused with the conviction that America's
journey long, heroic journey must go forever upward.

And so, my fellow Americans, as we stand at the edge of the 21st
Century, let us begin anew, with energy and hope, with faith and
discipline, and let us work until our work is done.  The Scripture says:
"And let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap,
if we faint not." From this joyful mountaintop of celebration we hear a
call to service in the valley.  We have heard the trumpets, we have
changed the guard, and now each in our own way, and with God's help, we
must answer the call.

Thank you and God bless you all.


***

Bill Clinton
Second Inaugural Address
January 20, 1997

My fellow citizens:

At this last presidential inauguration of the 20th century, let us lift
our eyes toward the challenges that await us in the next century. It is
our great good fortune that time and chance have put us not only at the
edge of a new century, in a new millennium, but on the edge of a bright
new prospect in human affairs--a moment that will define our course,
and our character, for decades to come. We must keep our old democracy
forever young. Guided by the ancient vision of a promised land, let us
set our sights upon a land of new promise.

The promise of America was born in the 18th century out of the bold
conviction that we are all created equal. It was extended and preserved
in the 19th century, when our nation spread across the continent, saved
the union, and abolished the awful scourge of slavery.

Then, in turmoil and triumph, that promise exploded onto the world stage
to make this the American Century.

And what a century it has been.  America became the world's mightiest
industrial power; saved the world from tyranny in two world wars and a
long cold war; and time and again, reached out across the globe to
millions who, like us, longed for the blessings of liberty.

Along the way, Americans produced a great middle class and security in
old age; built unrivaled centers of learning and opened public schools
to all; split the atom and explored the heavens; invented the computer
and the microchip; and deepened the wellspring of justice by making a
revolution in civil rights for African Americans and all minorities, and
extending the circle of citizenship, opportunity and dignity to women.

Now, for the third time, a new century is upon us, and another time to
choose. We began the 19th century with a choice, to spread our nation
from coast to coast. We began the 20th century with a choice, to harness
the Industrial Revolution to our values of free enterprise,
conservation, and human decency. Those choices made all the difference.
At the dawn of the 21st century a free people must now choose to shape
the forces of the Information Age and the global society, to unleash the
limitless potential of all our people, and, yes, to form a more perfect
union.

When last we gathered, our march to this new future seemed less certain
than it does today. We vowed then to set a clear course to renew our
nation.

In these four years, we have been touched by tragedy, exhilarated by
challenge, strengthened by achievement. America stands alone as the
world's indispensable nation. Once again, our economy is the strongest
on Earth.  Once again, we are building stronger families, thriving
communities, better educational opportunities, a cleaner environment.
Problems that once seemed destined to deepen now bend to our efforts:
our streets are safer and record numbers of our fellow citizens have
moved from welfare to work.

And once again, we have resolved for our time a great debate over the
role of government.  Today we can declare: Government is not the
problem, and government is not the solution. We--the American people--we
are the solution.  Our founders understood that well and gave us a
democracy strong enough to endure for centuries, flexible enough to face
our common challenges and advance our common dreams in each new day.

As times change, so government must change.  We need a new government
for a new century--humble enough not to try to solve all our problems
for us, but strong enough to give us the tools to solve our problems for
ourselves; a government that is smaller, lives within its means, and
does more with less. Yet where it can stand up for our values and
interests in the world, and where it can give Americans the power to
make a real difference in their everyday lives, government should do
more, not less. The preeminent mission of our new government is to give
all Americans an opportunity--not a guarantee, but a real
opportunity--to build better lives.

Beyond that, my fellow citizens, the future is up to us. Our founders
taught us that the preservation of our liberty and our union depends
upon responsible citizenship. And we need a new sense of responsibility
for a new century. There is work to do, work that government alone
cannot do: teaching children to read; hiring people off welfare rolls;
coming out from behind locked doors and shuttered windows to help
reclaim our streets from drugs and gangs and crime; taking time out of
our own lives to serve others.

Each and every one of us, in our own way, must assume personal
responsibility--not only for ourselves and our families, but for our
neighbors and our nation. Our greatest responsibility is to embrace a
new spirit of community for a new century. For any one of us to succeed,
we must succeed as one America.

The challenge of our past remains the challenge of our future--will we
be one nation, one people, with one common destiny, or not? Will we all
come together, or come apart?

The divide of race has been America's constant curse. And each new
wave of immigrants gives new targets to old prejudices. Prejudice and
contempt, cloaked in the pretense of religious or political conviction
are no different. These forces have nearly destroyed our nation in the
past. They plague us still. They fuel the fanaticism of terror. And they
torment the lives of millions in fractured nations all around the world.

These obsessions cripple both those who hate and, of course, those who
are hated, robbing both of what they might become. We cannot, we will
not, succumb to the dark impulses that lurk in the far regions of the
soul everywhere. We shall overcome them. And we shall replace them with
the generous spirit of a people who feel at home with one another.

Our rich texture of racial, religious and political diversity will be a
Godsend in the 21st century. Great rewards will come to those who can
live together, learn together, work together, forge new ties that bind
together.

As this new era approaches we can already see its broad outlines. Ten
years ago, the Internet was the mystical province of physicists; today,
it is a commonplace encyclopedia for millions of schoolchildren.
Scientists now are decoding the blueprint of human life. Cures for our
most feared illnesses seem close at hand.

The world is no longer divided into two hostile camps. Instead, now we
are building bonds with nations that once were our adversaries. Growing
connections of commerce and culture give us a chance to lift the
fortunes and spirits of people the world over. And for the very first
time in all of history, more people on this planet live under democracy
than dictatorship.

My fellow Americans, as we look back at this remarkable century, we may
ask, can we hope not just to follow, but even to surpass the
achievements of the 20th century in America and to avoid the awful
bloodshed that stained its legacy? To that question, every American here
and every American in our land today must answer a resounding
"Yes."

This is the heart of our task. With a new vision of government, a new
sense of responsibility, a new spirit of community, we will sustain
America's journey.  The promise we sought in a new land we will find
again in a land of new promise.

In this new land, education will be every citizen's most prized
possession. Our schools will have the highest standards in the world,
igniting the spark of possibility in the eyes of every girl and every
boy. And the doors of higher education will be open to all. The
knowledge and power of the Information Age will be within reach not just
of the few, but of every classroom, every library, every child. Parents
and children will have time not only to work, but to read and play
together. And the plans they make at their kitchen table will be those
of a better home, a better job, the certain chance to go to college.

Our streets will echo again with the laughter of our children, because
no one will try to shoot them or sell them drugs anymore. Everyone who
can work, will work, with today's permanent under class part of
tomorrow's growing middle class.  New miracles of medicine at last will
reach not only those who can claim care now, but the children and
hardworking families too long denied.

We will stand mighty for peace and freedom, and maintain a strong
defense against terror and destruction. Our children will sleep free
from the threat of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Ports and
airports, farms and factories will thrive with trade and innovation and
ideas. And the world's greatest democracy will lead a whole world of
democracies.

Our land of new promise will be a nation that meets its obligations--a
nation that balances its budget, but never loses the balance of its
values. A nation where our grandparents have secure retirement and
health care, and their grandchildren know we have made the reforms
necessary to sustain those benefits for their time. A nation that
fortifies the world's most productive economy even as it protects the
great natural bounty of our water, air, and majestic land.

And in this land of new promise, we will have reformed our politics so
that the voice of the people will always speak louder than the din of
narrow interests--regaining the participation and deserving the trust of
all Americans.

Fellow citizens, let us build that America, a nation ever moving forward
toward realizing the full potential of all its citizens. Prosperity and
power--yes, they are important, and we must maintain them.  But let us
never forget: The greatest progress we have made, and the greatest
progress we have yet to make, is in the human heart. In the end, all the
world's wealth and a thousand armies are no match for the strength
and decency of the human spirit.

Thirty-four years ago, the man whose life we celebrate today spoke to us
down there, at the other end of this Mall, in words that moved the
conscience of a nation. Like a prophet of old, he told of his dream that
one day America would rise up and treat all its citizens as equals
before the law and in the heart. Martin Luther King's dream was the
American Dream. His quest is our quest: the ceaseless striving to live
out our true creed. Our history has been built on such dreams and
labors. And by our dreams and labors we will redeem the promise of
America in the 21st century.

To that effort I pledge all my strength and every power of my office. I
ask the members of Congress here to join in that pledge. The American
people returned to office a President of one party and a Congress of
another. Surely, they did not do this to advance the politics of petty
bickering and extreme partisanship they plainly deplore. No, they call
on us instead to be repairers of the breach, and to move on with
America's mission.

America demands and deserves big things from us--and nothing big ever
came from being small.  Let us remember the timeless wisdom of Cardinal
Bernardin, when facing the end of his own life.  He said:

"It is wrong to waste the precious gift of time, on acrimony and
division."

Fellow citizens, we must not waste the precious gift of this time. For
all of us are on that same journey of our lives, and our journey, too,
will come to an end. But the journey of our America must go on.

And so, my fellow Americans, we must be strong, for there is much to
dare. The demands of our time are great and they are different. Let us
meet them with faith and courage, with patience and a grateful and happy
heart. Let us shape the hope of this day into the noblest chapter in our
history. Yes, let us build our bridge. A bridge wide enough and strong
enough for every American to cross over to a blessed land of new
promise.

May those generations whose faces we cannot yet see, whose names we may
never know, say of us here that we led our beloved land into a new
century with the American Dream alive for all her children; with the
American promise of a more perfect union a reality for all her people;
with America's bright flame of freedom spreading throughout all the
world.

From the height of this place and the summit of this century, let us go
forth.  May God strengthen our hands for the good work ahead--and
always, always bless our America.


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