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Richard Milhous Nixon
First Inaugural Address
Monday, January 20, 1969

Senator Dirksen, Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Vice President, President
Johnson, Vice President Humphrey, my fellow Americans--and my fellow
citizens of the world community:

I ask you to share with me today the majesty of this moment. In the
orderly transfer of power, we celebrate the unity that keeps us free.

Each moment in history is a fleeting time, precious and unique. But some
stand out as moments of beginning, in which courses are set that shape
decades or centuries.

This can be such a moment.

Forces now are converging that make possible, for the first time, the
hope that many of man's deepest aspirations can at last be realized. The
spiraling pace of change allows us to contemplate, within our own
lifetime, advances that once would have taken centuries.

In throwing wide the horizons of space, we have discovered new horizons
on earth.

For the first time, because the people of the world want peace, and the
leaders of the world are afraid of war, the times are on the side of

Eight years from now America will celebrate its 200th anniversary as a
nation. Within the lifetime of most people now living, mankind will
celebrate that great new year which comes only once in a thousand
years--the beginning of the third millennium.

What kind of nation we will be, what kind of world we will live in,
whether we shape the future in the image of our hopes, is ours to
determine by our actions and our choices.

The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker. This
honor now beckons America--the chance to help lead the world at last out
of the valley of turmoil, and onto that high ground of peace that man
has dreamed of since the dawn of civilization.

If we succeed, generations to come will say of us now living that we
mastered our moment, that we helped make the world safe for mankind.

This is our summons to greatness.

I believe the American people are ready to answer this call.

The second third of this century has been a time of proud achievement.
We have made enormous strides in science and industry and agriculture.
We have shared our wealth more broadly than ever. We have learned at
last to manage a modern economy to assure its continued growth.

We have given freedom new reach, and we have begun to make its promise
real for black as well as for white.

We see the hope of tomorrow in the youth of today. I know America's
youth. I believe in them. We can be proud that they are better educated,
more committed, more passionately driven by conscience than any
generation in our history.

No people has ever been so close to the achievement of a just and
abundant society, or so possessed of the will to achieve it. Because our
strengths are so great, we can afford to appraise our weaknesses with
candor and to approach them with hope.

Standing in this same place a third of a century ago, Franklin Delano
Roosevelt addressed a Nation ravaged by depression and gripped in fear.
He could say in surveying the Nation's troubles: "They concern, thank
God, only material things."

Our crisis today is the reverse.

We have found ourselves rich in goods, but ragged in spirit; reaching
with magnificent precision for the moon, but falling into raucous
discord on earth.

We are caught in war, wanting peace. We are torn by division, wanting
unity. We see around us empty lives, wanting fulfillment. We see tasks
that need doing, waiting for hands to do them.

To a crisis of the spirit, we need an answer of the spirit.

To find that answer, we need only look within ourselves.

When we listen to "the better angels of our nature," we find that they
celebrate the simple things, the basic things--such as goodness,
decency, love, kindness.

Greatness comes in simple trappings.

The simple things are the ones most needed today if we are to surmount
what divides us, and cement what unites us.

To lower our voices would be a simple thing.

In these difficult years, America has suffered from a fever of words;
from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver; from
angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds; from bombastic
rhetoric that postures instead of persuading.

We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one
another--until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as
well as our voices.

For its part, government will listen. We will strive to listen in new
ways--to the voices of quiet anguish, the voices that speak without
words, the voices of the heart--to the injured voices, the anxious
voices, the voices that have despaired of being heard.

Those who have been left out, we will try to bring in.

Those left behind, we will help to catch up.

For all of our people, we will set as our goal the decent order that
makes progress possible and our lives secure.

As we reach toward our hopes, our task is to build on what has gone
before--not turning away from the old, but turning toward the new.

In this past third of a century, government has passed more laws, spent
more money, initiated more programs, than in all our previous history.

In pursuing our goals of full employment, better housing, excellence in
education; in rebuilding our cities and improving our rural areas; in
protecting our environment and enhancing the quality of life--in all
these and more, we will and must press urgently forward.

We shall plan now for the day when our wealth can be transferred from
the destruction of war abroad to the urgent needs of our people at home.

The American dream does not come to those who fall asleep.

But we are approaching the limits of what government alone can do.

Our greatest need now is to reach beyond government, and to enlist the
legions of the concerned and the committed.

What has to be done, has to be done by government and people together or
it will not be done at all. The lesson of past agony is that without the
people we can do nothing; with the people we can do everything.

To match the magnitude of our tasks, we need the energies of our
people--enlisted not only in grand enterprises, but more importantly in
those small, splendid efforts that make headlines in the neighborhood
newspaper instead of the national journal.

With these, we can build a great cathedral of the spirit--each of us
raising it one stone at a time, as he reaches out to his neighbor,
helping, caring, doing.

I do not offer a life of uninspiring ease. I do not call for a life of
grim sacrifice. I ask you to join in a high adventure--one as rich as
humanity itself, and as exciting as the times we live in.

The essence of freedom is that each of us shares in the shaping of his
own destiny.

Until he has been part of a cause larger than himself, no man is truly

The way to fulfillment is in the use of our talents; we achieve nobility
in the spirit that inspires that use.

As we measure what can be done, we shall promise only what we know we
can produce, but as we chart our goals we shall be lifted by our dreams.

No man can be fully free while his neighbor is not. To go forward at all
is to go forward together.

This means black and white together, as one nation, not two. The laws
have caught up with our conscience. What remains is to give life to what
is in the law: to ensure at last that as all are born equal in dignity
before God, all are born equal in dignity before man.

As we learn to go forward together at home, let us also seek to go
forward together with all mankind.

Let us take as our goal: where peace is unknown, make it welcome; where
peace is fragile, make it strong; where peace is temporary, make it

After a period of confrontation, we are entering an era of negotiation.

Let all nations know that during this administration our lines of
communication will be open.

We seek an open world--open to ideas, open to the exchange of goods and
people--a world in which no people, great or small, will live in angry

We cannot expect to make everyone our friend, but we can try to make no
one our enemy.

Those who would be our adversaries, we invite to a peaceful
competition--not in conquering territory or extending dominion, but in
enriching the life of man.

As we explore the reaches of space, let us go to the new worlds
together--not as new worlds to be conquered, but as a new adventure to
be shared.

With those who are willing to join, let us cooperate to reduce the
burden of arms, to strengthen the structure of peace, to lift up the
poor and the hungry.

But to all those who would be tempted by weakness, let us leave no doubt
that we will be as strong as we need to be for as long as we need to be.

Over the past twenty years, since I first came to this Capital as a
freshman Congressman, I have visited most of the nations of the world.

I have come to know the leaders of the world, and the great forces, the
hatreds, the fears that divide the world.

I know that peace does not come through wishing for it--that there is no
substitute for days and even years of patient and prolonged diplomacy.

I also know the people of the world.

I have seen the hunger of a homeless child, the pain of a man wounded in
battle, the grief of a mother who has lost her son. I know these have no
ideology, no race.

I know America. I know the heart of America is good.

I speak from my own heart, and the heart of my country, the deep concern
we have for those who suffer, and those who sorrow.

I have taken an oath today in the presence of God and my countrymen to
uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. To that oath I
now add this sacred commitment: I shall consecrate my office, my
energies, and all the wisdom I can summon, to the cause of peace among

Let this message be heard by strong and weak alike:

The peace we seek to win is not victory over any other people, but the
peace that comes "with healing in its wings"; with compassion for those
who have suffered; with understanding for those who have opposed us;
with the opportunity for all the peoples of this earth to choose their
own destiny.

Only a few short weeks ago, we shared the glory of man's first sight of
the world as God sees it, as a single sphere reflecting light in the

As the Apollo astronauts flew over the moon's gray surface on Christmas
Eve, they spoke to us of the beauty of earth--and in that voice so clear
across the lunar distance, we heard them invoke God's blessing on its

In that moment, their view from the moon moved poet Archibald MacLeish
to write:

"To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that
eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the
earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal
cold--brothers who know now they are truly brothers."

In that moment of surpassing technological triumph, men turned their
thoughts toward home and humanity--seeing in that far perspective that
man's destiny on earth is not divisible; telling us that however far we
reach into the cosmos, our destiny lies not in the stars but on Earth
itself, in our own hands, in our own hearts.

We have endured a long night of the American spirit. But as our eyes
catch the dimness of the first rays of dawn, let us not curse the
remaining dark. Let us gather the light.

Our destiny offers, not the cup of despair, but the chalice of
opportunity. So let us seize it, not in fear, but in gladness--and,
"riders on the earth together," let us go forward, firm in our faith,
steadfast in our purpose, cautious of the dangers; but sustained by our
confidence in the will of God and the promise of man.


Richard Milhous Nixon
Second Inaugural Address
Saturday, January 20, 1973

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

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

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

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 progress.

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

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

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

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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