Articles

We The People — Past Inaugural Speeches, and The Constitution, Set to Music

September 16, 2019


We the People of the United States in Order to form a more perfect Union establish Justice insure domestic tranquility provide for the common defense promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity we do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America the time has come to reaffirm our
enduring spirit to choose our better history to carry forward that precious
gift that noble idea of passed on through generation to generation the
god-given promise that all are equal all are free and all deserve a chance to
pursue their full measure of happiness as for our common defense we reject as
false the choice between our safety and our ideals our founding fathers faced
with perils we can scarcely imagine drafted a charter to assure the rule of
law and the rights of man a charter expanded by the blood of generations those ideals still light the world and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake In serving we recognize a symbol of
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 of 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 long heroic journey must go
forever upward if I read the temper of our people
correctly we now realize because we have never realized before our
interdependence on each other that we cannot merely take but we must
give as well that if we are to go forward we must move as a trained and
loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline because
without such discipline no progress is made no leadership becomes effective we
are I know ready and willing to submit our lives and
property to such discipline because it makes possible a leadership which aims at
a larger good we dare not forget today that we are the
heirs of that first revolution let the word go forth from this time and place
to friend and foe alike that the torch has been passed to a new generation of
Americans born in this century tempered by war disciplined by a hard and bitter
peace proud of our ancient heritage and unwilling to witness or permit the slow
undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed
let us begin anew remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of
weakness and sincerity is always subject to proof let us never negotiate out of
fear but let us never fear to negotiate bear in mind this sacred principle that
though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail that will to be
rightful must be reasonable that the minority possess their equal rights
which equal law must protect to violate would be oppression let us then fellow
citizens unite with one heart and one mind let us restore to social
intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life
itself are but dreary things 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
character 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 some see leadership as high drama and
the sound of trumpets calling sometimes it is that but I see history as a book
with many pages and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning the new
breeze blows a page turns the story unfolds and so today a chapter begins
a small and stately story of unity diversity and generosity shared and
written together with malice toward none with charity for
all with firmness in the right of God gives us to see the right let us strive
on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds to care for him
who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan to do all which
may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with
all nations We the People declare today that the most evident of truth 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 generations task carry on what those pioneers began 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 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

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