State of the Union: Presidential Rhetoric from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush
Publication Year: 2007
Through an expansive collection of primary source materials and original, informative introduction and headnotes, State of the Union: Presidential Rhetoric from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush explores ways in which modern U.S. presidents have appealed directly to the public and how the public has responded.
State of the Union: Presidential Rhetoric from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush is a comprehensive reference containing all the state of the union addresses—as well as each inaugural address—delivered from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush. This unique single-volume resource presents over 100 full-text addresses. Headnotes accompanying each address provide valuable context for each address by outlining the events leading up to the address and exploring the ensuing public reaction.
An introductory essay to the volume provides readers with an ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Introduction: The State of the Union Address and the Rise of Rhetorical Leadership
- Woodrow Wilson, 1913–1921
- First Term: 1913–1917
- Annual Message to Congress: December 2, 1913
- Annual Message to Congress: December 8, 1914
- Annual Message to Congress: December 7, 1915
- Annual Message to Congress: December 5, 1916
- Second Term: 1917–1921
- Annual Message to Congress: December 4, 1917
- Annual Message to Congress: December 2, 1918
- Annual Message to Congress: December 2, 1919
- Annual Message to Congress: December 7, 1920
- Warren G. Harding, 1921–1923
- Annual Message to Congress: December 9, 1921
- Annual Message to Congress: December 8, 1922
- Calvin Coolidge, 1923–1929
- First Term: 1923–1925
- Annual Message to Congress: December 6, 1923
- Annual Message to Congress: December 3, 1924
- Second Term: 1925–1929
- Annual Message to Congress: December 8, 1925
- Annual Message to Congress: December 7, 1926
- Annual Message to Congress: December 6, 1927
- Annual Message to Congress: December 4, 1928
- Herbert Hoover, 1929–1933
- Annual Message to Congress: December 3, 1929
- Annual Message to Congress: December 2, 1930
- Annual Message to Congress: December 8, 1931
- Annual Message to Congress: December 6, 1932
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933–1945
- First Term: 1933–1937
- Annual Message to Congress: January 3, 1934
- Annual Message to Congress: January 4, 1935
- Annual Message to Congress: January 3, 1936
- Annual Message to Congress: January 6, 1937
- Second Term: 1937–1941
- Annual Message to Congress: January 3, 1938
- Annual Message to Congress: January 4, 1939
- Annual Message to Congress: January 3, 1940
- Annual Message to Congress: January 6, 1941
- Third Term: 1941–1945
- State of the Union Address: January 6, 1942
- State of the Union Address: January 7, 1943
- State of the Union Message: January 11, 1944
- State of the Union Message: January 6, 1945
- Harry S. Truman, 1945–1953
- First Term: 1945–1949
- Message to Congress on the State of the Union: January 21, 1946
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 6, 1947
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 7, 1948
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 5, 1949
- Second Term: 1949–1953
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 4, 1950
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 8, 1951
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 9, 1952
- Message to Congress on the State of the Union: January 7, 1953
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953–1961
- First Term: 1953–1957
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: February 2, 1953
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 7, 1954
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 6, 1955
- Message to Congress on the State of the Union: January 5, 1956
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 10, 1957
- Second Term: 1957–1961
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 9, 1958
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 9, 1959
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 7, 1960
- Message to Congress on the State of the Union: January 12, 1961
- John F. Kennedy, 1961–1963
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 30, 1961
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 11, 1962
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 14, 1963
- Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–1969
- First Term: 1963–1965
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 8, 1964
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 4, 1965
- Second Term: 1965–1969
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 12, 1966
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 10, 1967
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 17, 1968
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 14, 1969
- Richard Nixon, 1969–1974
- First Term: 1969–1973
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 22, 1970
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 22, 1971
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 20, 1972
- Second Term: 1973–1974
- State of the Union Message to Congress: Overview and Goals: February 2, 1973
- Natural Resources and the Environment: February 15, 1973
- The Economy: February 22, 1973
- Human Resources: March 1, 1973
- Community Development: March 8, 1973
- Law Enforcement and Drug Abuse Prevention: March 14, 1973
- Address to Congress on the State of the Union: January 30, 1974
- Gerald R. Ford, 1974–1977
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress Reporting on the State of the Union: January 15, 1975
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress Reporting on the State of the Union: January 19, 1976
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress Reporting on the State of the Union: January 12, 1977
- Jimmy Carter, 1977–1981
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 19, 1978
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 25, 1979
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 23, 1980
- Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union: January 16, 1981
- Ronald Reagan, 1981–1989
- First Term: 1981–1985
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 26, 1982
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 25, 1983
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 25, 1984
- Second Term: 1985–1989
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: February 6, 1985
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: February 4, 1986
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 27, 1987
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 25, 1988
- George H.W. Bush, 1989–1993
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on Administration Goals: February 9, 1989
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 31, 1990
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 29, 1991
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 28, 1992
- William J. Clinton, 1993–2001
- First Term: 1993–1997
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on Administration Goals: February 17, 1993
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 25, 1994
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 24, 1995
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 23, 1996
- Second Term: 1997–2001
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: February 4, 1997
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 27, 1998
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 19, 1999
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 27, 2000
- George W. Bush, 2001–2006
- First Term: 2001–2005
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on Administration Goals: February 27, 2001
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 29, 2002
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 28, 2003
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 20, 2004
- Second Term: 2005–2006
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: February 2, 2005
- Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union: January 31, 2006
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Along with quadrennial presidential elections and their attendant inaugurals, the annual State of the Union speech is one of the most familiar, and unifying, rituals on the U.S. political calendar. One night each winter, under the Capitol dome, the president's oratory resounds through the chamber and is broadcast into millions of homes. With the nation watching, the chief executive fulfills an obligation as spelled out in Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
Although the image of the president's annual pilgrimage to Congress has become deeply embedded in the political consciousness, it is a recent phenomenon. Every president from Thomas Jefferson to William Howard Taft only submitted a written annual message to Congress. In December 1913, President Woodrow Wilson decided to deliver his message in person. As the editors of this volume see it, Wilson's public State of the Union address forever changed the nature of this constitutional obligation. They therefore have compiled that message and every subsequent address, from Wilson's eight messages through George W. Bush's January 2006 speech, tracing the modern era of the presidency through each leader's words and vision. These addresses are distinctive not only for the personal style and rhetorical leadership of each president, but also for the policy prescriptions and political exhortations that flow from them.
This volume presents one hundred State of the Union messages in their entirety. The American Presidency Project provided them as a courtesy. Every attempt has been made to preserve the original spelling and punctuation of these documents, but to enhance clarity, the editors have included explanatory material in brackets within the texts. Introductory notes, written by Deborah Kalb, precede each document, providing historical context and a sense of how presidents have tailored their messages to engage the public and appeal to Congress. The introductory essay by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley presents a general history of these annual messages, noting their evolution over time as a distinctly American political and cultural phenomenon.
Presidents George H. W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and George W. Bush chose to give speeches before a joint session of Congress close on the heels of their first inaugurals. Although these speeches are not State of the Union addresses—they are officially titled an “Address before a Joint Session of Congress on Administration Goals”—they functioned in much the same way and are therefore included here.
An appendix contains three additional speeches because of their importance to the development of modern presidential rhetoric: Woodrow Wilson's 1913 speech on tariff reform, Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 inaugural address, and Ronald Reagan's 1981 inaugural address. The appendix also includes a list of all congressional members who have given opposition responses via network television to State of the Union speeches, a roster of the visitors recent presidents have invited to sit in the House gallery during the annual speeches, and an inventory of every written State of the Union message from George Washington in 1790 through William Howard Taft in 1912.[Page xii]
State of the Union: Presidential Rhetoric from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush is the brainchild of the development and acquisitions editors at CQ Press, who share a fascination with presidential rhetoric. We found the perfect team of outside editors to fulfill our vision in Deborah Kalb, who also contributes to the mega-book Guide to the Presidency, and Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, the creators and administrators of the American Presidency Project. Tim Arnquist, our editorial assistant, was the book's development editor. Anne Stewart and Diana Park provided photographic research. Kerry Kern edited the manuscript and handled production.
We hope this volume provides handy reference to these historic messages and enriches our understanding of the presidents who gave them and the evolution of rhetorical leadership in the modern era.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Gentlemen of the Congress:
I am very glad indeed to have this opportunity to address the two Houses directly and to verify for myself the impression that the President of the United States is a person, not a mere department of the Government hailing Congress from some isolated island of jealous power, sending messages, not speaking naturally and with his own voice—that he is a human being trying to cooperate with other human beings in [Page 1127]a common service. After this pleasant experience I shall feel quite normal in all our dealings with one another.
I have called the Congress together in extraordinary session because a duty was laid upon the party now in power at the recent elections which it ought to perform promptly, in order that the burden carried by the people under existing law may be lightened as soon as possible and in order, also, that the business interests of the country may not be kept too long in suspense as to what the fiscal changes are to be to which they will be required to adjust themselves. It is clear to the whole country that the tariff duties must be altered. They must be changed to meet the radical alteration in the conditions of our economic life which the country has witnessed within the last generation. While the whole face and method of our industrial and commercial life were being changed beyond recognition the tariff schedules have remained what they were before the change began, or have moved in the direction they were given when no large circumstance of our industrial development was what it is to-day. Our task is to square them with the actual facts. The sooner that is done the sooner we shall escape from suffering from the facts and the sooner our men of business will be free to thrive by the law of nature (the nature of free business) instead of by the law of legislation and artificial arrangement.
We have seen tariff legislation wander very far afield in our day—very far indeed from the field in which our prosperity might have had a normal growth and stimulation. No one who looks the facts squarely in the face or knows anything that lies beneath the surface of action can fail to perceive the principles upon which recent tariff legislation has been based. We long ago passed beyond the modest notion of “protecting” the industries of the country and moved boldly forward to the idea that they were entitled to the direct patronage of the Government. For a long time—a time so long that the men now active in public policy hardly remember the conditions that preceded it—we have sought in our tariff schedules to give each group of manufacturers or producers what they themselves thought that they needed in order to maintain a practically exclusive market as against the rest of the world. Consciously or unconsciously, we have built up a set of privileges and exemptions from competition behind which it was easy by any, even the crudest, forms of combination to organize monopoly; until at last nothing is normal, nothing is obliged to stand the tests of efficiency and economy, in our world of big business, but everything thrives by concerted arrangement. Only new principles of action will save us from a final hard crystallization of monopoly and a complete loss of the influences that quicken enterprise and keep independent energy alive.
It is plain what those principles must be. We must abolish everything that bears even the semblance of privilege or of any kind of artificial advantage, and put our business men and producers under the stimulation of a constant necessity to be efficient, economical, and enterprising, masters of competitive supremacy, better workers and merchants than any in the world. Aside from the duties laid upon articles which we do not, and probably cannot, produce, therefore, and the duties laid upon luxuries and merely for the sake of the revenues they yield, the object of the tariff duties henceforth laid must be effective competition, the whetting of American wits by contest with the wits of the rest of the world.
It would be unwise to move toward this end headlong, with reckless haste, or with strokes that cut at the very roots of what has grown up amongst us by long process [Page 1128]and at our own invitation. It does not alter a thing to upset it and break it and deprive it of a chance to change. It destroys it. We must make changes in our fiscal laws, in our fiscal system, whose object is development, a more free and wholesome development, not revolution or upset or confusion. We must build up trade, especially foreign trade. We need the outlet and the enlarged field of energy more than we ever did before. We must build up industry as well, and must adopt freedom in the place of artificial stimulation only so far as it will build, not pull down. In dealing with the tariff the method by which this may be done will be a matter of judgment, exercised item by item. To some not accustomed to the excitements and responsibilities of greater freedom our methods may in some respects and at some points seem heroic, but remedies may be heroic and yet be remedies. It is our business to make sure that they are genuine remedies. Our object is clear. If our motive is above just challenge and only an occasional error of judgment is chargeable against us, we shall be fortunate.
We are called upon to render the country a great service in more matters than one. Our responsibility should be met and our methods should be thorough, as thorough as moderate and well considered, based upon the facts as they are, and not worked out as if we were beginners. We are to deal with the facts of our own day, with the facts of no other, and to make laws which square with those facts. It is best, indeed it is necessary, to begin with the tariff. I will urge nothing upon you now at the opening of your session which can obscure that first object or divert our energies from that clearly defined duty. At a later time I may take the liberty of calling your attention to reforms which should press close upon the heels of the tariff changes, if not accompany them, of which the chief is the reform of our banking and currency laws; but just now I refrain. For the present, I put these matters on one side and think only of this one thing—of the changes in our fiscal system which may best serve to open once more the free channels of prosperity to a great people whom we would serve to the utmost and throughout both rank and file.
I thank you for your courtesy.
I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.[Page 1130]
In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.
More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.
Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.
Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live. Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.
Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.[Page 1131]
Hand in hand with this we must frankly recognize the overbalance of population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land for those best fitted for the land. The task can be helped by definite efforts to raise the values of agricultural products and with this the power to purchase the output of our cities. It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss through foreclosure of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, State, and local governments act forthwith on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced. It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities which today are often scattered, uneconomical, and unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and other utilities which have a definitely public character. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by talking about it. We must act and act quickly.
Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order: there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments, so that there will be an end to speculation with other people's money; and there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency.
These are the lines of attack. I shall presently urge upon a new Congress, in special session, detailed measures for their fulfillment, and I shall seek the immediate assistance of the several States.
Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own national house in order and making income balance outgo. Our international trade relations, though vastly important, are in point of time and necessity secondary to the establishment of a sound national economy. I favor as a practical policy the putting of first things first. I shall spare no effort to restore world trade by international economic readjustment, but the emergency at home cannot wait on that accomplishment.
The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first considerations, upon the interdependence of the various elements in and parts of the United States—a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance that the recovery will endure.
In the field of world policy I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor—the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others—the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.
If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as 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. This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.[Page 1132]
With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.
Action in this image and to this end is feasible under the form of government which we have inherited from our ancestors. Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has produced. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations.
It is to be hoped that the normal balance of Executive and legislative authority may be wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before us. But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure.
I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken Nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption.
But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis—broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.
For the trust reposed in me I will return the courage and the devotion that befit the time. I can do no less.
We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty by old and young alike. We aim at the assurance of a rounded and permanent national life.
We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.
In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.
Senator Hatfield, Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. President, Vice President Bush, Vice President Mondale, Senator Baker, Speaker O'Neill, Reverend Moomaw, and my fellow citizens:
To a few of us here today this is a solemn and most momentous occasion, and yet in the history of our nation it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place, as it has for almost [Page 1134]two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every 4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.
Mr. President, I want our fellow citizens to know how much you did to carry on this tradition. By your gracious cooperation in the transition process, you have shown a watching world that we are a united people pledged to maintaining a political system which guarantees individual liberty to a greater degree than any other, and I thank you and your people for all your help in maintaining the continuity which is the bulwark of our Republic.
The business of our nation goes forward. These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. We suffer from the longest and one of the worst sustained inflations in our national history. It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift, and crushes the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. It threatens to shatter the lives of millions of our people.
Idle industries have cast workers into unemployment, human misery, and personal indignity. Those who do work are denied a fair return for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity.
But great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For decades we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children's future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.
You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a nation, we're not bound by that same limitation? We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow. And let there be no misunderstanding: We are going to begin to act, beginning today.
The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we as Americans have the capacity now, as we've had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom.
In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.
We hear much of special interest groups. Well, our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we're sick—professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, tabbies, and truck drivers. They are, in short, “We the people,” this breed called Americans.
Well, this administration's objective will be a healthy, vigorous, growing economy that provides equal opportunities for all Americans, with no barriers born of bigotry [Page 1135]or discrimination. Putting America back to work means putting all Americans back to work. Ending inflation means freeing all Americans from the terror of runaway living costs. All must share in the productive work of this “new beginning,” and all must share in the bounty of a revived economy. With the idealism and fair play which are the core of our system and our strength, we can have a strong and prosperous America, at peace with itself and the world.
So, as we begin, let us take inventory. We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.
It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government.
Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it's not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work-work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.
If we look to the answer as to why for so many years we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here in this land we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.
It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us to realize that we're too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We're not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope.
We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we're in a time when there are not heroes, they just don't know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter, and they're on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity. They're individuals and families whose taxes support the government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism is quiet, but deep. Their values sustain our national life.
Now, I have used the words “they” and “their” in speaking of these heroes. I could say “you” and “your,” because I'm addressing the heroes of whom I speak—you, the citizens of this blessed land. Your dreams, your hopes, your goals are going to be the dreams, the hopes, and the goals of this administration, so help me God.[Page 1136]
We shall reflect the compassion that is so much a part of your makeup. How can we love our country and not love our countrymen; and loving them, reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they're sick, and provide opportunity to make them self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just in theory?
Can we solve the problems confronting us? Well, the answer is an unequivocal and emphatic “yes.” To paraphrase Winston Churchill, I did not take the oath I've just taken with the intention of presiding over the dissolution of the world's strongest economy.
In the days ahead I will propose removing the roadblocks that have slowed our economy and reduced productivity. Steps will be taken aimed at restoring the balance between the various levels of government. Progress may be slow, measured in inches and feet, not miles, but we will progress. It is time to reawaken this industrial giant, to get government back within its means, and to lighten our punitive tax burden. And these will be our first priorities, and on these principles there will be no compromise.
On the eve of our struggle for independence a man who might have been one of the greatest among the Founding Fathers, Dr. Joseph Warren, president of the Massachusetts Congress, said to his fellow Americans, “Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of…. On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important questions upon which rests the happiness and the liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves.”
Well, I believe we, the Americans of today, are ready to act worthy of ourselves, ready to do what must be done to ensure happiness and liberty for ourselves, our children, and our children's children. And as we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom.
To those neighbors and allies who share our freedom, we will strengthen our historic ties and assure them of our support and firm commitment. We will match loyalty with loyalty. We will strive for mutually beneficial relations. We will not use our friendship to impose on their sovereignty, for our own sovereignty is not for sale.
As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it, now or ever.
Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength.
Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors.
I'm told that tens of thousands of prayer meetings are being held on this day, and for that I'm deeply grateful. We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free. It would be fitting and good, I think, if on each Inaugural Day in future years it should be declared a day of prayer.
This is the first time in our history that this ceremony has been held, as you've been told, on this West Front of the Capitol. Standing here, one faces a magnificent [Page 1137]vista, opening up on this city's special beauty and history. At the end of this open mall are those shrines to the giants on whose shoulders we stand.
Directly in front of me, the monument to a monumental man, George Washington, father of our country. A man of humility who came to greatness reluctantly. He led America out of revolutionary victory into infant nationhood. Off to one side, the stately memorial to Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence flames with his eloquence. And then, beyond the Reflecting Pool, the dignified columns of the Lincoln Memorial. Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln.
Beyond those monuments to heroism is the Potomac River, and on the far shore the sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery, with its row upon row of simple white markers bearing crosses or Stars of David. They add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom.
Each one of those markers is a monument to the kind of hero I spoke of earlier. Their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, The Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno, and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam.
Under one such marker lies a young man, Martin Treptow, who left his job in a small town barbershop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire.
We're told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, “My Pledge,” he had written these words: “America must win this war. Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”
The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds, to believe that together with God's help we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us.
And after all, why shouldn't we believe that? We are Americans.
God bless you, and thank you.
Captions and Credits[Page 1147]
Page 4: “President Wilson Delivers His Message to Congress in Person,” cartoon by Clifford Berryman, 1913. Courtesy of the U.S. Senate Collection.
Page 13: Woodrow Wilson delivers his second inaugural address, 1917, Washington, D.C. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Page 75: Warren G. Harding is presented with a chair made from the first American battleship, The Revenge, by a committee of newspaper editors on the White House lawn, July 13, 1921. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Page 97: Calvin Coolidge standing on the south lawn of the White House, February 26, 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Page 197: Herbert Hoover seated on sofa, 1929. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Page 251: Franklin D. Roosevelt in Casablanca, January 18, 1943. Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library.
Page 345: Harry S. Truman seated at desk, April 19, 1945. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Page 451: Dwight D. Eisenhower addresses a joint session of Congress, 1953. Courtesy of the Granger Collection, New York.
Page 563: John F. Kennedy addresses the U.N. General Assembly, September 20, 1963. Courtesy of the Granger Collection, New York.
Page 599: Lyndon B. Johnson delivers remarks in the Capitol Rotunda on the signing of the Voting Rights Act, August 6, 1965. Courtesy of the LBJ Library, photo by Yoichi R. Okamoto.
Page 661: Richard Nixon delivers a speech, October 31, 1970. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Page 751: Gerald R. Ford in the Oval Office, March 25, 1975. Courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.
Page 779: Jimmy Carter announces the results of the Camp David Accords to Congress, September 18, 1978. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Page 871: Ronald Reagan at a press conference, June 16, 1981. Courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library.
Page 931: George H. Bush addresses a joint session of Congress, March 6, 1991, following the end of the war with Iraq. Courtesy of the George Bush Presidential Library.[Page 1148]
Page 965: Bill Clinton delivers his sixth State of the Union Address, January 19, 1999. Courtesy of the AP/Wide World Photos/Ron Edmonds.
Page 1071: George W. Bush delivers a speech at a Pentagon ceremony, November 24, 2003, before signing the Defense Authorization bill for fiscal year 2004. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army/Spc. Bill Putnam.