Obama’s Inaugural Address

Today, January 20,2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America. Many people were wildly happy over this, many others were far less than happy, or even sanguine, about this course of events.

Here is the full transcript of Obama’s Inaugural Address:

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from 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.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

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. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).”

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

It was a well-crafted speech, as are all of Obama’s pre-written and rehearsed orations. It was not one of is more rousing or memorable ones though; it was somewhat lackluster as compared to some of his previous monologues. I think on this “momentous occasion” he and his writing team could have and should have done better.

But enough with nigh on useless commentary on form and style. What did Obama actually say? What was the content of the “opening line” of his gambit as President?  Here’s my take on the substance of what President Obama actually said:

  • President Obama is explicitly aligning his regime with our Founding fathers and, by doing so, tacitly questioning the patriotism of any who would dissent from his vision.
  • President Obama believes America is in dire straits – I have to agree with him on that singular point – and he believes it’s the fault of both the wealthy and those those sat by and allowed them gain wealth.
  • President Obama has declared that political discourse and debate is counterproductive to the needs of the nations. He implicitly states that disunity must be put aside in favor of a singular vision.
  • President Obama reinforces the idea that was central to his campaign, that the needs and desires of the individual must be subordinated to the collective will of the state.
  • President Obama believes that America was built on the backs of the poor, the desperate immigrants, and the slave trade.
  • President Obama believes in Anthropogenic Global Warming and most likely favors the measures set forth in the Kyoto Treaty.
  • President Obama believes in expanding the role and size of the federal government.
  • President Obama believes it is the duty of America to provide money – that would be our tax dollars – and support to the poorer nations of the world.
  • President Obama is an anti-Nationalist and believes that America should guide the world into a Global Government, most likely under the rule of the United Nations.
  • President Obama doesn’t like America as it stands and desires to  remake it from the ground up.

A Quick Synopsis


You’re hurting really badly and it’s your own fault for not ensuring that wealth was spread evenly across your population base. You allowed the wealthy to do this to you because you never accepted that that your country had grown strong by exploiting the workers.

The only solution to your problems is to come together as a collective body under the guidance of the state. By doing so you will ensure that all share in the duty that you all bear to assuage the sins of your nation and your heritage. This can be accomplished by subsidizing the poorer nations of the world and ushering us all into a new golden age of Global Socialism.

This must be done. Any who disagree are not only unpatriotic but go against the will of God.

That’s my personal take on President Obama’s Inaugural Address. I arrived at my interpretation of his speech by reviewing it in the context of his campaign rhetoric and the content of his previous written works. Your own opinions may very drastically – and there’s approximately a 52% chance that they do. 😉

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14 Responses to “Obama’s Inaugural Address”

  1. TRO Says:

    As if I could not have been anymore depressed than I was already, I had to read your interpretation of his speech. Sigh.

    You are right, of course, that is no doubt what he wants. Let us hope that the reality of politics in a still very much divided nation keep him from accomplishing those things.

    I, for one, will do my part to patriotically dissent at every opportunity. And in doing so it will not be God’s will nor the intent of the Founding Fathers I will raise my voice against, but the will of false prophets and those sheep that so easily follow them to slaughter.

  2. Josh Brandt Says:

    Well written and well thought out. I got some of the same feelings from hearing his speech at school today.

  3. Prudie Says:

    Great post.

    I thought the speech was uninspiring, both in text and in delivery. I expected better. He has a reputation as a great orator to uphold and I thought that surely he would come up with better than this tired old stump speech he’s given millions of times in other forms during the campaign. All in all, I felt equal parts “yawn” and “socialism again, really?”

  4. Inaugural Speech Interpretation « Prudence Ponder Says:

    […] Speech Interpretation Jonolan at Reflections from a Murky Pond  has kindly interpreted Obama’s inaugural speech for those of us too busy yawning to pay attention properly. Brilliant. Go […]

  5. j Says:

    You say Obama ‘believes it’s the fault of both the wealthy and those those sat by and allowed them gain wealth’

    What he said was:

    this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control

    i.e. an unfettered free market failed to temper the excesses of the banks – specifically, reckless lending policies; and the selling of ever more risky credit derivatives.

    The only way we are going to come out of the current crisis successfully, is for government to get involved. Call that socialism if you insist (but note that BO clearly commits to a market economy), but a laissez faire approach would be a disaster at this time.

    To work through this mess, governments will have to work in a co-ordinated fashion. I’m not sure where you come to the conclusion that ‘Global Government under the rule of the UN’ is considered, less still on the agenda.

  6. jonolan Says:


    Obama Inaugural did drive home one point for me though. As I listened and read along with his speech I realized that it was essentially the same one that Edwards, Dean, or Kerry would have delivered – insofar as content is concerned.


    Actually my interpretation was simply a removal of the “nuances” in this passage:

    Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

    I tried to take it passage-by-passage and topic-by-topic in my in interpretation. And of course I was sure that 52% of Americans would disagree with my assessment.

    I think that they only we will successfully bounce back from this recession is for the government to remain uninvolved as much as possible and let the markets settle back to a sane level on their own. Government intervention should be limited to ameliorating the direct short-term impact on the average citizen.

    That is the technique that worked for JFK, the technique that worked for Reagan, and the technique that got us right back on our feet after the Dot.Bomb and 9/11. It will work again. The government bankrupting our country with an Trillion Dollar bailout won’t work – not for our children and their children and all the following generations who will have to pay for it.

  7. TRO Says:

    “The only way we are going to come out of the current crisis successfully, is for government to get involved.”

    Government does few things well. Fighting wars is one and even that gets screwed up from time to time. But meddling in the economy? That is one thing that the government has no place at all past making sure the playing field is level. The way out of this is simple – lower taxes – which generates investment in business and then in jobs while at the same time increasing revenues to pay off the debt.

    The New Deal actually lengthened the depression. Trying the same thing here will only hurt our economy and drive us further towards socialism

  8. j Says:

    jonolan, TRO – the principle of minimal governmental interference is sound (although I don’t see the relevance of 9/11 – but this is no ordinary crisis. The risks of a major institution failing are significant and most likely, that would bring the whole system crashing down with it.

    Absolutely what is needed is government intervention – and tax cuts should be a part of that package; more urgently, funds are required to maintain bank liquidity and stimulate lending.

  9. JC Lamont Says:

    You continue to amaze me, Jonolan.

  10. culturepress Says:

    Nice synopsis.

  11. jonolan Says:


    I continue to amaze you? In a good way or a bad way? Or do I and my blog engender in you the sort of amazement that goes along with seeing a strange creature that you can’t identify?


    Thanks! I’m glad you liked it.

  12. TRO Says:

    There is not enough money in the world to bail out all the segments of our economy that need help. Some just have to fail.

  13. in2thefray Says:

    On the point that the free market,unrestricted lending yadda yadda. The lending was based on a good idea (ownership society) even though the truly insidious parts of the problem were sown before that was a policy

  14. jonolan Says:


    That a certain restrained amount of government intervention is required is apparent. It is the scope and form of that intervention that is the point of argument. A revisiting of FDR’s New Deal will be no more beneficial to the country than it was the last time, which is none in the long run.

    Better that we bear the burden of economic troubles than have our descendants live in a bankrupt nation.


    True, failed businesses and business models should be allowed to perish. Subsidizing them only rewards bad behavior and replaces the market with the government.


    Very, very true – but not how the media chose to represent it to the public at large. Therefor we have some of the situation we in America are now dealing with.

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