In an inaugural address of soaring rhetoric tied to sobering reality, Barack Obama called today for an American renewal that moves the country beyond partisan divisions and ideological struggles to restore prosperity at home and peace abroad.
The 44th president recited the litany of the economic and foreign policy challenges facing the country, according to his remarks prepared for delivery.
"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," Obama said.
But then he quickly expresses his confidence in the American people. "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," he said.
In a reference to the change and hope he campaigned on and his election represents, he said, "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."
He warned Americans that there is much to do, and little time to waste. "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America," he said.. "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," he added. "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 healthcare'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."
Obama's ascendancy has already changed America's image abroad. And he used the speech to warn enemies, but also offer a new way forward.
"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," he said.
But Obama, who has promised to emphasize diplomacy over military action, also reached out to the world.
"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect," he plans to say. "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."
Obama concluded his speech, which he wrote himself, by reminding Americans of the nation's beginnings and their belief in its special destiny.
"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."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.