Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama - As prepared for deliveryInaugural Whistle Stop Tour Philadelphia, Pennsylvania January 17, 2009
We are here to mark the beginning of our journey to Washington. This isfitting because it was here, in this city, that our American journeybegan. It was here that a group of farmers and lawyers, merchants andsoldiers, gathered to declare their independence and lay claim to adestiny that they were being denied.
It was a risky thing, meeting as they did in that summer of 1776. Therewas no guarantee that their fragile experiment would find success. Morethan once in those early years did the odds seem insurmountable. Morethan once did the fishermen, laborers, and craftsmen who calledthemselves an army face the prospect of defeat.
And yet, they were willing to put all they were and all they had on theline - their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor - for a setof ideals that continue to light the world. That we are equal. That ourrights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness come not from ourlaws, but from our maker. And that a government of, by, and for thepeople can endure. It was these ideals that led us to declareindependence, and craft our constitution, producing documents that wereimperfect but had within them, like our nation itself, the capacity tobe made more perfect.
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We are here today not simply to pay tribute to our first patriots but totake up the work that they began. The trials we face are very differentnow, but severe in their own right. Only a handful of times in ourhistory has a generation been confronted with challenges so vast. Aneconomy that is faltering. Two wars, one that needs to be endedresponsibly, one that needs to be waged wisely. A planet that is warmingfrom our unsustainable dependence on oil.
And yet while our problems may be new, what is required to overcome themis not. What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that ourfounders displayed. What is required is a new declaration ofindependence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives - fromideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry - an appeal not toour easy instincts but to our better angels.
That is the reason I launched my campaign for the presidency nearly twoyears ago. I did so in the belief that the most fundamental Americanideal, that a better life is in store for all those willing to work forit, was slipping out of reach. That Washington was serving the interestsof the few, not the many. And that our politics had grown too small forthe scale of the challenges we faced.
But I also believed something else. I believed that our future is ourchoice, and that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another andbring everyone together - Democrats, Republicans, and Independents,north, south, east and west, black, white, Latino, Asian, and NativeAmerican, gay and straight, disabled and not - then not only would werestore hope and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe,just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process.
This is what I believed, but you made this belief real. You proved oncemore that people who love this country can change it. And as I prepareto leave for Washington on a trip that you made possible, know that Iwill not be traveling alone. I will be taking with me some of the menand women I met along the way, Americans from every corner of thiscountry, whose hopes and heartaches were the core of our cause; whosedreams and struggles have become my own.
Theirs are the voices I will carry with me every day in the White House.Theirs are the stories I will be thinking of when we deliver the changesyou elected me to make. When Americans are returning to work andsleeping easier at night knowing their jobs are secure, I will bethinking of people like Mark Dowell, who's worried his job at Ford willbe the next one cut, a devastating prospect with the teenage daughtershe has back home.
When affordable health care is no longer something we hope for, butsomething we can count on, I will be thinking of working moms likeShandra Jackson, who was diagnosed with an illness, and is now burdenedwith higher medical bills on top of child care for her eleven year-oldson.
When we are welcoming back our loved ones from a war in Iraq that we'vebrought to an end, I will be thinking of our brave servicemen and womensacrificing around the world, of veterans like Tony Fischer, who servedtwo tours in Iraq, and all those returning home, unable to find a job.
These are the stories that will drive me in the days ahead. They aredifferent stories, told by men and women whose journeys may seemseparate. And yet, what you showed me time and again is that no matterwho we are or what we look like, no matter where we come from or whatfaith we practice, we are a people of common hopes and common dreams,who ask only for what was promised us as Americans - that we might makeof our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did.
We recognize that such enormous challenges will not be solved quickly.There will be false starts and setbacks, frustrations anddisappointments. And we will be called to show patience even as we actwith fierce urgency.
But we should never forget that we are the heirs of that first band ofpatriots, ordinary men and women who refused to give up when it allseemed so improbable; and who somehow believed that they had the powerto make the world anew. That is the spirit that we must reclaim today.
For the American Revolution did not end when British guns fell silent.It was never something to be won only on a battlefield or fulfilled onlyin our founding documents. It was not simply a struggle to break freefrom empire and declare independence. The American Revolution was - andremains - an ongoing struggle "in the minds and hearts of the people" tolive up to our founding creed.
Starting now, let's take up in our own lives the work of perfecting ourunion.
Let's build a government that is responsible to the people, and acceptour own responsibilities as citizens to hold our government accountable.
Let's all of us do our part to rebuild this country.
Let's make sure this election is not the end of what we do to changeAmerica, but the beginning.
Join me in this effort. Join one another in this effort. And together,mindful of our proud history, hopeful for the future, let's seek abetter world in our time. Thank you.