South Bronx to South Bay

Inauguration speechwriter
by Roger Repohl
Published January 15, 2009

Citizens of the United States of America, and citizens of the world:
The inauguration of a new president is not merely a change of guard. It is a renewal of the nation. It is the occasion for all Americans to reflect on the genius of the Constitution that fashioned and sustains us, to recall our history both noble and flawed, and to recommit ourselves to those principles of liberty and justice which the founders set before us over 200 years ago.
I take up the duties of this office humbly recognizing the countless Americans who have striven so mightily and so long to end the scourge of inequality and prejudice — surely the greatest blot on our national history and identity. The steps they took — to battlefield, to picket-line, to courtroom and to classroom; the words they wrote, the songs they sang, the sermons they preached, the blood they spilt have brought us to this place and this time, when race or religion or gender or physical handicap or sexual orientation no longer bars a person from public service or private initiative. The evil of intolerance will never be totally eradicated, so let us ever be on guard against it and ever renew our commitment to the principles of equal justice under law.
It is in this spirit of equality, opportunity, justice, and peace that the United States now approaches every nation of the world. To those that are torn apart by civil war and ethnic strife, we say: Let us work together to bring reconciliation and affirm the dignity of every human being. To those afflicted by crushing poverty, we say: Let us act creatively to establish economic structures that foster development and self-sufficiency. To those who look for models of justice, we say: We pledge to eliminate the abuses of our own recent past by renouncing torture, by expeditiously closing our bases of detention, and by fully restoring the due process of law. To those who oppose us for whatever reason, we say: Let us resolve our differences through open channels of diplomacy. And to those who threaten the peace and security of the world, we say: Violent response will evermore be our last resort, but in the last resort, we will respond, swiftly and decisively.
More than by the political alliances and allegiances of the past, our world is bound together by economic interdependence, and by a shared sense of urgency to protect our natural environment. We as nations must address these issues resourcefully and collaboratively.
Here at home, we face the most dire economic situation since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Now is the time for our federal government to act, because it alone is powerful enough to act. Our action will not only be swift and decisive, as in times of war, but productive and permanent, as in times of peace.
To stabilize our economy and society, we must regulate our financial institutions and develop a banking structure that encourages savings and provides affordable home loans. We must guarantee true social security by extending health care to all. And we must guide our economy to grow sensibly and sustainably.
Americans, let us think as Franklin Roosevelt did in circumstances far worse than ours: that this is not just a crisis to be met but an opportunity to be seized. So many of the roads and bridges you cross, the parks you enjoy, the art and music you love are the lasting legacy of a national economic policy that not only put people to work but engaged them in works that endure to this day.
We shall do this again. The projects we propose will repair the existing infrastructure, so long neglected. But they will also create a new infrastructure, so long needed: renewable energy sources, a modernized power grid, a mass-transportation and rail-freight system to rival Europe’s or Japan’s.
Simultaneously, we pledge to reverse the deterioration of our environment by vigorously pursuing international agreements to control emissions and protect the earth’s resources. In addition, we must work together as a nation to moderate our consumption and encourage new types of industries and agricultural methods that protect our world while enhancing the quality of our lives.
This is all achievable, and the successes we achieve will not be mine but yours — and those of your children’s children.
Yes, the burdens we share will be immense, but the benefits we reap will be immeasurable.
I call up on you, citizens of this nation and citizens of the world, to work together to build the human community in liberty, justice, and peace. The inauguration we celebrate today is not only mine. It is yours. ER