Innauguration speech

My fellow citizens!

I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my introduction 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. 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. 1

We are aided by all who wish to live in freedom from fear—even by those who live today in fear under their own governments.  We are aided by all who want relief from the lies of propaganda—who desire truth and sincerity.  We are aided by all who desire self-government and a voice in deciding their own affairs.  We are aided by all who long for economic security—for the security and abundance that all human beings should be able to enjoy.  2

We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution. 3

Free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don’t attack each other. Free nations don’t develop weapons of mass destruction. 4

We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace. 5

Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose – and you allow him to make war at pleasure. 6

Politics is not religion and we should govern on the basis of evidence, not theology. 7

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts. 8
Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. 9
These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people. 10

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. 11

There has been something crude and heartless and unfeeling in our haste to succeed and be great. Our thought has been “Let every man look out for himself, let every generation look out for itself,” while we reared giant machinery which made it impossible that any but those who stood at the levers of control should have a chance to look out for themselves. We had not forgotten our morals. We remembered well enough that we had set up a policy which was meant to serve the humblest as well as the most powerful, with an eye single to the standards of justice and fair play, and remembered it with pride. But we were very heedless and in a hurry to be great. Nor have we studied and perfected the means by which government may be put at the service of humanity, in safeguarding the health of the Nation, the health of its men and its women and its children, as well as their rights in the struggle for existence. This is no sentimental duty. The firm basis of government is justice, not pity. These are matters of justice. There can be no equality or opportunity, the first essential of justice in the body politic, if men and women and children be not shielded in their lives, their very vitality, from the consequences of great industrial and social processes which they can not alter, control, or singly cope with. Society must see to it that it does not itself crush or weaken or damage its own constituent parts. The first duty of law is to keep sound the society it serves. Sanitary laws, pure food laws, and laws determining conditions of labor which individuals are powerless to determine for themselves are intimate parts of the very business of justice and legal efficiency. 12

We are determined to make every American citizen the subject of his country’s interest and concern; and we will never regard any faithful law-abiding group within our borders as superfluous. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. I paint it for you in hope—because the Nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, proposes to paint it out.  If I know aught of the spirit and purpose of our Nation, we will not listen to Comfort, Opportunism, and Timidity. We will carry on. 13

But we cannot dwell upon remembered glory. We cannot afford to drift. We reject the prospect of failure or mediocrity or an inferior quality of life for any person. Our Government must at the same time be both competent and compassionate. We have already found a high degree of personal liberty, and we are now struggling to enhance equality of opportunity. Our commitment to human rights must be absolute, our laws fair, our natural beauty preserved; the powerful must not persecute the weak, and human dignity must be enhanced. 14

We cannot, we will not, succumb to the dark impulses that lurk in the far regions of the soul everywhere. We shall overcome them. And we shall replace them with the generous spirit of a people who feel at home with one another. Our rich texture of racial, religious and political diversity will be a Godsend in the 21st century. Great rewards will come to those who can live together, learn together, work together, and forge new ties that bind together. 15

What kind of nation we will be, what kind of world we will live in, whether we shape the future in the image of our hopes, is ours to determine by our actions and our choices. 16

We must use our skills and knowledge and, at times, our substance, to help others rise from misery, however far the scene of suffering may be from our shores. For wherever in the world a people knows desperate want, there must appear at least the spark of hope, the hope of progress—or there will surely rise at last the flames of conflict. 17

So let us begin anew—remembering that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.  Let us explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us. Let us, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms—and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations. Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. 18

If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. 19

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. 20

Thank you!

1 Franklin D. Roosevelt

2 Harry S. Truman

3 Abraham Lincoln

4 George W. Bush

5 George W. Bush

6 Abraham Lincoln

7 Bill Clinton

8 Abraham Lincoln

9 Abraham Lincoln

10 Abraham Lincoln

11 John F. Kennedy

12 Woodrow Wilson

13 Franklin D. Roosevelt

14 Franklin D. Roosevelt

15 Bill Clinton

16 Richard Milhous Nixon

17 Dwight D. Eisenhower

18 John F. Kennedy

19 Abraham Lincoln

20 unknown author