What if America's new president had told us what would really happen in his first four years?
As Washington gears up for President Barack Obama's second inaugural address, public opinion polls show that Americans have much lower expectations for Obama's second term than they did four years ago for his first term. The soaring rhetoric of the 2008 campaign and Obama's first inaugural address might have contributed to those inflated expectations. So, as a public service before his second term begins, we here at Foreign Policy thought it would be a good idea to revisit an abridged version of Obama's first inaugural address and, in light of his first term, revise the text just a wee bit to reflect a more realistic era. Enjoy!
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 the implacable opposition I am about to encounter.
President Bush for
his service to our nation as well as the generosity and
cooperation he has shown throughout this transition setting the bar super-low so that simple policy competence will make me
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 barely met in piecemeal fashion as we lurch from self-imposed crisis to crisis.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear until someone tries to bomb a plane with explosives in their underpants, unity of purpose over conflict and discord until someone tries to build a mosque near Ground Zero.
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 will replace them with much larger recriminations, grander conspiracy theories, and even more stale dogma.
We remain a
young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside
childish things and go straight for the truly infantile
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
our elected officials will continue to honor your
quixotic, unsustainable preferences of lower taxes and more government
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 except for lame-duck sessions
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 compromise
over sheer bloody-mindedness.
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. But let's be clear about individual greatness -- you didn't build that.
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. And let me assure you that my administration will deport anyone who does try to come to this country unannounced and work hard.
the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth, no
matter what the Pew Global Attitudes project says in their polling. 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. Our deficits will remain unparalleled for years to come.
But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off
unpleasant decisions -- that
time has surely passed sounds like what will continue to happen for the near future.
today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work
remaking blaming the other party for the
state of America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.
The state of
our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to
new jobs a half-hearted stimulus but
to lay a new foundation for growth do next to
nothing on solving America's housing crisis.
harness the sun with ill-conceived government subsidies
the winds and frack 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 cause student loan debt to skyrocket to new highs.
All this we can do. 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 -- and they are
right to do so. Their memories are short, for they have
what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when
imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage correctly inferred that we have reached a new peak in
partisanship that will prevent Washington from accomplishing more than one big
plan at a time.
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. They will be replaced by far loopier, less rational arguments.
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 Congress
can stomach passing a budget or raising the debt ceiling.
of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic
product, but on
the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend
opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the
surest route to our common good the eagerness of others
to buy dollar-denominated debt. We will make sure this demand is met.
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals, because it's pretty obvious that safety will come first.
Our founding fathers faced with perils that 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, except for drones or anything else JSOC dreams up.
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 we are ready to lead from behind with logistical support once more.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. We will pivot away from these old allies as fast as humanly possible.
They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please -- again, except for drones. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use without bothering to consult Congress. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint, and the sheer awesomeness of SEAL Team Six.
We are the
keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those
new threats that demand even greater
even greater cooperation unilateral action
and understanding rejection of anodyne United Nations treaties between
We'll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge
a hard-earned peace in leave Afghanistan no matter what by 2014.
friends and former foes, we'll
work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat
make modest progress on nuclear arms reductions and
nuclear safety over inexplicable and ill-informed Republican objections and roll back disagree with China about the specter of a warming
We will not apologize for our way of life even though I suspect I'll be accused of doing that very thing four years from now, 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." Just to reiterate: I. Have. Drones.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect and lots and lots and lots of drones.
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 how many
drones we fire in your general direction
what you can build, not what
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 prevaricate a fair amount about whether we like the devil we
know better than the protesters we don't, especially if you are housing a major
U.S. naval base
extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your
people of poor nations, we pledge to make repeated,
vague, and empty promises to complete the Doha Development round and then let
it die an ignoble death
work alongside you to make your farms
flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry
And to those
nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say you
are so taking the lead in your own security theaters
we can no longer
afford indifference to the 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....
challenges may be
new built up from decades of misbegotten fiscal and monetary policies, the instruments with which we meet them may be new
inspire loathing and revulsion in the American people, but those values upon
which our success depends, honesty and hard work, 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.
demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new
responsibility rebalancing and leading
from behind -- 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 non-congressionally authorized
kinetic military actions....
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
acknowledge expertise in areas in which we are ignorant and relied on murky online
sources of information as all of our elite institutions revealed scandals, lies,
and cover-ups galore
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 a hotter planet, more long-term unemployment, and even more
dysfunctional political discourse safely to future generations.
Thank you. God bless you.
And God bless the United States of America.
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