It is a day of vindication. A day of validity. A day of victory.
For the last eight years we have had to sit by as our nation was gripped by a colossal mistake, an unprecedented screwup and a denial of our elected way of life. Our best hopes were soon dashed as a monumental tragedy was wantonly exploited for nationalistic and political gain by the rich, and powerful.
We could only stand by in anger as massive fraud, corruption, corporate greed and cronyism pervaded every aspect of the government that was supposed to be by the people, and for the people. We tried to hold onto jobs in two of the worst recessions in recent living memory, scrambled to hold onto our possessions and had to make terrible choices on where to live and how we were going to eat.
We had to watch as our own Constitution was ignored, if not shredded, as 'inalienable rights' were alienated, as we watched in horror as American gulags were opened overseas and our very principles that American soldiers fought and died for were compromised in the name of freedom. George Orwell must have been laughing the whole time as his worst nightmares were used as a blueprint for unending war, interrogation and torture, and subjugation of the populace by fear.
We had to bear witness to the crumbling of our economy, our infrastructure, of our basic rights and pride as Americans as this mistake of a government took over all three Constitutional branches, perverting the very separation of powers carefully designed by the Founding Fathers. The power of the President was enlarged far beyond what the framers were willing to allow to grow into that of a king, the very danger they feared and tried to protect against. It must now be returned to its proper set of limits, checks and balances.
Eternal vigilance is always the price of freedom, and for too long too many of our populace has not been vigilant as our nation was convulsed in fear in September 11. History will likely record that fearful Americans not only gave up their freedom at the time, they gave it up willingly out of fear. It is time to take it back.
"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils 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. 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 that we are ready to lead once more."
For my own story the last eight years have been very bad years, as I got laid off twice, got wiped out in a car accident, and was plagued by health problems I never had to worry about in my twenties. My thirties have been no picnic, and nearly the entire time I had to stand by and have seethed with anger as our nation and everything we hold dear as Americans was bastardized and twisted into nationalistic corporate greed, racism and hate.
For the last eight years, every morning I have gotten up and picked up the paper in the driveway and read the news, as is my custom, and then gotten sick after reading the headlines. Sometimes I manage not to throw up. But I have had eight years of morning sickness.
It is finally over, and it is time for the healing to begin.
"..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 that we are ready to lead once more."
The expectations will of course be high. Just about everything in our economy and our government is broken. Bad times have ravaged us all, especially in the last year. But we can once again be proud to be Americans. And we can hope again. And even though my thirties will soon over, I can start feeling young again.
"..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."
Full text of Inaugural Address