Chief Justice Rehnquist, President Carter, President Bush, PresidentClinton, distinguished guests and my fellow citizens, the peacefultransfer of authority is rare in history, yet common in our country. Witha simple oath, we affirm old traditions and make new beginnings.
As I begin, I thank President Clinton for his service to our nation.
And I thank Vice President Gore for a contest conducted with spirit andended with grace.
I am honored and humbled to stand here, where so many of America's leadershave come before me, and so many will follow.
We have a place, all of us, in a long story -- a story we continue, butwhose end we will not see. It is the story of a new world that became afriend and liberator of the old, a story of a slave-holding society thatbecame a servant of freedom, the story of a power that went into the worldto protect but not possess, to defend but not to conquer.
It is the American story -- a story of flawed and fallible people, unitedacross the generations by grand and enduring ideals.
The grandest of these ideals is an unfolding American promise thateveryone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, that no insignificant person waseverborn.
Americans are called to enact this promise in our lives and in our laws.
And though our nation has sometimes halted, and sometimes delayed, we mustfollow no other course.
Through much of the last century, America's faith in freedom and democracywasa rock in a raging sea. Now it is a seed upon the wind, taking root inmany nations.
Our democratic faith is more than the creed of our country, it is theinborn hope of our humanity, an ideal we carry but do not own, a trust we bear andpass along. And even after nearly 225 years, we have a long way yet totravel.
While many of our citizens prosper, others doubt the promise, even thejustice, of our own country. The ambitions of some Americans are limitedby failing schools and hidden prejudice and the circumstances of theirbirth. And sometimes our differences run so deep, it seems we share acontinent, but not a country.
We do not accept this, and we will not allow it. Our unity, our union, isthe serious work of leaders and citizens in every generation. And this ismy solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of justice andopportunity.
I know this is in our reach because we are guided by a power larger thanourselves who creates us equal in His image.
And we are confident in principles that unite and lead us onward.
America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound byideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interestsand teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must be taughtthese principles. Every citizen must uphold them. And every immigrant, by embracing theseideals, makes our country more, not less, American.
Today, we affirm a new commitment to live out our nation's promise throughcivility, courage, compassion and character.
America, at its best, matches a commitment to principle with a concern forcivility. A civil society demands from each of us good will and respect,fair dealing and forgiveness.
Some seem to believe that our politics can afford to be petty because, ina time of peace, the stakes of our debates appear small.
But the stakes for America are never small. If our country does not leadthe cause of freedom, it will not be led. If we do not turn the hearts ofchildren toward knowledge and character, we will lose their gifts andundermine their idealism. If we permit our economy to drift and decline,the vulnerable will suffer most.
We must live up to the calling we share. Civility is not a tactic or asentime nt. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, ofcommunity over chaos. And this commitment, if we keep it, is a way toshared accomplishment.
America, at its best, is also courageous.
Our national courage has been clear in times of depression and war, whendefending common dangers defined our common good. Now we must choose ifthe example of our fathers and mothers will inspire us or condemn us. Wemust show courage in a time of blessing by confronting problems instead ofpassing them on tofuture generations.
Together, we will reclaim America's schools, before ignorance and apathyclaim more young lives.
We will reform Social Security and Medicare, sparing our children fromstruggles we have the power to prevent. And we will reduce taxes, torecover the momentum of our economy and reward the effort and enterpriseof working Americans.
We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invitechallenge.
We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century issparednew horrors.
The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake: Americaremains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balanceof power that favors freedom. We will defend our allies and our interests. We willshow purpose without arrogance. We will meet aggression and bad faith withresolve and strength. And to all nations, we will speak for the valuesthat gave our nation birth.