January 20, 2009 was a cold day in Washington D.C., with temperatures hovering right below freezing, but an estimated 1.8 million people flooded onto the National Mall to see incoming President Barack Obama take the oath of office to become the nation’s first African American president.
Pastor Rick Warren started the festivities by delivering the invocation. Obama had garnered criticism from progressives in his party for extending the invitation to Warren, who was socially conservative on LGBTQ and abortion issues, but Warren steered clear of controversy during his prayer.
Singer Aretha Franklin sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” shortly before Obama was sworn in, wearing a giant sequined bow hat that went viral immediately.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office — making a tiny mistake that ultimately forced Obama to retake the oath the next day.
The president then launched into a 20-minute speech in which he called for a “new era of responsibility.”
Read the full text of that speech below:
My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you’ve bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.
I thank President Bush for his service to our nation — as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears and true to our founding documents.
So it has been; so it must be with this generation of Americans.
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many — and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land; a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.
FLASHBACK: See photos from Obama’s inauguration
The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, takes the oath given by US. Supreme Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. (lower R) during the inauguration ceremony in Washington, January 20, 2009. Michelle Obama holds a Bible used by President Abraham Lincoln at his inauguration in 1861. Daughter Malia (R) looks on.
U.S President Barack Obama (C) addresses the crowd after taking the Oath of Office as the 44th President of the United States during the inauguration ceremony in Washington, January 20, 2009.
Vice President elect Joe Biden and President elect Barack Obama wave to the crowd gathered at the Edgewood, Md., train station as their train heads from Philadelphia to Washington on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009, for the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States.
(Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images)
Buttons of Michelle Obama are for sale with US President-elect Barack Obama inauguration memorabilia at the Presidential Inaugural Committee store January 12, 2009, in Washington, DC.
(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Lakisha Smith cries as she watches the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States on a large screen in the neighborhood of Harlem January 20, 2009 in New York City. Obama was inaugurated as the first African-American president of the U.S.
(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Sasha Obama, center, yawns during President Barack Obama’s speech, as her sister, Malia, left, and mother/First Lady, Michell Obama, right, watch during the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama at the U.S. Capitol Tuesday afternoon.
(Photo By Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Work continues on the inaugural platform at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 16, 2009 in Washington, DC. President Elect Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States on January 20, 2009.
(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
A man walks on the inaugural stand at the west front of the U.S. Capitol January 15, 2009 in Washington, DC. Preparations for the presidential inauguration are under way for incoming U.S. President Barack Obama.
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Former U.S. President George W. Bush embraces President Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, after Obama’s inaugural address at the inauguration ceremony in Washington, January 20, 2009.
Crowds fill the National Mall before the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States at his inauguration ceremony in Washington, January 20, 2009.
A spectator waits on the National Mall on the morning of the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States at his inauguration ceremony in Washington, January 20, 2009.
U.S President Barack Obama (C) addresses the crowd after taking the Oath of Office as the 44th President of the United States during the inauguration ceremony in Washington, January 20, 2009.
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the inaugural parade from the reviewing stand in from of the White House in Washington, DC, January 20, 2009.
(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States during the inauguration ceremony in Washington, January 20, 2009. Michelle Obama watches at right. The Bible Obama uses is the same one that President Abraham Lincoln used at his Inauguration in 1861.
President Barack Obama walks in the Inaugural Parade on January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, becoming the first African-American to be elected President of the US.
(Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama delivers his inaugural address after being sworn in as 44th US president at the Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2009.
(TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Malia (L) and Sasha Obama arrive at the inauguration ceremony of their father, President-elect Barack Obama, as the 44th President of the United States in Washington January 20, 2009.
Brent Smith (L), 3, watches the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States on a large screen in the neighborhood of Harlem January 20, 2009 in New York City. Obama was inaugurated as the first African-American president of the U.S.
(Photo by Rick Gershon/Getty Images)
A woman looks through binoculars at the Capitol building during the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States in Washington, January 20, 2009.
Michael and Laurie McRobbie of Indiana attend the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States in Washington, January 20, 2009.
Joe Biden, with his wife Jill at his side, is sworn-in as Vice President of the U.S. by Justice Stevens during the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States in Washington, January 20, 2009.
A man stands wearing a hat in support of U.S. President Barack Obama on the National Mall in Washington January 20, 2013. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden took the oath of office for his second term on Sunday at a small ceremony at his official residence, using a bible with a Celtic cross on the cover that has been in his family since 1893. The U.S. Constitution requires the president and vice president to be sworn in on January 20.
Aretha Franklin sings during the inauguration ceremony for President-elect Barack Obama in Washington, January 20, 2009.
U.S. President Barack Obama is applauded by members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) in the President’s Room after signing his first act as president, a proclamation, moments after being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States during the inaugural ceremony in Washington January 20, 2009. From left: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Vice President Joe Biden, JCCIC Chairman Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) To the right of Senator Reid is Lisa Brown, White House Clerk.
An attendee prays during the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States in Washington, January 20, 2009.
First lady Michelle Obama (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama escort former president George W. Bush and his wife Laura (R) down the steps of the U.S. Capitol after inauguration ceremony in Washington January 20, 2009.
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Vice President Joe Biden (L) recite the Pledge of Allegiance during the inauguration ceremony in Washington January 20, 2009.
U.S President Barack Obama and his wife First Lady Michelle Obama dance on stage during MTV ServiceNation: Live From The Youth Inaugural Ball at the Hilton Washington on January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States today, becoming the first African-American to be elected President of the US.
(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden attend the Southern Inaugural Ball celebrating the inauguration of President Barack Obama on January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. President Obama will be attending 10 Inaugural Balls. Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, becoming the first African American to be elected President.
(Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama and his daughter Malia wave to supporters lining Pennsylvania Avenue during the inaugural parade after he was sworn in as the 44th U.S. President in Washington January 20, 2009.
U.S President Barack Obama (L) takes the oath of office from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts as first lady Michelle Obama holds the bible and their daughters Malia and Sasha (L-R) look on in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, January 20, 2013.
The U.S. Capitol is pictured at sunrise before the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, January 21, 2013.
Recording artist Jay-Z arrives ahead swearing-in ceremonies for U.S. President Barack Obama on the West front of the U.S Capitol in Washington, January 21, 2013.
Malia (L) and Sasha Obama arrive during the second presidential inauguration of their father, President Barack Obama, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol January 21, 2013 in Washington. Obama was re-elected for a second term as President of the United States.
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (2nd from R, front) administers the oath of office to U.S. President Barack Obama as first lady Michelle Obama (C, front) and daughters Malia and Sasha (R, front) look on during ceremonies on the West front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, January 21, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his inaugural address during the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 21, 2013.
A boy listens on the National Mall during the 57th inauguration ceremonies for U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on the West front of the U.S. Capitol, in Washington January 21, 2013.
Beyonce sings the National Anthem during inauguration ceremonies for U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, January 21, 2013.
A woman listens on the National Mall during the 57th inauguration ceremonies for U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on the West front of the U.S. Capitol, in Washington January 21, 2013.
A spectator watches U.S. President Barack Obama go by during the inaugural parade in Washington, January 21, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk and wave after emerging from the presidential limousine during the inaugural parade from the Capitol to the White House in Washington, January 21, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance at the Inaugural Ball in Washington, January 21, 2013.
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 met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. 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 remain a young nation. But in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish 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.
In 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 short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those that prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. 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.
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. For us, they fought and died in places like Concord and Gettysburg, Normandy and Khe Sahn.
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions, greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. 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. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking 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 create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We’ll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and 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. 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. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage. 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.
The question 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. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched. But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success 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.
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers — (applause) — 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 sake.
And so, to all the 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 once more.
RELATED: See Obama through the years
U.S. President Barack Obama signs the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 into law at the U.S. Department of Interior in Washington, December 22, 2010. From L-R are (standing): Vice President Joseph Biden, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen, former U.S. Navy Commander Zoe Dunning, former USMC StaffSgt. Eric Alva, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa), Rep. Susan Davis (D-Ca), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS MILITARY SOCIETY IMAGES OF THE DAY)
U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) and Vice President Joe Biden (L), along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Also pictured are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd R) and Defense Secretary Robert Gates (R). In the decade since the Sept. 11 2001 attacks, U.S. Special Operations Command personnel numbers have doubled, its budget tripled and deployments quadrupled. The Bin Laden takedown is simply the tip of an iceberg of fast-growing, largely hidden action by the United States and its allies. Those with knowledge of such operations say this changing state of warfare could spark a range of unintended consequences, from jeopardizing diplomatic relationships to unwanted, wider wars. Please note: A classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured at source. Picture taken May 1, 2011. To match Analysis CONFLICT/COVERTOPS REUTERS/White House/Pete Souza/Handout/Files (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we’ll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.
We will not apologize for our way of life, 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.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. 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 what you can build, not what you destroy.
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 extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say 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.
As we consider the role that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who at this very hour patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.
We honor them not only because they are the guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service — a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.
And yet at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all. For as much as government can do, and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. 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.
What is demanded, then, is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — 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.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship. This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall; and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served in a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
So let us mark this day with remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At the moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words to be read to the people:
“Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive… that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”
America: In 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 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 safely to future generations.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.