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Obama Includes “Our Gay Brothers and Sisters” In Call For Recommitment to Unalienable Rights

Jim Burroway

January 21st, 2013

The theme for President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address is the never-ending task of bringing the Declaration of Independence’s assertion of “certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The journey to that promise, he said, is the history of our nation, and that journey is not complete:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began.  For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.  Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.  Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.  Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.  Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

This is the first inaugural speech to include gays and lesbians as an integral part of America. And it’s more than just a name check. It’s also a recognition that our struggle is part and parcel of the greater, never-ending quest for liberty for all Americans.  

Here is the entire speech as prepared for delivery:

Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

For more than two hundred years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.

They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.

You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America

Comments

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Lucrece
January 21st, 2013 | LINK

It was amazing. I’m so glad LCR’s endorsed candidate wasn’t in his place, for the speech and spirit of the inauguration would have been so far from this.

Ben in Oakland
January 21st, 2013 | LINK

MY PRESIDENT!!!!!!!!,

JohnAGJ
January 21st, 2013 | LINK

I’m still not a fan of his, but I give him props for this. Thanks, Mr. President.

Emelye Waldherr
January 21st, 2013 | LINK

Since Mr Obama mentioned Stonewall, he didn’t just “include gays and lesbians as an integral part of America.” Trans people were included as well. Would that the cisgender LGB community stop forgetting that.

Lucrece
January 21st, 2013 | LINK

Oh, get over it. God forbid that whenever you are not mentioned alongside gay people, you’d stop taking it as a personal affront.

TomTallis
January 21st, 2013 | LINK

All well and good, but he still needs to sign the ENDA executive order…

DN
January 21st, 2013 | LINK

What a difference vs. 2004 when the person occupying the same position demonized gay people in both the state of the union address and in the presidential campaign.

And I say this as the first person who expected Obama to throw gays under the bus at the first politically expedient moment – I have never been happier to be wrong.

That is, until today, when I heard Obama say the quote above in person. What a difference a day makes. Or in this case, nine years.

Neon Genesis
January 21st, 2013 | LINK

Lucrece, I love how in a post celebrating gays being mentioned so explicitily for the first time in a presidential speech, you bash trans people for wanting to be mentioned too. Obviously the irony is lost on you.

StraightGrandmother
January 21st, 2013 | LINK

Here, here Jim Burroway, well said, applause applause. This IS historic and will be written about in our History Books for future generations. I know I will never forget it. I will never forget how important Barack Hussein Obama is in the advancement for Civil Rights for Sexual Minorities.

And sitting there listening to Obama today was Chief Justice Roberts. Tomorrow the Supreme Court will receive the opening brief by BLAG in the Edith Windsor vs United States DOMA case. I can’t help but hope that Chief Justice Roberts will remeber Obama’s words in the coming months.

Thank YOU Mister President, Barack Hussein OBAMA!

CPT_Doom
January 22nd, 2013 | LINK

What I loved was the roar of approval from the crowd when he got to that part. It is amazing to see that, in less than a year, the issue of LGBT equality has gone from a risk for the President to a net positive and his support for marriage equality is considered one of the keys to his re-election victory. We are clearly seeing a sea change in the attitudes toward our community and our rights.

Robert
January 22nd, 2013 | LINK

My husband and I had a conversation about the mention of the L and G portion of the speech and my first comment to him was that the Transgender portion of our community was going to get mad because he did not explicitly state “Transgender” in addittion to the Land G. But you know what?, when our official Rights Movement name is a VERY long alphabet soup, sometimes it will be truncated in order to have it fit in, flow wise, in a speech.

It would have been a very long speech if he had had to say, My Lesbian and gay and Transgender and Bi-sexual and Questiong, and Intersex Brothers and sisters.

Everyone was included they just had to truncate the name of our community.

Sometimes it’s just never enough for people. We can’t continue to expand the name, and expect that people making speeches will be able to add the entire name to every speech.

Robert
January 22nd, 2013 | LINK

Neon Genisis,

I love how in your condemnation of Lucrece, you yourself truncated “Gay And Lesbian” to just “gays”. HMMM, sounds familiar to your complaint does it not?

Josh
January 22nd, 2013 | LINK

I find myself thinking “G” instead of “GB” pretty frequently, let alone “GL” or “GLB”, let alone “GLBT” or “GLBTQQAI” (anyone else I forgot?). It’s unfortunate, and I don’t mean it as an insult to the various other gender/sexual minorities (actually A doesn’t belong there…). It just… happens. I wish society would be better to all those other groups and I at least advocate for them from time to time in real life when it comes up.

It’s also unfortunate that the other groups seem much smaller than GLB; we sort of have a “critical mass” where most people know at least one GLB person pretty well, and I think that helps tremendously. Maybe if the other groups were more open things would improve? I’m pretty sure (statistically) at least one person I’ve known was some form of intersex, but I’ve never heard anyone say, “my intersexed friend said…”.

Anywho, Obama supports the transgender-friendly version of ENDA, which is certainly something.

Neon Genesis
January 23rd, 2013 | LINK

Robert, lots of lesbian women call themselves gay too like Rachel Maddow, so you’re making a false equivalency fallacy. The fact remains that while I’m grateful for the progress Obama has made on gay rights, trans people are still banned from serving in the military and so far there doesn’t seem to be any push by Obama or the Democrats to get that changed. We should also not forget that Obama made it this far in his evolution because the LGBT community pushed him along when he would be wishy-washy on it.

Neon Genesis
January 23rd, 2013 | LINK

Robert: Or Obama could just call us the Rainbow family.

Timothy Kincaid
January 23rd, 2013 | LINK

I usually just say ‘gay community’. Our friends know that includes lesbians, transgender, bisexuals, asexuals, and many others including a lot of heterosexuals who feel far more at home. And so do our enemies. Sometimes it seems that we are the only ones who don’t already know who we are.

Besides, I can look down the road a ways to the day they add ‘C’ to the sexual minorities alphabet soup…

and I’m just not sure I could handle that.

Timothy Kincaid
January 23rd, 2013 | LINK

… for Catholic priest. The more I read about them the more I’m sure they are a whole category of their own.

Donny D.
January 23rd, 2013 | LINK

Unless I’m missing something, Obama didn’t mention bisexual people either.

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