Byline: Barack Obama, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
On the day of the first inauguration to take place in this city, a small band of citizens gathered to watch Thomas Jefferson assume office. Our young and fragile democracy had barely finished a long and contentious election that tested our founding ideals, and there were those who feared our union might not endure.
It was a perilous moment. But Jefferson announced that while we may differ in opinion, we all share the same principles. Let us, then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind, he said, urging those assembled to begin anew the work of building a nation.
In the more than two centuries since, inaugurations have taken place during times of war and peace, depression and prosperity. Beneath the unfinished dome of the Capitol, a young lawyer from Illinois swore an oath to defend the Constitution a divided nation threatened to tear apart. In an era of unprecedented crisis, an optimistic New Yorker refused to allow us to succumb to fear. In a time of great change, a young man from Massachusetts convinced us to think anew with regard toserving our fellow man.
At each and every moment, the American people have joined with one heart and one mind - not just to commemorate a new president, but to celebrate those common ideals, share our hopes for a brighter future and resolve to advance our bold experiment.
Tomorrow, we'll gather at a new time of great challenge for the American people. Our nation is at war. Our economy is in turmoil. We have much work to do toward restoring prosperity and renewing the promise of this nation.
And yet while our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not. What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that our Founders displayed. What is also required is that we break free from rigid ideology and small thinking, and together grab hold of this opportunity to bridge partisan divides and deliver change for the American people.
The state of our union and challenges of a new century demand that we move beyond the old debates and stale arguments. We must focus today not on the dogmas of left and right, but on practical answers to the difficult problems of our times.
The impetus for that change will come from the American people, where the ultimate power in our democracy lies.
That is why the events of this week are not simply about the inauguration of another American president - they are a celebration of our democracy. …