January 19, 2009
Posted: 09:55 AM ET
by President-elect Barack Obama
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 to serving our fellow man.
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