My fellow Americans, in this ceremony we recognize the power of the people in a democracy to create self-government. For you have truly lifted me, as a lowly servant, up from your midst to serve our nation. You have entrusted in me the duties of national service. You have asked me to stand as a sentinel to safeguard our rights. You have expected me to tell the truth, even if that truth shall disturb established economic, political and social structures. I accept your trust with humility and with resolve. I shall proceed in my duties each day with courage, with unshakeable faith and with love of you, my dear constituents, love of our country, love of freedom and love of our brothers and sisters worldwide.
For the America I envision seeks world unity instead of unilateralism. It gains its power through being the first to help, not the first to strike. It extends itself to the peoples of the world to lift their burden. It is an America, which when asked for help, dispenses bread instead of bombs, medical assistance instead of missiles, and food instead of fissile materials.
There is a role for America in the world. It is in working with the community of nations to achieve the security of all nations. It is in restoring the promise of the Non Proliferation Treaty to lead the way to get rid of all nuclear weapons. It is in helping to assure international order. It is through strengthening and abiding by international treaties. It is in assuring control and eventual elimination of biological and chemical weapons, and landmines. It is in protecting our global climate by cooperating with the rest of the world in reducing carbon emissions.
America can help protect the world. America can help save the world. But America cannot control the world, nor should we want to do so.
Yet our Administration would project American power for the purpose of domination. Their National Security doctrines call for America to strike anywhere it pleases and to be the first to use nuclear weapons.
Our nation is now poised to go to all-out war against Iraq. Iraq has not committed any act of aggression against the United States. Iraq was not responsible for 911. No credible evidence exists linking Iraq to Al Queda's role in 911. Iraq was not responsible for the anthrax attack on our nation. The United Nations has yet to establish that Iraq has usable weapons of mass destruction. There is no intelligence that Iraq has the ability to strike at the United States. According to the CIA, Iraq has no intention to attack America, but will defend itself if attacked.
Why then, is our nation prepared to send three hundred thousand of our young men and women into house to house combat in the streets of Baghdad and Basra? Why is our nation prepared to spend $200 billion or more of our hard-earned tax dollars for the destruction of Iraq?
Why is our nation preparing to use the most powerful military machine in history to wage an assault against the people of Iraq, to destroy their houses and buildings, to wipe out their water and electric systems and to block their access to food and medical supplies?
There is no answer which can separate itself from oil economics, profit requirements of arms trade, or distorted notions of empire-building.
War with Iraq is wrong. But if war is prosecuted further in Iraq, we must be prepared to advance the cause of peace in this country. We must be prepared to stand up, to speak out, to organize, to march, to demand an end to the war, or to demand an end to an administration which insists on war.
It is urgent we oppose this war. It will dominate our nation's priorities. It will threaten Social Security. It will threaten Medicare. It will block a prescription drug benefit for the elderly. It will stop America from providing jobs for all, health care for all, education for all.
There are some who believe that it is unpatriotic to challenge the Administration on the war. They believe it is politically wiser to debate the economy. But how can one reasonably separate war from the budget, war from the economy, war from America's ability to meet the needs of the people of this nation?
The Administration's own top economic adviser said the war could cost up to $200 billion. Our federal budget is already close to a $200 billion deficit due to huge tax cuts for the wealthy. Remember when we had a budget surplus?
Each time the administration talks about war, fear is created and when fear goes up, the market goes down. War will mean a sharp increase in oil prices, which will hurt jobs in manufacturing and transportation. One economic study with a worst-case scenario puts the cost of an all-out war, plus long-term occupation of Iraq at $1.6 trillion.
You cannot separate war from the economy. You cannot separate war from America's future, from its role in the world and its ability to meet the needs of our own people here at home.
We need to ask the questions: Why does America have hundreds of billions to ruin the health and take the lives of innocent people in Iraq but no money to provide health care for all Americans?
Why would America spend hundreds of billions to retire Saddam Hussein, but no money to protect the retirement security of its own people?
Why does America have money to blow up bridges over the Euphrates River in Iraq, but no money to build up bridges over the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland?
The path America must take is one of peace which leads to prosperity. It is one which understands that creating a structure of peace ensures that economic structures can be sound, affirmative of human needs and restorative of human values.
This is the dream of a Department of Peace which can help America take the first step towards making nonviolence an organizing principle in our society - - making the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a reality - - and working to make war itself a thing of the past. It is this ethic of peace seeking and peace building which will cause us to take down weapons from the heavens and work to create a heaven on earth full of new possibilities.
Peace and prosperity shall be as two pillars in a newly rebuilt America which provides for the economic and social security of its own people as a cause of nationhood and for the economic and social progress of peoples of other lands as a cause of brotherhood.
This confirmation of the purpose of nation was the dream of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society, and John F. Kennedy and the New Frontier. This shall continue to be our dream in the days ahead, that no matter the darkness, we shall hold up the light of America's higher purpose, which calls to us across the ages from Washington. Jefferson and Adams through Lincoln to the present day.
Our nation has always had a higher calling, despite the darkness of 911 and the official response to it. It is a calling to maintain the quest for democracy, for freedom and liberty at times of peril as well as in times of peace. We can sense that higher calling. That higher calling is our heritage. The words of Francis Scott Key still echo:
"Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?" In this he celebrated the link between freedom and bravery: That it takes courage to live in a democracy. It takes courage to stand up to terrorists and maintain basic liberties. It takes courage to lead the way toward global disarmament while some are bent on destruction. It takes patience to face dictators around the world and not be tempted to bomb them into submission. It takes wisdom to have great power and to make gentle its presence in the world.
And it takes compassion to understand the plight of peoples world wide who themselves are trying to survive, to live out their own humble lives despite having conditions which are challenging or governments which are oppressive.
My friends. This is still your government. You have a right to have a say in how its destiny is being charted. That right derives from our very Declaration of Independence, which claimed self-governance as a basic right. Government does not just happen in Washington, DC. It is the result of a process which takes place in thousands of cities, villages and townships. It is also a process which also takes place in our hearts, which is brought to life by our love of country, and our love of each other. It is your love which enables me to carry those hopes and dreams forward. And I shall do so courageously in the days ahead. Thank you.