President Barack Obama began his administration taking a humble stance in the face of major economic and wartime crises facing the nation but called on Americans to meet challenges through hard work and values such as sacrifice and responsibility.
In his first address to the nation as president on Tuesday, said he was taking the oath of office at a time amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.
Enumerating the challenges he spoke of the war, the poor economy, housing woes, lost jobs, closing businesses, expensive healthcare, failing schools and dependence on energy from adversaries.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many, he said. 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.
Hard Work Ahead
He recalled a national tradition of hard work and sacrifice.
It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame, he said, giving examples of pioneers, workers, soldiers, and even those who endured the lash of the whip.
Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America, he added, stating an agenda for creating new jobs which have been under discussion for months in Congress and will most likely be passed into law in the form of construction and infrastructure projects.
He also admonished skeptics who question the scale of our ambitions in moving forward with the plans, parrying objections to big government and questions about whether the market is a force for good or ill.
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 our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good, he said.
Obama also touched on major political issues which became a firestorm of criticism for his predecessor, former President George Bush, including laws and rights in time of war, using military force wisely and applying those pressing issues such as the war Afghanistan, nuclear disarmament, global warming, and the threat of terrorism.
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, he challenged.
He praised the nation's diversity and in relations with Muslim nations he vowed a new way.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect, he said.
Basic Values the Ultimate Drivers
Acknowledging the limits of what government can and must do, Obama noted that it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.
Success depends on old but tried values such as hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism, he said.
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, he added.
Ascribing a meaning and purpose to those values, he invoked the duties of citizenship, God's calling to shape the future, while noting why people from diverse backgrounds can join in celebration and why he personally can take a most sacred oath of office.
He recalled a time during the U.S. war for independence over two hundred years ago when then general and future first president George Washington rallied people asserting the enduring value of hope and virtue which allowed people to meet a common problem.
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].
He urged Americans today to do the same.