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Charles S.
Democrat NY

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  • Inaugural Ceremony

    by Senator Charles E. Schumer

    Posted on 2013-01-22

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    SCHUMER. Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, all who are present, and to all who are watching, welcome to the Capitol and to this celebration of our great democracy. This is the 57th inauguration of an American President, and no matter how many times one witnesses this event, its simplicity, its innate majesty, and most of all its meaning, that sacred, yet cautious, entrusting of power from we, the people, to our chosen leader, never fails to make one's heart beat faster as it will today with the inauguration of President Barack H. Obama.

    We know we would not be here today were it not for those who stand guard around the world to preserve our freedom. To those in our Armed Forces, we offer our infinite thanks for your bravery, your honor, your sacrifice.

    (Applause.) This democracy of ours was forged by intellect and argument, by activism and blood, and above all, from John Adams to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, to Martin Luther King, Jr., by a stubborn adherence to the notion that we are all created equal and deserve nothing less than a great Republic worthy of our consent.

    The theme of this year's inaugural is ``Faith in America's Future.'' The perfect embodiment of this unshakable confidence and the ongoing success of our collective journey is an event from our past. I speak of the improbable completion of the Capitol dome and capping it with the Statue of Freedom which occurred 150 years ago in 1863.

    When Abraham Lincoln took office 2 years earlier, the dome above us was a half-built eyesore. The conventional wisdom was it should be left unfinished until the war ended, given the travails and financial needs of the times. But to President Lincoln, the half-finished dome symbolized the half-divided Nation. Lincoln said: If people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on. So despite the conflict which engulfed the Nation and surrounded the city, the dome continued to rise.

    On December 2, 1863, the Statue of Freedom, a woman, was placed atop the dome, where she still stands. In a sublime irony, it was a former slave, now free American, Philip Reid, who helped to cast the bronze statue.

    Our present times are not as perilous or despairing as they were in 1863, but in 2013 far too many doubt the future of this great Nation and our ability to tackle our own era's half-finished domes.

    Today's problems are intractable, they say; the times are so complex, the differences in the country and the world so deep we will never overcome them. When thoughts such as these produce anxiety, fear, and even despair, we do well to remember Americans have always been, and still are, a practical, optimistic, problem-solving people; that, as our history shows, no matter how steep the climb, how difficult the problems, how half-finished the task, America always rises to the occasion. America prevails and America prospers.

    (Applause.) Those who bet against this country have inevitably been on the wrong side of history. So it is a good moment to gaze upward and behold the Statue of Freedom at the top of the Capitol dome. It is a good moment to gain strength and courage and humility from those who were determined to complete the half-finished dome. It is a good moment to rejoice at this 57th Presidential inaugural ceremony, and it is the perfect moment to renew our collective faith in the future of America.

    (Applause.) Thank you and God bless these United States.

    In that spirit of faith, I would now like to introduce civil rights leader Myrlie Evers, who has committed her life to extending the promise of our Nation's founding principles to all Americans.

    Mrs. Evers will lead us in the invocation.

    Mrs. EVERS. America, we are here, our Nation's Capitol, on this day, January the 21st, 2013, the inauguration of our 45th President, Barack Obama. We come at this time to ask blessings upon our leaders, the President, Vice President, Members of Congress, all elected and appointed officials of the United States of America.

    We are here to ask blessings upon our Armed Forces, blessings upon all who contribute to the essence of the American spirit, the American dream, the opportunity to become whatever our mankind, womankind allows us to be. This is the promise of America.

    As we sing the words of belief, ``This is my country,'' let us act upon the meaning everyone is included. May the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of every woman, man, boy, and girl be honored. May all Your people, especially the least of these, flourish in our blessed Nation. One hundred fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 50 years after the march on Washington, we celebrate the spirit of our ancestors which has allowed us to move from a nation of unborn hopes and a history of disenfranchised votes to today's expression of a more perfect Union.

    We ask, too, Almighty, that where our paths seem blanketed by throngs of oppression and rippled by pangs of despair, we ask for Your guidance toward the light of deliverance, and with the vision of those who came before us and dreamed of this day, that we recognize their visions still inspire us. They are a great cloud of witnesses unseen by the naked eye but all around us thankful that their living was not in vain. For every mountain You gave us the strength to climb, Your grace is pleaded to continue that climb for America and the world.

    We now stand beneath the shadow of the Nation's Capitol whose golden dome reflects the unity and democracy of one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

    Approximately 4 miles from where we are assembled, the hallowed remains of men and women rest in Arlington Cemetery; they who believed, fought, and died for this country. May their spirit infuse our being to work together with respect, enabling us to continue to build this Nation, and in so doing we send a message to the world that we are strong, fierce in our strength, and ever vigilant in our pursuit of freedom.

    We ask that You grant our President the will to act courageously but cautiously when confronted with danger and to act prudently but deliberately when challenged by adversity. Please continue to vest his efforts, to lead by example in consideration and favor of the diversity of our people. Bless our families all across this Nation.

    We thank You for this opportunity of prayer to strengthen us for the journey through the days that lie ahead. We invoke the prayers of our grandmothers who taught us to pray: God make me a blessing. Let their spirit guide us as we claim the spirit of old. There is something within me that holds the reins. There is something within me that banishes pain. There is something within me I cannot explain. But all I know, America, there is something within--there is something within.

    In Jesus's name and the name of all who are holy and right, we pray.


    (Applause.) Mr. SCHUMER. I am pleased to introduce the award-winning tabernacle choir, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, to sing ``Battle Hymn of the Republic.'' (Performance by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.) Mr. SCHUMER. Please join me in welcoming my colleague and friend, the Senator from Tennessee, the Honorable Lamar Alexander.

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