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Bill Clinton: ‘Second Inaugural Address’ (2)

And once again, we have resolved for our time a great debate over the role of
government. Today we can declare: Government is not the problem, and government is
not the solution. We-the American people-we are the solution. Our founders understood
that well and gave us a democracy strong enough to endure for centuries, flexible
enough to face our common challenges and advance our common dreams in each new
As times change, so government must change. We need a new government for a new
century-humble enough not to try to solve our problems for us, but strong enough to
give us the tools to solve our problems for ourselves; a government that is smaller, lives
within its means, and does more with less. Yet where it can stand up for our values and
interests in the world, and where it can give Americans the power to make a real
difference in their everyday lives, government should do more, not less. The preeminent
mission of our new government is to give all Americans an opportunity-not a guarantee,
but a real opportunity-to build better lives.
Beyond that, my fellow citizens, the future is up to us. Our founders taught us that the
preservation of our liberty and our union depends upon responsible citizenship. And we
need a new sense of responsibility for a new century. There is work to do, work that
government alone cannot do: teaching children to read; hiring people off welfare rolls;
coming out from behind locked doors and shuttered windows to help reclaim our streets
from drugs and gangs and crime; taking time out of our own lives to serve others.
Each and every one of us, in our own way, must assume personal responsibility-not only
for ourselves and our families, but for our neighbors and our nation. Our greatest
responsibility is to embrace a new spirit of community for a new century. For any one of
us to succeed, we must succeed as one America.
The challenge of our past remains the challenge of our future-will we become one nation,
one people, with one common destiny, or not? Will we all come together, or come apart?
The divide of race has been America’s constant curse. And each new wave of immigrants
gives new targets to old prejudices. Prejudice and contempt, cloaked in the pretense of
religious or political conviction are no different. These forces have nearly destroyed our
nation in the past. They plague us still. They fuel the fanaticism of terror. And they
torment the lives of millions in fractured nations all around the world.
These obsessions cripple both those who hate and, of course, those who are hated,
robbing both of what they might become. We cannot, we will not, succumb to the dark
impulses that lurk in the far regions of the soul everywhere. We shall overcome them.
And we shall replace them with the generous spirit of a people who feel at home with one
Our rich texture of racial, religious and political diversity will be a Godsend in the 21st
century. Great rewards will come to those who can live together, learn together, work
together, forge new ties that bind together.