Full Text Obama Presidency May 1, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Historic Speech to the Nation from Afghanistan — Promises to Stand by Afghans & Wind Down War

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama on Ending the War in Afghanistan

Source: WH, 5-1-12 

Today, President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan — to meet with President Hamid Karzai and sign a strategic partnership agreement that will help to guide our future relationship with the country.

For more than a decade, U.S. troops have served in the region as part of the NATO mission. In a televised address, tonight, the President talked about the progress they’ve made and the new relationship between the United States and Afghanistan:

[We’ve] begun a transition to Afghan responsibility for security. Already, nearly half of the Afghan people live in places where Afghan security forces are moving into the lead. This month, at a NATO Summit in Chicago, our coalition will set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year. International troops will continue to train, advise and assist the Afghans, and fight alongside them when needed.  But we will shift into a support role as Afghans step forward.

As we do, our troops will be coming home. Last year, we removed 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace, with more and more of our troops coming home. And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.

The President also discussed how the end of two wars will allow us to focus on a new set of national priorities:

As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it’s time to renew America — an America where our children live free from fear and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Excerpts of the President’s Address to the Nation from Afghanistan

As Prepared for Delivery –

“Already, nearly half the Afghan people live in places where Afghan Security Forces are moving into the lead. This month, at a NATO Summit in Chicago, our coalition will set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year. International troops will continue to train, advise and assist the Afghans, and fight alongside them when needed. But we will shift into a support role as Afghans step forward.

As we do, our troops will be coming home. Last year, we removed 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace, with more of our troops coming home. And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.”

“My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The Iraq War is over. The number of our troops in harm’s way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda.

This future is only within reach because of our men and women in uniform. Time and again, they have answered the call to serve in distant and dangerous places. In an age when so many institutions have come up short, these Americans stood tall. They met their responsibilities to one another, and the flag they serve under. I just met with some of them, and told them that as Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder. In their faces, we see what is best in ourselves and our country.”…

“As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America. An America where our children live free from fear, and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation.”

“This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end.”

Remarks by President Obama in Address to the Nation from Afghanistan

Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan

4:01 A.M. AFT

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening from Bagram Air Base. This outpost is more than 7,000 miles from home, but for over a decade it’s been close to our hearts. Because here, in Afghanistan, more than half a million of our sons and daughters have sacrificed to protect our country.

Today, I signed a historic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that defines a new kind of relationship between our countries — a future in which Afghans are responsible for the security of their nation, and we build an equal partnership between two sovereign states; a future in which war ends, and a new chapter begins.

Tonight, I’d like to speak to you about this transition. But first, let us remember why we came here. It was here, in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden established a safe haven for his terrorist organization. It was here, in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda brought new recruits, trained them, and plotted acts of terror. It was here, from within these borders, that al Qaeda launched the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children.

And so, 10 years ago, the United States and our allies went to war to make sure that al Qaeda could never again use this country to launch attacks against us. Despite initial success, for a number of reasons, this war has taken longer than most anticipated. In 2002, bin Laden and his lieutenants escaped across the border and established safe haven in Pakistan. America spent nearly eight years fighting a different war in Iraq. And al Qaeda’s extremist allies within the Taliban have waged a brutal insurgency.

But over the last three years, the tide has turned. We broke the Taliban’s momentum. We’ve built strong Afghan security forces. We devastated al Qaeda’s leadership, taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders. And one year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. The goal that I set — to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild — is now within our reach.

Still, there will be difficult days ahead. The enormous sacrifices of our men and women are not over. But tonight, I’d like to tell you how we will complete our mission and end the war in Afghanistan.

First, we’ve begun a transition to Afghan responsibility for security. Already, nearly half of the Afghan people live in places where Afghan security forces are moving into the lead. This month, at a NATO Summit in Chicago, our coalition will set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year. International troops will continue to train, advise and assist the Afghans, and fight alongside them when needed. But we will shift into a support role as Afghans step forward.

As we do, our troops will be coming home. Last year, we removed 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace, with more and more of our troops coming home. And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.

Second, we are training Afghan security forces to get the job done. Those forces have surged, and will peak at 352,000 this year. The Afghans will sustain that level for three years, and then reduce the size of their military. And in Chicago, we will endorse a proposal to support a strong and sustainable long-term Afghan force.

Third, we’re building an enduring partnership. The agreement we signed today sends a clear message to the Afghan people: As you stand up, you will not stand alone. It establishes the basis for our cooperation over the next decade, including shared commitments to combat terrorism and strengthen democratic institutions. It supports Afghan efforts to advance development and dignity for their people. And it includes Afghan commitments to transparency and accountability, and to protect the human rights of all Afghans — men and women, boys and girls.

Within this framework, we’ll work with the Afghans to determine what support they need to accomplish two narrow security missions beyond 2014 — counter-terrorism and continued training. But we will not build permanent bases in this country, nor will we be patrolling its cities and mountains. That will be the job of the Afghan people.

Fourth, we’re pursuing a negotiated peace. In coordination with the Afghan government, my administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban. We’ve made it clear that they can be a part of this future if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence and abide by Afghan laws. Many members of the Taliban — from foot soldiers to leaders — have indicated an interest in reconciliation. The path to peace is now set before them. Those who refuse to walk it will face strong Afghan security forces, backed by the United States and our allies.

Fifth, we are building a global consensus to support peace and stability in South Asia. In Chicago, the international community will express support for this plan and for Afghanistan’s future. And I have made it clear to its neighbor — Pakistan — that it can and should be an equal partner in this process in a way that respects Pakistan’s sovereignty, interests and democratic institutions. In pursuit of a durable peace, America has no designs beyond an end to al Qaeda safe havens and respect for Afghan sovereignty.

As we move forward, some people will ask why we need a firm timeline. The answer is clear: Our goal is not to build a country in America’s image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban. These objectives would require many more years, many more dollars, and most importantly, many more American lives. Our goal is to destroy al Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that. Afghans want to assert their sovereignty and build a lasting peace. That requires a clear timeline to wind down the war.

Others will ask, why don’t we leave immediately? That answer is also clear: We must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize. Otherwise, our gains could be lost and al Qaeda could establish itself once more. And as Commander-in-Chief, I refuse to let that happen.

I recognize that many Americans are tired of war. As President, nothing is more wrenching than signing a letter to a family of the fallen, or looking into the eyes of a child who will grow up without a mother or father. I will not keep Americans in harm’s way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security. But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan and end this war responsibly.

My fellow Americans, we’ve travelled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The Iraq war is over. The number of our troops in harm’s way has been cut in half, and more will soon be coming home. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda.

This future is only within reach because of our men and women in uniform. Time and again, they have answered the call to serve in distant and dangerous places. In an age when so many institutions have come up short, these Americans stood tall. They met their responsibilities to one another, and to the flag they serve under. I just met with some of them and told them that as Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder. And in their faces, we see what is best in ourselves and our country.

Our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians in Afghanistan have done their duty. Now we must summon that same sense of common purpose. We must give our veterans and military families the support they deserve, and the opportunities they have earned. And we must redouble our efforts to build a nation worthy of their sacrifice.

As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it’s time to renew America — an America where our children live free from fear and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation.

Here in Afghanistan, Americans answered the call to defend their fellow citizens and uphold human dignity. Today, we recall the fallen and those who suffered wounds, both seen and unseen. But through dark days, we have drawn strength from their example and the ideals that have guided our nation and led the world — a belief that all people are treated equal and deserve the freedom to determine their destiny. That is the light that guides us still.

This time of war began in Afghanistan and this is where it will end. With faith in each other and our eyes fixed on the future, let us finish the work at hand and forge a just and lasting peace.

May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.

END        4:12 A.M. AFT

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Full Text: President Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan Military Withdrawal

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

Remarks by the President on the Way Forward in Afghanistan

East Room

8:01 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening.  Nearly 10 years ago, America suffered the worst attack on our shores since Pearl Harbor.  This mass murder was planned by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, and signaled a new threat to our security –- one in which the targets were no longer soldiers on a battlefield, but innocent men, women and children going about their daily lives.

In the days that followed, our nation was united as we struck at al Qaeda and routed the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Then, our focus shifted.  A second war was launched in Iraq, and we spent enormous blood and treasure to support a new government there.  By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year.  But al Qaeda’s leaders had escaped into Pakistan and were plotting new attacks, while the Taliban had regrouped and gone on the offensive.  Without a new strategy and decisive action, our military commanders warned that we could face a resurgent al Qaeda and a Taliban taking over large parts of Afghanistan.

For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan.  When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives:  to refocus on al Qaeda, to reverse the Taliban’s momentum, and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country.  I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to draw down our forces this July.

Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment.  Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals.  As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point.  After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead.  Our mission will change from combat to support.  By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

We’re starting this drawdown from a position of strength.  Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11.  Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership.  And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known.  This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11.  One soldier summed it up well.  “The message,” he said, “is we don’t forget.  You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes.”

The information that we recovered from bin Laden’s compound shows al Qaeda under enormous strain.  Bin Laden expressed concern that al Qaeda had been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that had been killed, and that al Qaeda has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam -– thereby draining more widespread support.  Al Qaeda remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks.  But we have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.

In Afghanistan, we’ve inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds.  Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilize more of the country.  Afghan security forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we’ve already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people.  In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war.

Of course, huge challenges remain.  This is the beginning — but not the end –- of our effort to wind down this war.  We’ll have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we’ve made, while we draw down our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government.  And next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition.

We do know that peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war without a political settlement.  So as we strengthen the Afghan government and security forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban.  Our position on these talks is clear:  They must be led by the Afghan government, and those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan must break from al Qaeda, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan constitution.  But, in part because of our military effort, we have reason to believe that progress can be made.

The goal that we seek is achievable, and can be expressed simply:  No safe haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland or our allies.  We won’t try to make Afghanistan a perfect place.  We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely.  That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people, and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace.  What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures –- one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government.

Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.  No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region.  We’ll work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keeps its commitments.  For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe haven for those who aim to kill us.  They cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.

My fellow Americans, this has been a difficult decade for our country.  We’ve learned anew the profound cost of war — a cost that’s been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan -– men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended.  Thousands more have been wounded. Some have lost limbs on the battlefield, and others still battle the demons that have followed them home.

Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.  Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way.  We’ve ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country.  And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance.  These long wars will come to a responsible end.

As they do, we must learn their lessons.  Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America’s engagement around the world.  Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face.  Others would have America over-extended, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.

We must chart a more centered course.  Like generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events.  But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute.  When threatened, we must respond with force –- but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas.  When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don’t have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own.  Instead, we must rally international action, which we’re doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their own destiny.

In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power -– it is the principles upon which our union was founded.  We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens.  We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others.  We stand not for empire, but for self-determination.  That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab world.  We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.

Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens here at home.  Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times.  Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource –- our people.  We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means.  We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy.  And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war.  For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.

America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.

In this effort, we draw inspiration from our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much on our behalf.  To our troops, our veterans and their families, I speak for all Americans when I say that we will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care and benefits and opportunity that you deserve.

I met some of these patriotic Americans at Fort Campbell.  A while back, I spoke to the 101st Airborne that has fought to turn the tide in Afghanistan, and to the team that took out Osama bin Laden.  Standing in front of a model of bin Laden’s compound, the Navy SEAL who led that effort paid tribute to those who had been lost –- brothers and sisters in arms whose names are now written on bases where our troops stand guard overseas, and on headstones in quiet corners of our country where their memory will never be forgotten.  This officer — like so many others I’ve met on bases, in Baghdad and Bagram, and at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital -– spoke with humility about how his unit worked together as one, depending on each other, and trusting one another, as a family might do in a time of peril.

That’s a lesson worth remembering -– that we are all a part of one American family.  Though we have known disagreement and division, we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish.  Now, let us finish the work at hand.  Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story.  With confidence in our cause, with faith in our fellow citizens, and with hope in our hearts, let us go about the work of extending the promise of America -– for this generation, and the next.

May God bless our troops.  And may God bless the United States of America.

END           8:16 P.M. EDT

Political Buzz June 22, 2011: President Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan Military Withdrawal

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS: OBAMA’S ADDRESS ON AFGHANISTAN EXIT STRATEGY


White House Photo, Photo by Chuck Kennedy, 6/22/11

Obama announces that ‘surge’ troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by summer 2012: President Obama on Wednesday announced that 10,000 U.S. troops will come home from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and that 23,000 more will be withdrawn by next summer, a timeline that is more rapid than military commanders had wanted.
“America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home,” Obama said, speaking from the White House East Room.

Obama to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year: President Obama will announce in his address at 8 p.m. Wednesday that he will order home 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan this year and another 23,000 by the end of September 2012, according to administration officials speaking on condition of anonymity.
The plan, charting the U.S. military’s exit from America’s longest war, outlines the withdrawal of the 33,000 forces that Obama ordered to Afghanistan at the end of 2009, after a months-long strategy review meant to find ways of salvaging a flagging war.

“America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.” – President Obama, declaring that the United States had achieved its main goals in Afghanistan.

Text of President Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan: The following is the prepared text of President Obama’s speech regarding the troop pullout in Afghanistan, as provided by the White House…. – NYT, 6-22-11

  • LIVE BLOG: Obama’s Afghanistan speechWaPo, 6-22-11 
  • Obama’s day: Afghanistan speech: President Obama has some meetings today, but will spend most of his time preparing for tonight’s speech on a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan…. – USA Today, 6-22-11
  • Obama’s Afghanistan speech: Admitting the limits of American power: In November of 1986, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev addressed the Politburo about his country’s futile war in Afghanistan. The conflict had already dragged on for six years, Gorbachev told his comrades, but no end was in sight. “In general, we haven’t found the key to resolving this problem,” the communist leader explained, according to Gregory Feifer’s book, The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan. “We need to finish this process as soon as possible.” That was especially true in a nation whose economy was groaning from the expense of the war. … – AP, 6-23-11
  • Obama Orders Troop Cuts in Afghanistan: President Obama declared Wednesday that the United States had largely achieved its goals in Afghanistan, setting in motion a timetable for the rapid withdrawal of American troops in an acknowledgement of the shifting threat in the region and fast-changing political and economic landscape in a war-weary America.
    Asserting that the country that served as a launching pad for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks no longer represented a terrorist threat to the United States, Mr. Obama declared that the “tide of war is receding.” And in a blunt acknowledgment of domestic economic strains, he said, “America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home.”
    Mr. Obama announced plans to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year. The remaining 20,000 troops from the 2009 “surge” of forces would leave by next summer, amounting to about a third of the 100,000 troops now in the country. He said the troop reductions would continue “at a steady pace,” bringing to an end America’s longest war — a conflict that has cost 1,500 American lives.
    The troop reductions, which came after a short but fierce internal debate, are both deeper and faster than the recommendations made by Mr. Obama’s military commanders, and they come as the president faces relentless budget pressures, an increasingly restive Congress and American public and a re-election campaign next year…. – NYT, 6-22-11
  • Obama speech reflects unease at home after decade of war: President Obama announced his troop withdrawal from Afghanistan Wednesday night, but the real surprise was how much time he spent clothing his decision in domestic concerns with an eye to U.S. politics.
    As expected the president explained how the surge in U.S. troops had worked in hindering Al Qaeda from finding a safe haven in Afghanistan. He mentioned the U.S. raid in which terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan as well. He also praised Afghanistan and Pakistan for their efforts while noting they needed to do more.
    All of that had been expected, as had been the pledge to withdraw 10,000 troops this year and the rest of the surge forces in 2012.
    But the president made it clear he was aware of the American weariness with the almost decade-long war and a desire in many quarters to use any peace dividend for domestic needs.
    “America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home,” Obama said…. – LAT, 6-22-11
  • Obama details plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan: President Obama announced that the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will begin with 10,000 troops this year, plus another 23,000 by the end of next summer. Gains have been made against the Taliban, he said, but the fight against al Qaeda will continue wherever necessary…. – CS Monitor, 6-22-11
  • Obama’s Middle Ground on Afghanistan Is Between a Rock and a Hard Place: By seeking the middle ground in unwinding U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, President Obama now finds himself on an island.
    In Wednesday night’s 13-minute address from the East Room of the White House, the president declared, “[T]he tide of war is receding,” and announced his decision to remove 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year and 23,000 more by next summer. That pace is much faster than his military commanders had recommended, but not fast enough to please his base…. – PBS Newshour, 6-23-11
  • Joint chiefs chairman: Obama Afghanistan plan incurs risk: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress today that President Obama’s Afghanistan withdrawal plan is more risky than the military proposed, but still workable.
    “The president’s decisions are more aggressive and incur more risk than I was originally prepared to accept,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.
    “More force for more time is, without doubt, the safer course,” Mullen said. “But that does not necessarily make it the best course. Only the president, in the end, can really determine the acceptable level of risk we must take. I believe he has done so.”… – USA Today, 6-23-11

    THE SPEECH

  • President Obama on the Way Forward in Afghanistan: By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year. But al Qaeda’s leaders had escaped into Pakistan and were plotting new attacks, while the Taliban had regrouped and gone on the offensive. Without a new strategy and decisive action, our military commanders warned that we could face a resurgent al Qaeda and a Taliban taking over large parts of Afghanistan.
    For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al Qaeda, to reverse the Taliban’s momentum, and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country. I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to draw down our forces this July.
    Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security. We’re starting this drawdown from a position of strength….
    The goal that we seek is achievable, and can be expressed simply: No safe haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland or our allies. We won’t try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people, and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace. What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures –- one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government….
    In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power -– it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab world. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.
    Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens here at home. Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource –- our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy. And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.
    America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.
    In this effort, we draw inspiration from our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much on our behalf. To our troops, our veterans and their families, I speak for all Americans when I say that we will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care and benefits and opportunity that you deserve. – WH, 6-22-11Transcript: Speech Full-TextMp4Mp3

    REACTIONS

  • HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER, REPUBLICAN: I am pleased the president recognizes that success in Afghanistan is paramount. Continuing to degrade al Qaeda’s capabilities in Afghanistan and the surrounding region must take priority over any calendar dates. It’s important that we retain the flexibility necessary to reconsider troop levels and respond to changes in the security environment should circumstances on the ground warrant.
  • SENATOR JOHN KERRY, DEMOCRAT, CHAIRMAN SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: The president correctly laid out the next phase of our strategy in Afghanistan — a transition to Afghan control that begins by redeploying the 33,000 surge troops starting next month and ending next summer, and puts the Afghans in complete control by 2014. In doing so, he kept the commitment he made to the American people 18 months ago at West Point. As a result of the gains made since the course correction outlined at West Point, we’re now operating from a position of strength.
  • SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, ARIZONA REPUBLICAN: I am concerned that the withdrawal plan that President Obama announced tonight poses an unnecessary risk to the hard-won gains that our troops have made thus far in Afghanistan and to the decisive progress that must still be made. This is not the ‘modest’ withdrawal that I and others had hoped for and advocated.
  • SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, CONNECTICUT INDEPENDENT: I am disappointed by the pace and timing of the withdrawal of those troops the President announced tonight. I had hoped the president would draw down our forces more cautiously and am therefore concerned that the accelerated withdrawal which the president has ordered will put at risk the substantial gains we have made in Afghanistan.
  • SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR, SENIOR REPUBLICAN ON SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: No rational review would commit nearly 100,000 troops and $100 billion a year to Afghanistan.
    The country does not hold that level of strategic value for us, especially at a time when our nation is confronting a debt crisis and our armed forces are being strained by repeated combat deployments.
  • JEFF DRESSLER, A MILITARY ANALYST AT THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: My sense is that the military in general was in favor of a much smaller withdrawal. Something they could have lived with was a couple thousand troops. But the fact is the conditions on the ground don’t merit any sort of withdrawal — it’s not time to be pulling out a substantive amount of troops. There’s a lot that has to be done in the east and you’re not out of the woods in the south yet.
  • LAWRENCE KORB, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS AND FORMER ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think it’s also important that you send a signal to the government of Afghanistan that they are going to have to step up and take over. … You’re also balancing this against other U.S. interests. If the United States doesn’t have any money, we’re not going to be able to protect our interest in others areas. It’s obviously going to save some money.
  • CHRISTOPHER PREBLE, DIRECTOR OF FOREIGN POLICY STUDIES, CATO INSTITUTE: Despite reports that the president’s decision signals a move toward a narrowly focused counter-terrorism mission, the fact is nearly 70,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan after this drawdown.
    Such a force is unnecessary, and a far less costly alternative is available to us. We could keep pressure on the Taliban, and deny al Qaeda a sanctuary, with perhaps as few as 10,000 troops in Afghanistan. We should be moving rapidly in that direction. President Obama hasn’t been, and this announcement suggests that he won’t.
  • TODD HARRISON, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND BUDGETARY ASSESSMENTS: With the faster drawdown that is being proposed, they (the administration) will actually save about $17 billion in ‘FY12 compared to what they had requested. That will bring the war budget down by about 15 percent, so that’s a significant reduction in war funding. Relative to the overall DOD (Department of Defense), it’s not that much of a reduction and relative to the overall federal budget and the deficit, this does not make much of a difference.
  • GOP hopefuls stake out Afghanistan positions: As President Obama called Wednesday night for scaling down troop numbers in Afghanistan over the next year, differences over how to approach the conflict emerged among GOP presidential hopefuls, with some calling for a faster withdrawal and others arguing for a more conditions-based drawdown.
    The contrast among 2012 Republican candidates reflects a change in the party’s hawkish orthodoxy, unease over spending and crumbling support for the war. The most recent poll shows that nearly three quarters of Americans believe a substantial number of troops should come home this summer. USA Today, 6-22-11
  • Jon M. Huntsman Jr.: Said the nation faces “a generational opportunity to reset our position in the world in a way that makes sense for our security as well as our budget.” “Now it is time we move to a focused counter-terror effort which requires significantly fewer boots on the ground than the President discussed tonight. We need a safe but rapid withdrawal which encourages Afghans to assume responsibility, while leaving in place a strong counter intelligence and special forces effort proportionate to the threat.”
  • Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, in a Fox News interview: “When America goes to war, America needs to win. We need to close out the war successfully, and what that means now is not nation-building. What it means is to follow General Petraeus’s advice and to get those security forces built up where they can pick up the slack as we draw down.”
  • Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney: “We all want our troops to come home as soon as possible, but we shouldn’t adhere to an arbitrary timetable on the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan. This decision should not be based on politics or economics.”
  • Newt Gingrich: “Given the reality of the larger war that President Obama refuses to name, it’s not responsible to make a decision on Afghanistan in isolation just in order to meet a domestic political agenda.”
  • Military Experts Scrutinize Obama’s Drawdown Plan: Military analysts weigh in on President Obama’s new plan to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan…. – PBS Newshour, 6-23-11
  • Analysis: U.S. forces face new challenges after drawdown: The United States and its allies have made dramatic progress in Afghanistan over the past year, seizing the initiative from the Taliban and driving insurgents from key strongholds in the south.
    The challenge for military commanders now will be to consolidate those gains and shift the military main effort to tackle insurgent strongholds in the east — all with fewer troops. The plan is a “compromise that will be problematic to many of the players,” warned David Barno, a retired three-star general who commanded coalition forces in Afghanistan and is now a senior adviser at the Center for a New American Security.
    Several commanders in Afghanistan had said reductions should be made so as to not jeopardize gains.
    “Ultimately the commanders on the ground will be able to reshape the plan” to achieve objectives, Barno said…. – USA Today, 6-22-11
  • Analysts rate Obama’s Afghanistan address: President Barack Obama announced Wednesday night that all the 33,000 additional U.S. forces he ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 will be home within 15 months.
    In a nationally televised address from the East Room of the White House, Obama said 10,000 of the “surge” forces would withdraw by the end of this year, and the other 23,000 would leave Afghanistan by September 2012.
    At the same time, Obama said the drawdown would help the United States begin to refocus attention and resources on efforts to resolve economic and other problems and to unify a politically divided nation.
    Here’s how CNN analysts reacted to the address…

    Bergen: President for first time acknowledged talks with Taliban
    Borger: Difficult to separate the military decision from political decision
    Gergen: Obama winding down Iraq, Afghanistan wars like he said he would
    Zakaria: Kept with his basic strategic rationale from the start

    CNN, 6-22-11

Q & A: How Have Wartime Inaugurations Been Handled in the Past?

HISTORY ARTICLES

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HNN, 1-17-05

How Have Wartime Inaugurations Been Handled in the Past?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

Looking at earlier wartime inaugurations the trend was toward simple ceremonies such as James Madison’s in 1813, Abraham Lincoln’s in 1865, Woodrow Wilson’s in 1917, Franklin Roosevelt’s in 1945, and Dwight Eisenhower’s in 1953. The simplest of all was Roosevelt’s fourth inaugural in 1945 amidst World War II. However, the post World War II era saw inaugural ceremonies becoming increasingly more lavish affairs despite the fact that war or protest was ensuing. Lyndon Johnson’s in 1965, and Richard Nixon’s two inaugurations in 1969 and 1973 were large showcase affairs. The tradition continues this year with George W. Bush’s $40 million inaugural celebration.

James Madison

1813: The United States was at war with Great Britain when James Madison took the oath of office for the second time in 1813. The war was still confined to the sea and there were no physical reminders of war in Washington at the time of the inauguration. The theme of his inauguration was the nobility of the American people vs. the brutality of the British, and he called on the population to fight with dignity. Madison took the oath of office in the Hall of the House of Representatives, and it was administered by Chief Justice John Marshall. In the evening Madison attended an inaugural ball. (Dolley Madison had established the first inaugural ball in 1809.) The next year an invading British garrison burned the Capitol and executive mansion.

As the war was just in its origin and necessary and noble in its objects, we can reflect with a proud satisfaction that in carrying it on no principle of justice or honor, no usage of civilized nations, no precept of courtesy or humanity, have been infringed.

The war has been waged on our part with scrupulous regard to all these obligations, and in a spirit of liberality which was never surpassed. How little has been the effect of this example on the conduct of the enemy! — James Madison, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1813

Abraham Lincoln

1861: Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural occurred at the country’s most desperate moment when seven southern states had already seceded from the union forming the Confederate States of America, and civil war seemed imminent. Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated as the president of the Confederacy two weeks earlier. A somber mood prevailed at Lincoln’s inaugural. His safety was in danger, and he was guarded by General Winfield Scott’s soldiers, providing unprecedented protection for a president-elect. The United States Calvary that escorted Lincoln in the procession to the Capitol was heavily armed as he rode in an open carriage with President James Buchanan, and the military remained on alert throughout the ceremony. Judge Roger Taney administered the oath of office to Lincoln on the East Portico of the Capitol, then in the midst of renovation (the wooden dome was being replaced with an iron one).

In his inaugural address Lincoln claimed, “No government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.” The New York Times wrote that “from the fiery trial the loose federation emerged as a compact nation, which makes this the most significant inauguration after that of Washington.” President Lincoln then proceeded to the White House where he received the Diplomatic Corps and well wishers. The inaugural events concluded when Lincoln and the rest of the presidential party made their appearance at the inaugural ball that was held the same evening.

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.— Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

1865: Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration came close to the end of the Civil War. Lincoln did not participate in the procession to the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony since he had already gone there earlier in the morning to sign last-minute bills into law. For weeks preceding the inauguration Washington had been rainy, causing Pennsylvania Avenue to become a sea of mud and standing water. The spectators stood in deep mud to see the president’s swearing-in ceremony. On the East Portico of the Capitol Chief Justice Salmon Chase administered the oath of office to Lincoln.

The inaugural ceremonies featured four companies of African American troops; a lodge of African American Odd Fellows. African American Masons joined the procession to the Capitol, and then back to the White House after the swearing-in ceremony. This was the first time that African Americans participated in the inaugural processions, thereby demonstrating the significance of the Emancipation Proclamation. There was constant music conducted by bands interspersed along the procession, which lasted an hour and was a mile long. Lincoln rode toward the White House in an open barouche and was escorted by the white and black troops for security purposes. In the evening following Lincoln’s swearing-in ceremony there was a public reception at the White House. The inaugural ball took place the night in the Patent Office; this was the first time a government building was used for the ball.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. — Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

Woodrow Wilson

1917: As Woodrow Wilson prepared to take his second oath of office the rest of the world was embroiled in a war that was entering its third year with no end in sight. Although the United States had not entered the World War–Wilson had said during the campaign that there was such a thing as a nation too proud to fight– there was still an uproar about the pomp of the inauguration ceremonies. The inaugural ball was cancelled, though this may not have been because of the war. Wilson disliked balls and nixed plans for a ball during his first inaugural. Certain officials suggested that the public ceremonies be cancelled completely because of the international situation. However, tradition won out and a bill was signed allotting $30,000 for the inaugural ceremonies. Robert N. Harper chairman of the local Inaugural Committee, issued a statement discussing the direction the ceremonies would take:”I am pleased to announce that the inauguration ceremonies will be held. While the greatest possible simplicity will be observed, it is intended to make this inauguration unusually impressive in order to afford an opportunity for a perfectly spontaneous exhibition of the patriotic feeling of the country.”

The thing I shall count upon, the thing without which neither counsel nor action will avail, is the unity of America: an America united in feeling, in purpose and in its vision of duty, of opportunity and of service.– Woodrow Wilson, Second Inaugural Address, March 5, 1917

Franklin Roosevelt

1941: Franklin Roosevelt’s third inauguration was unprecedented in American history. The world was at war, but the United States still officially neutral.

Roosevelt was accompanied throughout inauguration day with an increasingly visible number of Secret Service guards. Roosevelt began the day by continuing the tradition he started in 1937 by attending church service at St. John’s Episcopal Church, next to the White House prior to his swearing-in ceremony. Then the president went forth to the Capitol. Roosevelt’s inaugural address was shorter than usual, only twelve minutes long. Time magazine reported that “the speech was not in the President’s usual literary style. It was pseudo-poetic, full of little except generalities, as if it had been written for him by someone such as Playwright Robert E. Sherwood.”

The inaugural parade was designed to be shorter than usual. This corresponded with Roosevelt’s plan for simplicity. There was an air demonstration planned with Army, Navy and Marine Corps planes participating, which was a new addition to the inaugural parade. Roosevelt chose to watch the parade from an open stand. The parade at first featured the usual parade fare, but then the mood turned more solemn as a glimpse of what American involvement in the war would mean. For five minutes the parade route was dominated by armored cars, soldiers on motorcycles, tanks; light tanks, medium tanks, trucks carrying pontoon bridges, kitchen trucks, trucks drawing six-inch guns, eight truckloads of anti-aircraft guns–the machines of war. Roosevelt canceled the inaugural ball as he had in 1937 during the Depression. But an inaugural concert was staged at Constitution Hall; the performers included Charlie Chaplin, Raymond Massey and Ethel Barrymore.

If we lose that sacred fire–if we let it be smothered with doubt and fear–then we shall reject the destiny which Washington strove so valiantly and so triumphantly to establish. The preservation of the spirit and faith of the Nation does, and will, furnish the highest justification for every sacrifice that we may make in the cause of national defense. In the face of great perils never before encountered, our strong purpose is to protect and to perpetuate the integrity of democracy. For this we muster the spirit of America, and the faith of America. — Franklin D. Roosevelt, Third Inaugural Address, January 20, 1941

1944: Roosevelt’s fourth inauguration occurred at a time of world war, and the president’s increasingly failing health. Roosevelt decided upon a short and simple inaugural ceremony. The morning of his inauguration, instead of attending church services at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Roosevelt arranged for a private service at the White House East Room with 250 members of his official family. Instead of taking the oath at the Capitol, he took it on the South Portico of the White House. Immediately below the portico were 7,806 invited guests; on the Ellipse there were another 3,000 in attendance.

After taking the oath of office Roosevelt gave the shortest of his four inaugural addresses at 573 words. He did not once mention domestic affairs, but gave a passing remark about the war. The speech indicated the president’s mood and focused on the world after the end of the war. Afterwards, 2,000 invited guests streamed into the Red Room for the post-inaugural luncheon, which would be the last one of its kind. It was the largest affair held in the Roosevelt White House for years but it was also spare. The guests stood and the menu included; chicken salad, hard rolls without butter, unfrosted pound cake, and coffee. The First Lady hosted a tea for those who did not come to the luncheon. There was no parade or ball. The day’s events were capped off with a private dinner which included the Roosevelt family’s first rib roast in months.

In the days and the years that are to come we shall work for a just and honorable peace, a durable peace. . . . We shall strive for perfection. We shall not achieve it immediately–but we shall strive. . . . We have learned lessons–at a fearful cost–and we shall profit by them. We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace. . . . We have learned that we must live as men, and not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger. . . . We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that “the only way to have a friend is to be one.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fourth Inaugural Address, January 20, 1945

Dwight D. Eisenhower

1953: Dwight Eisenhower was inaugurated as president during the Korean War. Eisenhower broke precedent by beginning his inaugural address with a prayer. His address emphasized American leadership in the world, and focused on the challenge of establishing peace, freedom and unity in the free world. The swearing-in ceremony was followed by a ten division parade that was the longest and largest inaugural parade in history, lasting four hours and 39 minutes with 25,000 marchers, 73 bands, 59 floats, horses, elephants and civilian and military vehicles. As a tribute to those serving in Korea some of the servicemen fighting there were brought home to march in the parade. The salute to Eisenhower also included 1,000 military planes from jets to super bombers, which flew over the parade. The inaugural celebration was capped off with two inaugural balls at the National Armory and Georgetown University’s McDonough Hall. Approximately 75,000,000 people were able to watch the inaugural ceremonies on television.

No person, no home, no community can be beyond the reach of this call. We are summoned to act in wisdom and in conscience, to work with industry, to teach with persuasion, to preach with conviction, to weigh our every deed with care and with compassion. For this truth must be clear before us: whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America. The peace we seek, then, is nothing less than the practice and fulfillment of our whole faith among ourselves and in our dealings with others. This signifies more than the stilling of guns, easing the sorrow of war. More than escape from death, it is a way of life. More than a haven for the weary, it is a hope for the brave. — Dwight D. Eisenhower, First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1953

Lyndon B. Johnson

1965: Lyndon Johnson’s inauguration came at the beginning of America’s active military involvement in Vietnam. Johnson insisted that America’s involvement would be minimal, and the inauguration was planned as if it was not occurring at a time of war. Gone were the military pageantries that characterized earlier inaugurations, Johnson did not believe that the day should be used to glorify the military. The four-day celebration was extravagant, costing $1.5 million, and was an attempt to be “bigger and better” than any of the previous inaugurations. According to an account in the New York Times, Johnson wanted to “surmount tradition and make the hoopla of the inauguration a dramatic display of the highest aims and accomplishments of the entire nation.”

The first event was the Distinguished Ladies Reception held at the National Gallery of Art, which featured 5,000 guests. Throughout the inaugural’s first day of festivities there were receptions in honor of the president all around Washington. On the evening of the first day of events, the Inaugural Gala; a variety show was held at the National Guard Armory. The gala was sponsored by the National Democratic Committee for the party faithful and was a free event that included 8,000 guests. The four banquet dinners that preceded that gala were also free to Democrats who had contributed a minimum of $1,000 to the campaign. The gala included some of the most pre-eminent entertainers of the day; including Alfred Hitchcock as the master of ceremonies and Carol Channing as the mistress of ceremonies.

Lyndon B. Johnson’s procession to the Capitol in 1965 was marked by stringent security measures, including a bullet-proof limousine. The swearing-in ceremonies were described by the New York Times as both “a sermon and a circus; a prayer and a parade; the bible and the ballyhoo.” Lady Bird joined her husband as he took the oath of office, the first wife of a president to do so. Capping the festivities were four inaugural balls at the National Guard Armory, the Mayflower, Sheraton-Park Shoreham and the Statler Hilton.

The hour and the day and the time are here to achieve progress without strife, to achieve change without hatred: not without difference of opinion, but without the deep and abiding divisions which scar the Union for generations. — Lyndon B. Johnson, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1965

Richard Nixon

1969: Richard Nixon’s first inauguration took place amidst the height of the Vietnam War, anti-war protests, racial tension and urban disintegration at home. The inauguration festivities were far more restrained than Johnson’s, yet still quite elaborate. The inauguration included four days of festivities, including an All-American Gala in the District of Columbia Armory produced by the “Tonight Show’s” Ed McMahon. With tickets reaching $100 the guest list included a variety of Hollywood entertainers. The night before the Inauguration there was a lavish concert for the Nixons and his vice president at Constitution Hall performed by Salt Lake City’s Mormon Tabernacle Choir, among others. The concert’s tickets ranged in price from $5 to $500.

The swearing in ceremony was on a gloomy cold day, and along the parade route toward the White House 1,000 anti-war protesters gathered and shouted obscenities such as “Four more years of death!” In hopes of uniting a much divided country over the Vietnam War the inauguration’s theme was “bring us together again.” Nixon took the oath of office on two bibles; both family heirlooms. The inaugural parade was one of the shortest running just two hours but was filmed with color cameras and broadcast live on television. There were six inaugural balls, one of them at the Smithsonian Institution. They were formal white tie affairs; tickets were priced at $70 a couple. A box seat for eight cost $1,000. Approximately 30,000 attended the balls. The Nixons made appearances at all six of them.

The peace we seek to win is not victory over any other people, but the peace that comes “with healing in its wings”; with compassion for those who have suffered; with understanding for those who have opposed us; with the opportunity for all the peoples of this earth to choose their own destiny. — Richard M. Nixon, First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1969

1973: Richard Nixon’s second inauguration occurred as negotiations to end the war in Vietnam were being renewed. The three day inauguration cost $4,000,000, and was such an extravaganza that Bob Hope, a Nixon supporter, joked that it commemorated “the time when Richard I becomes Richard II.” The inaugural ceremonies opened Thursday afternoon at the Smithsonian Museum with a reception honoring Vice President Agnew and his wife. The first glamour event of the inaugural was a “Salute to the States,” at the Kennedy Center which was held in honor of the nation’s governors; 40 of them attended the event along with 5,000 guests with Pat Nixon, daughter Julie, and Mamie Eisenhower. The two-hour show ran simultaneously in two separate halls to accomodate the large number of guests. Emcees Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope shuttled between the two rooms. The second day of the inaugural ceremonies included three concerts for the president at the Kennedy Center.

Throughout the inaugural festivities there were peaceful anti-war protests around Washington. In addition there was a counter-inaugural concert held at Washington Cathedral the same night as the Kennedy Center concerts for the president. The day of the inauguration 75,000 antiwar demonstrators gathered quietly at the Lincoln Memorial for a “March Against Death and for Peace.” There were a total of five balls on inaugural night “to celebrate the Inauguration of President Nixon in a festive, traditional manner,” as stated in the official press information kit. The inaugural balls were held at the Museum of National History, the Kennedy Center, the Pension Building, Smithsonian Museum of History and Technology, and Sheraton Park Hotel, scene of a ball expressly reserved for young people. The inaugural festivities finished on Sunday January 21, with an ecumenical worship service at the White House conducted by Billy Graham and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Let us be proud that by our bold, new initiatives, and by our steadfastness for peace with honor, we have made a break-through toward creating in the world what the world has not known before–a structure of peace that can last, not merely for our time, but for generations to come. — Richard M. Nixon, Second Inaugural Address, January 20, 1973

George W. Bush

2005: This is the first inauguration since the September 11th, 2001 attacks, and is being held as the Iraq war enters its third year. This year’s inauguration will be by far the most ostentatious wartime inauguration. The $40 million event is funded with the donations of lobbyists and corporations. The inaugural events will include nine balls, three candlelight dinners, a presidential gala on the eve of the swearing-in ceremony, a brunch for dignitaries, and a youth rock concert hosted by the Bush twins. 250,000 spectators are expected to watch Bush get sworn in. He will be perched on a new, higher speaker’s podium. After his inaugural address Bush will stand as 400 service members from all branches pass in review and become his escorts for the parade. 11,000 people will take part in the 1.7-mile-long parade that includes 45 marching bands, and 5,000 men and women in uniform. The price for good seats at the events are expensive. Seats for the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue are $125, ball tickets are $150 and a chair at the swearing-in on the Capitol’s east front is approximately $250.

Some have criticized the scope of the festivities. Rep. Anthony D. Weiner, D-N.Y., recently wrote in a letter to his colleagues that “Precedent suggests that inaugural festivities should be muted — if not canceled — in wartime, and stated that $40 million would buy armor for 690 Humvees or provide a $290 bonus for each service member stationed in Iraq.” Even a Bush supporter, Texas billionaire Mark Cuban, publicly suggested that the inaugural balls be canceled and the money donated to tsunami victims of South Asia. To counter the attacks President Bush and his supporters are presenting the quadrennial pageant as an opportunity to salute American troops — “Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service” is the theme of this year’s inaugural ceremony. The events include the first Commander-In-Chief Ball for men and women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

We are a nation at war, and it is fitting that the inaugural events reflect not only the great sacrifices made by our troops everyday to protect our freedom, but also the cherished ideals that make our nation so unique. — Jeanne Johnson Phillips, Presidential Inaugural Committee Chairman, January 2005

The inauguration is a great festival of democracy, people are going to come from all over the country who are celebrating democracy and celebrating my victory, and I’m glad to celebrate with them. — George W. Bush responding to criticism about his inaugural festivities, January 2005

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