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President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Fourth Inaugural Address
Saturday, January 20, 1945
Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Vice President, my friends, you will understand and, I believe, agree with my wish that the form of this inauguration be simple and its words brief.
We Americans of today, together with our allies, are passing through a period of supreme test. It is a test of our courageof our resolveof our wisdomour essential democracy.
If we meet that testsuccessfully and honorablywe shall perform a service of historic importance which men and women and children will honor throughout all time.
As I stand here today, having taken the solemn oath of office in the presence of my fellow countrymenin the presence of our GodI know that it is America's purpose that we shall not fail.
In the days and in the years that are to come we shall work for a just and honorable peace, a durable peace, as today we work and fight for total victory in war.
We can and we will achieve such a peace.
We shall strive for perfection. We shall not achieve it immediatelybut we still shall strive. We may make mistakesbut they must never be mistakes which result from faintness of heart or abandonment of moral principle.
I remember that my old schoolmaster, Dr. Peabody, said, in days that seemed to us then to be secure and untroubled: "Things in life will not always run smoothly. Sometimes we will be rising toward the heightsthen all will seem to reverse itself and start downward. The great fact to remember is that the trend of civilization itself is forever upward; that a line drawn through the middle of the peaks and the valleys of the centuries always has an upward trend."
Our Constitution of 1787 was not a perfect instrument; it is not perfect yet. But it provided a firm base upon which all manner of men, of all races and colors and creeds, could build our solid structure of democracy.
And so today, in this year of war, 1945, we have learned lessonsat a fearful costand we shall profit by them.
We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger.
We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.
We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that "The only way to have a friend is to be one."
We can gain no lasting peace if we approach it with suspicion and mistrust or with fear. We can gain it only if we proceed with the understanding, the confidence, and the courage which flow from conviction.
The Almighty God has blessed our land in many ways. He has given our people stout hearts and strong arms with which to strike mighty blows for freedom and truth. He has given to our country a faith which has become the hope of all peoples in an anguished world.
So we pray to Him now for the vision to see our way clearlyto see the way that leads to a better life for ourselves and for all our fellow mento the achievement of His will to peace on earth.
Despite the historic implications of Franklin Roosevelt's FOURTH Inaugural, the President chose to keep his Address simple. In its brevity is was second only to George Washington's final Inaugural Address. Supreme Court Chief Justice Harlan Stone administered the Oath of Office on the South Portico of the WHITE HOUSE and not at the Capitol Building.
At the time of Roosevelt's fourth inauguration the United States had been at war for slightly more than three years. Around the Nation our citizens endured rationing and made many personal sacrifices to support our soldiers abroad and contribute to the war effort. President Roosevelt believed a lavish Inaugural would have been inappropriate and elected to opt for the more simple ceremony without any formal festivities or celebrations following the "swearing in".
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