Here is a video clip excerpt of Nixon's speech. Scroll down
for the transcript.
It follows the full text transcript of
Richard Nixon's Second Inaugural Address, delivered
on the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol at Washington D.C. -
January 20, 1973.
And my fellow
citizens of this great and good country we share
When we met here four years ago, America was
bleak in spirit, depressed by the prospect of
seemingly endless war abroad and of destructive
conflict at home.
As we meet here today, we stand on the threshold
of a new era of peace in the world.
The central question before us is: How shall we
use that peace? Let us resolve that this era we
are about to enter will not be what other
postwar periods have so often been: a time of
retreat and isolation that leads to stagnation
at home and invites new danger abroad.
Let us resolve that this will be what it can
become: a time of great responsibilities greatly
borne, in which we renew the spirit and the
promise of America as we enter our third century
as a nation.
This past year saw far-reaching results from our
new policies for peace. By continuing to
revitalize our traditional friendships, and by
our missions to Peking and to Moscow, we were
able to establish the base for a new and more
durable pattern of relationships among the
nations of the world. Because of America's bold
initiatives, 1972 will be long remembered as the
year of the greatest progress since the end of
World War II toward a lasting peace in the
The peace we seek in the world is not the flimsy
peace which is merely an interlude between wars,
but a peace which can endure for generations to
It is important that we understand both the
necessity and the limitations of America's role
in maintaining that peace.
Unless we in America work to preserve the peace,
there will be no peace.
Unless we in America work to preserve freedom,
there will be no freedom.
But let us clearly understand the new nature of
America's role, as a result of the new policies
we have adopted over these past four years.
We shall respect our treaty commitments.
We shall support vigorously the principle that
no country has the right to impose its will or
rule on another by force.
We shall continue, in this era of negotiation,
to work for the limitation of nuclear arms, and
to reduce the danger of confrontation between
the great powers.
We shall do our share in defending peace and
freedom in the world. But we shall expect others
to do their share.
The time has passed when America will make every
other nation's conflict our own, or make every
other nation's future our responsibility, or
presume to tell the people of other nations how
to manage their own affairs.
Just as we respect the right of each nation to
determine its own future, we also recognize the
responsibility of each nation to secure its own
Just as America's role is indispensable in
preserving the world's peace, so is each
nation's role indispensable in preserving its
Together with the rest of the world, let us
resolve to move forward from the beginnings we
have made. Let us continue to bring down the
walls of hostility which have divided the world
for too long, and to build in their place
bridges of understanding, so that despite
profound differences between systems of
government, the people of the world can be
Let us build a structure of peace in the world
in which the weak are as safe as the strong, in
which each respects the right of the other to
live by a different system, in which those who
would influence others will do so by the
strength of their ideas, and not by the force of
Let us accept that high responsibility not as a
burden, but gladly, gladly because the chance to
build such a peace is the noblest endeavor in
which a nation can engage; gladly, also, because
only if we act greatly in meeting our
responsibilities abroad will we remain a great
Nation, and only if we remain a great Nation
will we act greatly in meeting our challenges at
We have the chance today to do more than ever
before in our history to make life better in
America, to ensure better education, better
health, better housing, better transportation, a
cleaner environment, to restore respect for law,
to make our communities more livable, and to
insure the God-given right of every American to
full and equal opportunity.
Because the range of our needs is so great,
because the reach of our opportunities is so
great, let us be bold in our determination to
meet those needs in new ways.
Just as building a structure of peace abroad has
required turning away from old policies that
failed, so building a new era of progress at
home requires turning away from old policies
that have failed.
Abroad, the shift from old policies to new has
not been a retreat from our responsibilities,
but a better way to peace.
And at home, the shift from old policies to new
will not be a retreat from our responsibilities,
but a better way to progress.
Abroad and at home, the key to those new
responsibilities lies in the placing and the
division of responsibility. We have lived too
long with the consequences of attempting to
gather all power and responsibility in
Abroad and at home, the time has come to turn
away from the condescending policies of
paternalism of "Washington knows best."
A person can be expected to act responsibly only
if he has responsibility. This is human nature.
So let us encourage individuals at home and
nations abroad to do more for themselves, to
decide more for themselves. Let us locate
responsibility in more places. Let us measure
what we will do for others by what they will do
That is why today I offer no promise of a purely
governmental solution for every problem. We have
lived too long with that false promise. In
trusting too much in government, we have asked
of it more than it can deliver. This leads only
to inflated expectations, to reduced individual
effort, and to a disappointment and frustration
that erode confidence both in what government
can do and in hat people can do.
Government must learn to take less from people
so that people an do more for themselves.
Let us remember that America was built not by
government, but by people--not by welfare, but
by work--not by shirking responsibility, but by
In our own lives, let each of us ask, not just
what will government do for me, but what can I
do for myself?
In the challenges we face together, let each of
us ask, not just how can government help, but
how can I help?
Your National Government has a great and vital
role to play. And I pledge to you that where
this Government should act, we will act boldly
and we will lead boldly. But just as important
is the role that each and every one of us must
play, as an individual and as a member of his
From this day forward, let each of us make a
solemn commitment in his own heart: to bear his
responsibility, to do his part, to live his
ideals, so that together, we can see the dawn of
a new age of progress for America, and together,
as we celebrate our 200th anniversary as a
nation, we can do so proud in the fulfillment of
our promise to ourselves and to the world.
As America's longest and most difficult war
comes to an end, let us again learn to debate
our differences with civility and decency. And
let each of us reach out for that one precious
quality government cannot provide a new level of
respect for the rights and feelings of one
another, a new level of respect for the
individual human dignity which is the cherished
birthright of every American.
Above all else, the time has come for us to
renew our faith in ourselves and in America.
In recent years,
that faith has been challenged. Our children
have been taught to be ashamed of their country,
ashamed of their parents, ashamed of America's
record at home and of its role in the world. At
every turn, we have been beset by those who find
everything wrong with America and little that is
right. But I am confident that this will not be
the judgment of history on these remarkable
times in which we are privileged to live.
America's record in this century has been
unparalleled in the world's history for its
responsibility, for its generosity, for its
creativity and for its progress.
Let us be proud that our system has produced and
provided more freedom and more abundance, more
widely shared, than any other system in the
history of the world.
Let us be proud that in each of the four wars in
which we have been engaged in this century,
including the one we are now bringing to an end,
we have fought not for our selfish advantage,
but to help others resist aggression.
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.
We are embarking here today on an era that
presents challenges great as those any nation,
or any generation, has ever faced.
We shall answer to God, to history, and to our
conscience for the way in which we use these
As I stand in this place, so hallowed by
history, I think of others who have stood here
before me. I think of the dreams they had for
America, and I think of how each recognized that
he needed help far beyond himself in order to
make those dreams come true.
Today, I ask your prayers that in the years
ahead I may have God's help in making decisions
that are right for America, and I pray for your
help so that together we may be worthy of our
Let us pledge together to make these next four
years the best four years in America's history,
so that on its 200th birthday America will be as
young and as vital as when it began, and as
bright a beacon of hope for all the world.
Let us go forward from here confident in hope,
strong in our faith in one another, sustained by
our faith in God who created us, and striving
always to serve His purpose.