20. Editorial Note
President Ronald Reagan presaged an American renewal and a strengthened global leadership role in his inaugural address, delivered on January 20, 1981: “On the eve of our struggle for independence a man who might have been one of the greatest among the Founding Fathers, Dr. Joseph Warren, president of the Massachusetts Congress, said to his fellow Americans, ‘Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of . . . . On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important questions upon which rests the happiness and the liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves.’
“Well, I believe we, the Americans of today, are ready to act worthy of ourselves, ready to do what must be done to ensure happiness and liberty for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children. And as we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom.
“To those neighbors and allies who share our freedom, we will strengthen our historic ties and assure them of our support and firm commitment. We will match loyalty with loyalty. We will strive for mutually beneficial relations. We will not use our friendship to impose on their sovereignty, for our own sovereignty is not for sale.
“As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it, now or ever.
“Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength.
“Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today’s world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors.” (Public Papers: Reagan, 1981, page 3) The complete text of Reagan’s address is ibid., pages 1–4.
President Reagan spoke at noon from the West Front of the Capitol. Immediately preceding the address Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger administered the oath of office. Reagan’s address was broadcast live on nationwide radio and television networks. In [Page 81] his personal diary entry for January 20, the President characterized the day: “The Inaugural (Jan. 20) was an emotional experience but then the very next day it was ‘down to work.’ The first few days were long and hard—daily Cabinet meetings interspersed with sessions with Congressional leaders regarding our ec. plan.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, volume I, January 1981–October 1985, page 15)