President-elect Obama on his way to Washington.

We are here today not simply to pay tribute to our first patriots but to take up the work that they began. The trials we face are very different now, but severe in their own right. Only a handful of times in our history has a generation been confronted with challenges obamaofficialphoto1so vast. An economy that is faltering. Two wars, one that needs to be ended responsibly, one that needs to be waged wisely. A planet that is warming from our unsustainable dependence on oil.

And yet while our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not. What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that our founders displayed. What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives – from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry – an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.

That is the reason I launched my campaign for the presidency nearly two years ago. I did so in the belief that the most fundamental American ideal, that a better life is in store for all those willing to work for it, was slipping out of reach. That Washington was serving the interests of the few, not the many. And that our politics had grown too small for the scale of the challenges we faced.

But I also believed something else. I believed that our future is our choice, and that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, north, south, east and west, black, white, Latino, Asian, and Native American, gay and straight, disabled and not – then not only would we restore hope and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe, just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process.

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