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Enda Kenny, Magdalene Laundry Apology, February 2013

Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny apologizes on behalf of the Irish government to the women who were forced to work in the Magdalene laundries, institutions run by religious groups, where women were forcibly detained, unpaid or mistreated, sometimes for years.

The video is from the Journal.ie website. The transcript is from the Dáil Debates (the official record of speeeches in the Irish parliament). (The Dáil record uses the spelling Magdalen.)

At the end of the speech, the members of parliament give a standing ovation to some of the remaining Magdalen laundry women, attending in the public gallery. Miriam Lord in an Irish Times article describes the atmosphere.

Enda Kenny:
I begin by thanking Dr. Martin McAleese and his team for their excellent work on this report. I thank, equally, the women who met with them to assist in its compilation. I also thank the religious orders who co-operated fully with Dr. McAleese. Together, they have helped provide Ireland with a document of truth.

The Magdalen laundries have cast a long shadow over Irish life and over our sense of who we are. It is just two weeks since we received this report, the first ever detailed report into the State’s involvement in the Magdalen laundries. It shines a bright and necessary light on a dark chapter of Ireland’s history.

On coming to office the Government was determined to investigate the facts of the State’s involvement. The Government was adamant that these ageing and elderly women would get the compassion and the recognition for which they have fought for so long, deserved so deeply and had, until now, been so abjectly denied. For 90 years Ireland subjected these women and their experience to a profound and studied indifference. I was determined because of this that the Government, and this Dáil, would take the necessary time not just to commission the report but to study it and, having done so, to reflect on its findings. I believe that was the best way to formulate a plan and strategy that would help us make amends for the State’s role in the hurt of these extraordinary women.

I am glad that so many of the women themselves agreed with that approach, and I am glad this time of reflection gave me the chance to do the most important thing of all, which was too meet personally with the Magdalen women and to sit down with them face to face to listen to their stories. It was a humbling and inspiring experience.

Today, as their Taoiseach, I am privileged to welcome some of these women to this House, many of whom have travelled long distances to be here. I welcome every one of them to their national Parliament, to Dáil Éireann. What we discuss today is their story. What we address today is how they took this country’s terrible secret and made it their own, burying it and carrying it in their hearts here at home or with them to England, Canada, America and Australia on behalf of Ireland and the Irish people. From this moment on they need carry it no more, because today we take it back. Today, we acknowledge the role of the State in their ordeal.

We now know that the State itself was directly involved in over a quarter of all admissions to the Magdalen laundries, be it through the social services, reformatories, psychiatric institutions, county homes, the prison and probation service and industrial schools. We have, in fact, decided to include all the Magdalen women in our response, regardless of how they were admitted.

Dr. McAleese set out to investigate five areas in particular: the routes by which the women entered the laundries; regulations of the workplace and State inspections; State funding of and financial assistance to the laundries; the routes by which the girls and women left the laundries; and death registrations, burials and exhumations. In all five areas there was found to be direct State involvement.

As I read this report and as I listened to these women, it struck me that for generations Ireland had created a particular portrait of itself as a good living and God fearing nation. Through this and other reports we know this flattering self-portrait is fictitious.

It would be easy to explain away all that happened and all we did with those great moral and social salves of “the culture back then”, “the order of the day” and “the terrible times that were in it”. By any standards it was a cruel, pitiless Ireland distinctly lacking in a quality of mercy. That much is clear, both from the pages of the report, and from the stories of the women I met. As I sat with these women as they told their stories it was clear that while every woman’s story was different each of them shared a particular experience of a particular Ireland that was judgmental, intolerant, petty and prim.

In the laundries themselves some women spent week, others months, more of them years, but the thread that ran through their many stories was a palpable sense of suffocation, not just physical in that they were incarcerated but psychological, spiritual and social. Their stories were enriched by an astonishing vividness of recall of situation and circumstance.

Here are some of the things I read in the report and they said directly to me:

The work was so hard, the regime was cruel. I felt all alone, nobody wanted me. They sent me because they thought I was going to a good school. I seen these older people beside me, I used cry myself to sleep. I was bold, I wasn’t going to school. I was locked up … I thought I would never get out. We had to sew at night … even when we were sick. I heard a radio sometimes in the distance. We were not allowed to talk to each other. Your letters were checked. I was so short I needed a stool to put washing in. The noise was desperate. I thought I would go mad from the silence. The heat was unbelievable. I broke a cup once and had to wear it hanging around my neck for three days. I felt always tired, always wet, always humiliated. My father came for me after three months but I was too ashamed to go home. I never saw my Mam again; she died while I was in there.

The Magdalen women might have been told that they were washing away a wrong or a sin, but we know now and to our shame they were only ever scrubbing away our nation’s shadow. Today, just as the State accepts its direct involvement in the Magdalen laundries, society, too, has its responsibility. I believe I speak for millions of Irish people all over the world when I say we put away these women because for too many years we put away our conscience. We swapped our personal scruples for a solid public apparatus that kept us in tune and in step with a sense of what was “proper behaviour” or the “appropriate view” according to a sort of moral code that was fostered at the time, particularly in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. We lived with the damaging idea that what was desirable and acceptable in the eyes of the church and the State was the same and interchangeable.

Is it this mindset then, this moral subservience, that gave us the social mores, the required and exclusive “values” of the time that welcomed the compliant, obedient and lucky “us” and banished the more problematic, spirited or unlucky “them”? To our nation’s shame it must be said that if these women had managed to scale the high walls of the laundries, they would have had their work cut out for them to negotiate the height and the depth of the barricades around society’s “proper” heart. For we saw difference as something to be feared and hidden rather than embraced and celebrated. Were these our values? We can ask ourselves for a State, least of all for a republic, what is the “value” of the tacit and unchallenged decree that saw society humiliate and degrade these girls and women? What is the “value” of the ignorance and arrogance that saw us publicly call them “penitents” for their “crime” of being poor or abused or just plain unlucky enough to be already the inmate of a reformatory, or an industrial school or a psychiatric institution? We can ask ourselves as the families we were then what was worthy, what was good about that great euphemism of “putting away” our daughters, our sisters, our aunties?

Those “values”, those failures, those wrongs characterised Magdalen Ireland. Today we live in a very different Ireland with a very a different consciousness and awareness. We live in an Ireland where we have more compassion, empathy, insight and heart. We do, because at last we are learning those terrible lessons. We do, because at last we are giving up our secrets. We do, because in naming and addressing the wrong, as is happening here today, we are trying to make sure we quarantine such abject behaviour in our past and eradicate it from Ireland’s present and Ireland’s future.

In a society guided by the principles of compassion and social justice there never would have been any need for institutions such as the Magdalen laundries. The report shows that the perception that the Magdalen laundries were reserved for those who were offensively and judgmentally called “fallen women” is not based upon fact at all but upon prejudice. The women are and always were wholly blameless. Therefore, I, as Taoiseach, on behalf of the State, the Government and our citizens, deeply regret and apologise unreservedly to all those women for the hurt that was done to them and for any stigma they suffered as a result of the time they spent in a Magdalen laundry. I hope that the publication of the McAleese report and this apology makes some contribution to the healing process.

In reflecting on this report, I have come to the view that these women deserve more than this formal apology, important though it is. I also want to put in place a process by which we can determine how best to help and support the women in their remaining years. One of the many things I have learned during my recent meetings with the Magdalen women is that their circumstances and current needs vary greatly from person to person. That is why the Government has today asked the President of the Law Reform Commission, Mr. Justice John Quirke, to undertake a three month review and to make recommendations as to the criteria that should be applied in assessing the help that the Government can provide in the areas of payments and other supports, including medical cards, psychological and counselling services and other welfare needs. The terms of reference for Mr. Justice Quirke will be published later today and I will also arrange for the representatives of the women to be fully briefed on this process. When Mr. Justice Quirke has reported, the Government will establish a fund to assist the women, based on his recommendations. I am confident that this process will enable us to provide speedy, fair and meaningful help to the women in a compassionate and non-adversarial way. I am determined that the fund will be primarily used to help the women, as is their stated and strong desire, and not for legal or administrative costs.

The McAleese report also refers to women who recounted similar experiences in other residential laundries, such as the laundry offering services to the public that operated in the training centre at Stanhope Street, Dublin. The Government has decided that these women should be included in both the apology I have extended today and in the fund.

I am also conscious that many of the women I met last week want to see a permanent memorial established to remind us all of this dark part of our history. I agree this should be done and intend to engage directly with the representative groups and as many of the women as possible to agree on the creation of an appropriate memorial to be financed by the Government separately from the funds that are being set aside for the direct assistance for the women.

Let me conclude by again speaking directly to the women whose experiences in Magdalen laundries have negatively affected their subsequent lives. As a society, for many years we failed you. We forgot you or, if we thought of you at all, we did so in untrue and offensive stereotypes. This is a national shame for which I again say, I am deeply sorry and offer my full and heartfelt apologies.

At the conclusion of my discussions with one group of the Magdalen women one of those present sang “Whispering Hope”. A line from that song stays in my mind: “When the dark midnight is over, Watch for the breaking of day target=”_blank”. Let me hope that this day and this debate heralds a new dawn for all those who feared that the dark midnight might never end.

Benjamin Carson, National Prayer Breakfast, 2013

Benjamin Carson, neurosurgeon and founder of CarsonScholars.org and an advocate for education and action speaks at a National Prayer Breakfast in February 2013 about education, poverty, political correctness, parenting, and the responsibility of the rich in society. President Obama is in the audience.

The video of this speech is from here on C-SPAN website. The transcript is also from the Black Christian News.com website.

Benjamin Solomon “Ben” Carson, Sr:
Thank you so much. Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Obama, distinguished guests – which included everybody. Thank you so much for this wonderful honor to be at this stage again. I was here 16 years ago, and the fact that they invited me back means that I didn’t offend too many people, so that was great.

I want to start by reading four texts which will put into I want to start by reading four texts which will put into context what I’m going to say.

Proverbs 11:9 With his mouth the Godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escapes.

Proverbs 11:12 A man who lacks judgement derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue

Proverbs 11:25 A generous man will prosper. He who refreshes others will himself, be refreshed.

2nd Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.

You know, I have an opportunity to speak in a lot of venues. This is my fourth speech this week. and I have an opportunity to talk to a lot of people. And I’ve been asking people what concerns you? What are you most concerned about in terms of the spirituality and the direction of our nation and our world? And I’ve talked to very prominent democrats, very prominent republicans. And I was surprised by the uniformity of their answers. And those have informed my comments this morning. now, it’s not my intention to offend anyone. I have discovered, however, in recent years that it’s very difficult to speak to a large group of people these days and not offend someone. [laughter]

And people walk away with their feelings on their shoulders waiting for you to say something, ah, did you hear that? The pc police are out in force at all times. I remember once I was talking about the difference between a human brain and a dog’s grain, and a man — and a dog’s brain, and a man got offended. You can’t talk about dogs like that. [laughter] People focus in on that, completely miss the point of what you’re saying. [laughter] And we’ve reached reach the point where people are afraid to actually talk about what they want to say because somebody might be offended. People are afraid to say Merry Christmas at Christmas time. Doesn’t matter whether the person you’re talking to is Jewish or, you know, whether they’re any religion. That’s a salutation, a greeting of goodwill. We’ve got to get over this sensitivity. You know, and it keeps people from saying what they really believe.

You know, I’m reminded of a very successful young businessman, and he loved to buy his mother these exotic gifts for mother’s day. And he ran out of ideas, and then he ran across these birds. These birds were cool, you know? They cost $5,000 apiece. They could dance, they could sing, they could talk. He was so excited, he bought two of of them. Sent them to his mother, couldn’t wait to call her up on mother’s day, mother, mother, what’d you think of those birds? And she said, they was good. [laughter] He said, no, no, no! Mother, you didn’t eat those birds? Those birds cost $5,000 apiece! They could dance, they could sing, they could talk! And she said, well, they should have said something. [laughter] And, you know, that’s where we end up, too, if we don’t speak up for what we believe. [laughter] And, you know, what we need to do — [applause] what we need to do in this PC world is forget about unanimity of speech and unanimity of thought, and we need to concentrate on being respectful to those people with whom we disagree.

And that’s when I believe we begin to make progress. and one last thing about political correctness, which I think is a horrible thing, by the way. I’m very, very come — compassionate, and I’m not never out to offend anyone. But PC is dangerous. Because, you see, this country one of the founding principles was freedom of thought and freedom of expression. and it muffles people. It puts a muzzle on them. And at the same time, keeps people from discussing important issues while the fabric of this society is being changed. And we cannot fall for that trick. And what we need to do is start talking about things, talking about things that are important.

Things that were important in the development of our nation. one of those things was education. I’m very passionate about education because it’s made such a big difference in my life. But here we are at a time in the world, the information age, the age of technology, and yet 30% of people who enter high school in this country do not graduate. 44% of people who start a four-year college program do not finish it in four years. What is that about? Think back to a darker time in this our history. Two hundred years ago when slavery was going on it was illegal to educate a slave, particularly to teach them to read. Why do you think that was? Because when you educate a man, you liberate a man. And there I was as a youngster placing myself in the same situation that a horrible institution did because I wasn’t taking advantage of the education. I was a horrible student. Most of my classmates thought I was the stupidest person in the world. They called me dummy. I was the butt of all the jokes. Now, admittedly, it was a bad environment. single-parent home, you know, my mother and father had gotten divorced early on.

My mother got married when she was 13. She was one of 24 children. Had a horrible life. Discovered that her husband was a bigamist, had another family. And she only had a third grade education. She had to take care of us. Dire poverty. I had a horrible temper, poor self-esteem. All the things that you think would preclude success. But I had something very important, I had a mother who believed in me, and I had a mother who would never allow herself to be a victim no matter what happened. Never made excuses, and she never accepted an excuse from us. And if we ever came up with an excuse, she always said do you have a brain? And if the answer was, yes, then she said then you could have thought your way out of it. It doesn’t matter what John or Susan or Mary or anybody else did or said. And it was the most important thing she did for my brother and myself. Because if you don’t accept excuse, pretty soon people stop giving them, and they start looking for solutions. And that is a critical issue when it comes to success.

Well, you know, we did live in dire poverty, and one of the things that I hated was poverty. you know, some people hate spiders, some people hate snakes, I hated poverty. I couldn’t stand it. [laughter] But, you know, my mother couldn’t stand the fact that we were doing poorly in school, and she prayed and asked god to give her wisdom, what could she do to to to make her sons understand the importance of wisdom? God gave her wisdom. At least in her opinion. It was to turn off the tv, let us watch only two or three programs during the week, and read two books apiece and submit to her written book reports which she couldn’t read, but we didn’t know that. [laughter] She put check marks and highlights and stuff — [laughter] But, you know, I just hated this. And my friends were out having a good time. her friends would criticize her. they would say you can’t make boys stay in the house reading books, they’ll grow up and hate you. and i would overhear them and say, you know, mother, they’re right. but she didn’t care.

You know. [laughter] after a while, I actually began to enjoy reading those books because we were very poor, but between the covers of those books I could go anywhere, I could be anybody, i could do anything. I began to read about people of great accomplishment, and as I read those stories, I began to see a connecting thread. I began to see that the person who has the most to do with you and what happens to you in life is you. You make decisions. You decide how much energy you want to put behind that decision. And I came to understand that I had control of my own destiny. And at that point I didn’t hate poverty anymore, because I knew it was only temporary. I knew I could change that. it was incredibly liberating for me, made all the difference.

To continue on that theme of education, in 1831 Alexis de Toqueville came to study America. The Europeans were fascinated. How could a fledgling Nation, barely 50 years old already be competing with them on virtually every level. This was impossible. De Toqueville was going to sort it out and he looked at our government and he was duly impressed by the three branches of government – four now because now we have special interest groups, but it was only three back in those days. He said, WOW, this is really something, but then he said, but let me look at their educational system and he was blown away. See, anybody who had finished the second grade was completely literate. He could find a mountain man on the outskirts of society who could read the newspaper and have a political discussion, could tell him how the government worked.

If you really want to be impressed, take a look at the chapter on education in my latest book, America the Beautiful, which I wrote with my wife – it came out last year, and in that education chapter you will see questions extracted from a sixth grade exit exam from the 1800′s – a test you had to pass to get your sixth grade certificate. I doubt most college graduates today could pass that test. We have dumbed things down to that level and the reason that is so dangerous is because the people who founded this Nation said that our system of government was designed for a well-informed and educated populace, and when they become less informed, they become vulnerable. Think about that. That is why education is so vitally important.

Now some people say, ahhh, you’re over blowing it, things aren’t that bad, and you’re a doctor, a neurosurgeon. Why are you concerned about these things? Got news for you. FIVE doctors signed the Declaration of Independence. Doctors were involved in the framing of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, in a whole bunch of things. It’s only been since recent decades that we’ve extracted ourselves, which I think is a big mistake.

We need doctors, we needs scientists, engineers. We need all those people involved in government, not just lawyers…I don’t have anything against lawyers, but you know, here’s the thing about lawyers…I’m sorry, but I got to be truthful…got to be truthful – what do lawyers learn in law school? To win, by hook or by crook. You gotta win, so you got all these Democrat lawyers, and you got all these Republican lawyers and their sides want to win. We need to get rid of that. What we need to start thinking about is, how do we solve problems?

Now, before I get shot, let me finish. I don’t like to bring up problems without coming up with solutions. My wife and I started the Carson Scholars Fund 16 years ago after we heard about an international survey looking at the ability of eight graders in 22 countries to solve math and science problems, and we came out No. 21 out of 22. We only barely beat out Number 22 – very concerning.

We went to these schools and we’d see all these trophies: State Basketball, State Wrestling, this, that and the other. The Quarterback was the Big Man on Campus. What about the intellectual Superstar? What did they get? A National Honor Society pin? A pat on the head, there, there little Nerd? Nobody cared about them. And is it any wonder that sometimes the smart kids try to hide? They don’t want anybody to know they are smart? This is not helping us or our Nation, so we started giving out scholarships from all backgrounds for superior academic performance and demonstration of humanitarian qualities. Unless you cared about other people, it didn’t matter how smart you were. We’ve got plenty of people like that. We don’t need smart people who don’t care about other people.

We would give them money. The money would go into a Trust. They would get interest on it. When they would go to college they would get the money, but also the school gets a trophy, every bit as impressive as a sports trophy – right out there with the others. They get a medal. They get to go t a banquet. We try to put them on a pedestal as impressive as we do the All-State athletes. I have nothing against athletics or entertainment. I’m from Baltimore. The Ravens won. This is great – okay. But, but – what will maintain our position in the world? The ability to shoot a 25 foot jump shot or the ability to solve a quadratic equation? We need to put the things into proper perspective.

Many teachers have told us that when we put a Carson Scholar in their classroom, the GPA of the whole classroom goes up over the next year. It’s been very gratifying. We started 16 years ago with 25 scholarships in Maryland, now we’ve given out more than 5,000 and we are in all 50 states, but we’ve also put in Reading Rooms. These are fascinating places that no little kid could possibly pass up. And uh, they get points for the amount of time they spend reading, and the number of books they read. They can trade the points for prizes. In the beginning they do it for the prizes, but it doesn’t take long before their academic performance begins to improve.

And we particularly target Title One schools where the kids come from homes with no books and they go to schools with no libraries. Those are the ones who drop out. We need to truncate that process early on because we can’t afford to waste any of those young people. You know, for every one of those people we keep from going down that path – that path of self-destruction and mediocrity, that’s one less person you have to protect yourself and your family from. One less person you have to pay for in the penal or welfare system. One more taxpaying productive member of society who may invent a new energy source or come up with a cure for cancer. They are all important to us and we need every single one of them it makes a difference. And when you go home tonight read about it, carsonscholars, carsonscholars.org

Why is it so important that we educate our people? Because we don’t want to go down the pathway as so many pinnacle nations that have preceded us. I think particularly about ancient Rome. Very powerful. Nobody could even challenge them militarily, but what happened to them? They destroyed themselves from within. Moral decay, fiscal irresponsibility. They destroyed themselves. If you don’t think that can happen to America, you get out your books and you start reading, but you know, we can fix it.

Why can we fix it because we’re smart. We have some of the most intellectually gifted people leading our Nation. All we need to do is remember what our real responsibilities are so that we can solve the problems. I think about these problems all the time, and my role, you know, model was Jesus. He used parables to help people understand things. And one of our big problems right now, and like I said, I’m not politically correct, so I’m sorry, but you know – our deficit is a big problem. Think about it. And our National Debt – $16.5 Trillion dollars – you think that’s not a lot of money? I’ll tell you what! Count one number per second, which you can’t even do because once you get to a thousand it will take you longer than a second, but…one number per second. You know how long it would take you to count to 16 Trillion? 507,000 years – more than a half a million years to get there. We have to deal with this.

Here’s a parable: A family falls on hard times. Dad loses his job or is demoted to part time work. He has 5 children. He comes to the 5 children, he says we’re going to have to reduce your allowance. Well, they’re not happy about it but – he says, except for John and Susan. They’re, they’re special. They get to keep their allowance. In fact, we’ll give them more. How do you think that’s going to go down? Not too well. Same thing happens. Enough said.

What about our taxation system? So complex there is no one who can possibly comply with every jot and tittle of our tax system. If I wanted to get you, I could get you on a tax issue. That doesn’t make any sense. What we need to do is come up with something that is simple.

When I pick up my Bible, you know what I see? I see the fairest individual in the Universe, God, and he’s given us a system. It’s called tithe. Now we don’t necessarily have to do it 10% but it’s principle. He didn’t say, if your crops fail, don’t give me any tithes. He didn’t say, if you have a bumper crop, give me triple tithes. So there must be something inherently fair about proportionality. You make $10 Billion dollars you put in a Billion. You make $10 you put in $1 – of course, you gotta get rid of the loopholes, but now now some people say, that’s not fair because it doesn’t hurt the guy who made $10 Billion dollars as much as the guy who made $10. Where does it say you have to hurt the guy. He’s just put in a billion in the pot. We don’t need to hurt him.

It’s that kind of thinking – it’s that kind of thinking that has resulted in 602 banks in the Cayman Islands. That money needs to be back here, building our infrastructure and creating jobs – and we’re smart enough – we’re smart enough to figure out how to do that.

We’ve already started down the path to solving one of the other big problems, health care. We need to have good health care for everybody. It’s the most important thing that a person can have. Money means nothing, titles mean nothing when you don’t have your health, but we’ve got to figure out efficient ways to do it. We spend a lot of money on health care, twice as much per capita as anybody in else in the world, and yet not very efficient. What can we do?

Here’s my solution. When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record and a health savings account [HSA], to which money can be contributed, pre-tax from the time you are born, to the time you die. When you die, you can pass it on to your family members so that when you’re 85 years old and you’ve got 6 diseases, you’re not trying to spend up everything. You’re happy to pass it on and nobody is talking about death panels. That’s number one. Also -

For the people who are indigent, who don’t have any money, we can make contributions to their HSA each month because we already have this huge pot of money instead of sending it to bureaucracy – let’s put it into HSAs. Now they have some control over their own health care and what do you think they’re going to do? They’re going to learn very quickly how to be responsible. When Mr. Jones gets that diabetic foot ulcer, he’s not going to the Emergency Room and blowing a big chunk of it. He’s going to go to the Clinic. He learns that very quickly – gets the same treatment. In the Emergency Room they send him out. In the Clinic they say, now let’s get your diabetes under control so that you’re not back here in three weeks with another problem. That’s how we begin to solve these kinds of problems. It’s much more complex than that, and I don’t have time to go into it all, but we can do all these things because we are smart people.

And let me begin to close here – another parable: Sea Captain, and he’s out on the sea near the area where the Titanic went down. And they look ahead and there’s a bright light right there – another ship he figures. He tells his signaler to signal that ship: deviate 10 degrees to the South. Back comes the message, no you deviate 10 degrees to the North. Well, he’s a little bit incensed you know. He says, send a message, this is Captain Johnson, deviate 10 degrees to the South. Back comes the message, this is Ensign 4th Class Reilly. Deviate 10 degrees to the North. Now Captain Johnson is really upset. He says send him a message, this is a Naval Destroyer. Back comes the message, this is a Lighthouse. Enough said.

Now, what about the symbol of our Nation? The Eagle. The Bald Eagle. It’s an interesting story how we chose that but a lot of people think we call it the bald eagle because it looks like it has a bald head. That’s not the reason It comes from the Old English word Piebald, which means crowned with white. And we just shortened it to bald. Now, use that the next time you see somebody who thinks they know everything. You’ll get ‘em on that one.

But, why is that eagle able to fly, high, forward? Because it has two wings: a left wing and a right wing. Enough said.

And I wanna close with this story: two hundred years ago this Nation was involved in a war, the war of 1812. The British, who are now our good friends thought that we were young whippersnappers. It was time for us to become a colony again. They were winning that war and marching up the Eastern Seaboard, destroying city after city, destroying Washington D.C., burned down the White House. Next stop Baltimore. As they came into the Chesapeake Bay, there were armadas of war ships as far as the eye could see. It was looking grim. Fort. McHenry standing right there. General Armisted, who was in charge of Fort. McHenry, had a large American flag commissioned to fly in front of the Fort. The Admiral in charge of the British Fleet was offended, said take that flag down. You have until dusk to take that Flag down. If you don’t take it down, we will reduce you to ashes.

There was a young amateur poet on board by the name of Francis Scott Key, sent by President Madison to try to obtain the release of an American physician who was being held captive. He overheard the British plans. They were not going to let him off the ship. He mourned. As dusk approached he mourned for his fledgling young Nation, and as the sun fell, the bombardment started. Bombs bursting in air. Missiles, so much debris He strained, trying to see, was the flag still there? Couldn’t see a thing. All night long it continued. At the crack of dawn he ran out to the banister He looked straining his eyes all he could only see dust and debris.

Then there was a clearing and he beheld the most beautiful sight he had ever seen – the torn and tattered Stars and Stripes still waving. And many historians say that was the turning point in the war of 1812. We went on to win that war and to retain our freedom and if you had gone onto the grounds of Fort. McHenry that day, you would have seen at the base of that flag, the bodies of soldiers who took turns. Propping up that flag, they would not let that flag go down because they believed in what that flag symbolized. And what did it symbolize? One Nation, under God, [applause] indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Thank you. God Bless.

Barack Obama: 2nd Inauguration Ceremony, January 2013

US President Barack Obama speaks after his inauguration as president for his second term on January 21, 2013.

The transcript can be downloaded from Washington Post. The video is from the New York Times Youtube channel.

President Barack Obama:
Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

For more than two hundred years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people. This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm. That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.

They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.

You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.

Barack Obama: Victory Speech, November 2012

US President Barack Obama addresses his supporters after defeating Mitt Romney and winning a second term as president.

The transcript can be downloaded from Chicago Sun Times and is copyright the Federal News Service. The video is from Al Jazeera.

President Barack Obama:
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: (Chanting.) Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward.

It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family, and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.

Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.

I want to thank every American who participated in this election. Whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time by the way, we have to fix that. Whether you pounded the pavement or picked up the phone whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard and you made a difference.

I just spoke with Governor Romney and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign. We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service. And that is a legacy that we honor and applaud tonight. In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.

I want to thank my friend and partner of the last four years, America’s happy warrior, the best vice president anybody could ever hope for, Joe Biden.

And I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago. Let me say this publicly. Michelle, I have never loved you more. I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you too as our nation’s first lady.

Sasha and Malia before our very eyes, you’re growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women, just like your mom. And I am so proud of you guys. But I will say that for now, one dog’s probably enough. (Laughter.)

To the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics the best — the best ever some of you were new this time around, and some of you have been at my side since the very beginning.

But all of you are family. No matter what you do or where you go from here, you will carry the memory of the history we made together. And you will have the lifelong appreciation of a grateful president. Thank you for believing all the way to every hill, to every valley. You lifted me up the whole day, and I will always be grateful for everything that you’ve done and all the incredible work that you’ve put in.

I know that political campaigns can sometimes seem small, even silly. And that provides plenty of fodder for the cynics who tell us that politics is nothing more than a contest of egos or the domain of special interests. But if you ever get the chance to talk to folks who turned out at our rallies and crowded along a rope line in a high school gym or — or saw folks working late at a campaign office in some tiny county far away from home, you’ll discover something else.

You’ll hear the determination in the voice of a young field organizer who’s working his way through college and wants to make sure every child has that same opportunity. You’ll hear the pride in the voice of a volunteer who’s going door to door because her brother was finally hired when the local auto plant added another shift.

You’ll hear the deep patriotism in the voice of a military spouse who’s working the phones late at night to make sure that no one who fights for this country ever has to fight for a job or a roof over their head when they come home.

That’s why we do this. That’s what politics can be. That’s why elections matter. It’s not small, it’s big. It’s important. Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy. That won’t change after tonight. And it shouldn’t. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty, and we can never forget that as we speak, people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.

But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America’s future.

We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers a country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation with all of the good jobs and new businesses that follow.

We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened up by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.

We want to pass on a country that’s safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation that is defended by the strongest military on earth and the best troops this — this world has ever known but also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being.

We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America open to the dreams of an immigrant’s daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag to the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner to the furniture worker’s child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president.

That’s the that’s the future we hope for.

That’s the vision we share. That’s where we need to go — forward. That’s where we need to go.

Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It’s not always a straight line. It’s not always a smooth path. By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock, resolve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward.

But that common bond is where we must begin. Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over. And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you. I have learned from you. And you’ve made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead.

Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours.

And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together — reducing our deficit, reforming out tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do.

But that doesn’t mean your work is done. The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us; it’s about what can be done by us together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self- government. That’s the principle we were founded on.

This country has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our university, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores. What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth, the belief that our destiny is shared that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, so that the freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That’s what makes America great.

I am hopeful tonight because I have seen this spirit at work in America. I’ve seen it in the family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbors and in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see a friend lose a job. I’ve seen it in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb and in those SEALs who charged up the stairs into darkness and danger because they knew there was a buddy behind them watching their back. I’ve seen it on the shores of New Jersey and New York, where leaders from every party and level of government have swept aside their differences to help a community rebuild from the wreckage of a terrible storm.

And I saw it just the other day in Mentor, Ohio, where a father told the story of his 8-year-old daughter whose long battle with leukemia nearly cost their family everything had it not been for health care reform passing just a few months before the insurance company was about to stop paying for her care. I had an opportunity to not just talk to the father but meet this incredible daughter of his. And when he spoke to the crowd, listening to that father’s story, every parent in that room had tears in their eyes because we knew that little girl could be our own.

And I know that every American wants her future to be just as bright. That’s who we are. That’s the country I’m so proud to lead as your president.

And tonight, despite all the hardship we’ve been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I’ve never been more hopeful about our future. I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope.

I’m not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the road blocks that stand in our path. I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight. I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.

America, I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunities and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love (ph). It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America.

And together, with your help and God’s grace, we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on earth. Thank you, America. God bless you. God bless these United States.

Mitt Romney Concession Speech, 2012

2012 Presidential candidate for the Republican Party Mitt Romney addresses Republican supporters in Boston in November 2012 after losing the presidential election to the incumbent Barack Obama.

The video of this speech by Mitt Romney can be downloaded from here on the New York Times website. The transcript is also from the New York Times website.

Mitt Romney:
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you so very much. Thank you. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you. Thank you.

I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory. His supporters and his campaign also deserve congratulations. I wish all of them well, but particularly the president, the first lady and their daughters. (Applause.) This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.

I want to thank Paul Ryan for all that he has done for our campaign — (cheers, applause) — and for our country. Besides my wife Ann, Paul is the best choice I’ve ever made. (Cheers, applause.) And I trust that his intellect and his hard work and his commitment to principle will continue to contribute to the good of our nation. (Cheers, applause.)

I also want to thank Ann, the love of my life. (Cheers, applause.) She would have been a wonderful first lady. (Cheers, applause.) She’s — she has been that and more to me and to our family and to the many people that she has touched with her compassion and her care. I thank my sons for their tireless work on behalf of the campaign, and thank their wives and children — (cheers, applause) — for taking up their slack as their husbands and dads have spent so many weeks away from home. (Cheers, applause.)

I want to thank Matt Rhoades and the dedicated campaign team he led. (Cheers, applause.) They have made an extraordinary effort, not just for me but also for the country that we love. And to you here tonight and to the team across the country — the volunteers, the fundraisers, the donors, the surrogates — I don’t believe that there’s ever been an effort in our party that can compare with what you have done over these past years. Thank you so very much. (Cheers, applause.)

Thanks for all the hours of work, for the calls, for the speeches and appearances, for the resources and for the prayers. You gave deeply from yourselves and performed magnificently, and you inspired us and you humbled us. You’ve been the very best we could have imagined.

The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion. We look to our teachers and professors. We count on you not just to teach, but to inspire our children with a passion for learning and discovery.

We look to our pastors and priests and rabbis and counselors of all kinds to testify of the enduring principles upon which our society is built — honesty, charity, integrity and family. We look to our parents, for in the final analysis, everything depends on the success of our homes. We look to job creators of all kinds. We’re counting on you to invest, to hire, to step forward. And we look to Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics.

I believe in America. I believe in the people of America. (Cheers, applause.)

And I ran for office because I’m concerned about America. This election is over, but our principles endure. I believe that the principles upon which this nation was founded are the only sure guide to a resurgent economy and to a new greatness.

Like so many of you, Paul and I have left everything on the field. We have given our all to this campaign. (Cheers, applause.) I so wish — I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction. But the nation chose another leader. And so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.

Thank you, and God bless America. (Cheers, applause.) You guys are the best. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thanks, guys. (Cheers, applause.)