In 1961, when John F. Kennedy gave his famous inaugural speech, it wasn't controversial. It wasn't considered radical. There were no protesters there to suggest he was being un-American, a man of privilege and wealth, protecting his own self-interest and the status quo.
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"Ask not what your country can do for you," he said. "Ask what you can do for your country."
It was common sense back then. But Kennedy, who would sign into law what was the biggest tax cut in the country's history at that point, understood what was needed to bring greater prosperity and jobs to a stagnant economy – and it wasn't people looking to government to redistribute wealth in the form of handouts.
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His successors would not see it the same way. Not for 20 more years with the swearing in of Ronald Reagan would America hear another inaugural message of that kind. And America has not heard one since – until last Saturday.
Donald Trump's inaugural address was indeed a radical departure. That explains the protests, the fear, the bitterness of the opposition.
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From his opening words, it was clear that the new president saw things very differently than his four predecessors did – George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
"We the citizens of America are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people," Trump said. "Together we will determine the course of America, and the world, for many, many years to come. We will face challenges. We will confront hardships, but we will get the job done."
It was characterized by a turn in direction, determination, collective challenge, optimism.
It's not about a new person in the White House, Trump said. It's not about a transfer of power to another party, he explained. It's about "transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people. For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs, and while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land."
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"That all changes starting right here and right now, because this moment is your moment," Trump said with conviction. "It belongs to you. It belongs to everyone gathered here today, and everyone watching, all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration, and this, the United States of America, is your country."
Sitting with my wife in the first row of public seating, I had goose bumps. This guy really means what he says. We need to pray daily that he stays the course he has set.
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Trump's critics often like to chide him on his arrogance. But this was not a speech about Trump. It was a message of real change, a major course correction, a shift in power from a government that had badly deviated from its constitutional mission statement to one that would empower the people – if they are willing and able to accept it.
"What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people," Trump said. "January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before."
Trump is so right about this. His election was a political earthquake felt worldwide and will likely have far-reaching implications globally.
"At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction, that a nation exists to serve its citizens," Trump continued. "Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public, but for too many of our citizens a different reality exists. Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge, and the crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."
Trump may be a multi-billionaire, but he has a heart for those who are struggling, those trapped in dependency, those who have been sold a bill of goods by the power brokers.
"We are one nation, and their pain is our pain," he said. "Their dreams are our dreams, and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny. The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans. For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. We've defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own. And spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon. One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world, but that is the past, and now we are looking only to the future."
I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. I had awakened early to see this with my own eyes and hear it with my own ears. It was stirring. I don't care what my critics will say: I had tears in my eyes.
And that was just the beginning of this amazing address.
"We are assembled here today issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power, from this day forward, a new vision will govern our land, from this day forward, it's going to be only America first," he thundered. "America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never, ever let you down. America will start winning again, winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders."
He wasn't just campaigning for president by telling people what they wanted to hear. He really believes in this country. This is his heart.
"We will bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams," he said. "We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels, and railways, all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. We will follow two simple rules – buy American, and hire American."
Do you understand what a remarkable change of direction this represents?
Are you pinching yourself, too?
"We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first," he continued. "We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example, we will shine for everyone to follow. We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones, and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth."
This is something we have not heard from any politician or government official since 9/11. It's about time. No wonder he won. And you might remember, I predicted it many months ago.
"At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other," he said. "When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice."
Every word is meaningful. And every word was spoken with total conviction.
Maybe it's time for me to make another prediction: Like Ronald Reagan did in his first four years, Trump is going to win over many who opposed him in his first presidential campaign. But the opposition will be strong because what Trump is saying threatens entrenched power structures. It threatens the livelihoods of many in wasteful and counterproductive government bureaucracies.
"The Bible tells us, how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity," Trump said. "We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear. We are protected, and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God."
"Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger," he continued. "In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action. Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America."
Optimism – do you remember optimism? It's what Ronald Reagan preached – and delivered.
"We will not fail," he said. "Our country will thrive and prosper again. We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow."
Have you ever heard anything like this in your lifetime? Do you believe it? We haven't seen or heard from a leader like this in 30 years.
"A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions," Trump said. "It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag."
If Trump can deliver, he will deliver in four years a landslide from a new political coalition of young and old, black and white, men and women.
"And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator," the new president continued. "So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams, will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way. Together, We Will Make America Strong Again. We Will Make America Wealthy Again. We Will Make America Proud Again. We Will Make America Safe Again. And, Yes, Together, We Will Make America Great Again. Thank you, God Bless You, And God Bless America."
How anyone can hear those words, read those words, listen to those words and not be profoundly affected is a bit mystifying. They are inspirational. They are uniting. They are powerful.
Understand, I do not put my faith and hope in governments of men. It's not my nature. But we should all pray for his success, because, ultimately, God will determine where our nation stands in four years.
Only if we are doing what's right in God's eyes will we recover what we have lost in character and courage.
Only if we are doing what's right in God's eyes will we prosper.
Only if we are doing what's right in God's eyes will we Make America Great Again.
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