Today we bear witness to history. It’s not just the fact that the first African-American will be sworn in as our President and the leader of the Free World. It is unfathomable to us today that there were Americans who would actually fight to their death to preserve the wretched institution of slavery.
It’s because America is unique. Our freedoms have been hard fought, the result of the blood and lives of our ancestors, and our men and women who continue the fight today. Those freedoms are preserved by a uniquely American tradition as old as the Republic – the peaceful transition of power.
From one president to the next, the power and authority provided by the vote of our people is passed. No guns. No tanks. No riots in the streets. Just a simple oath every four or eight years, and it is done.
Americans of every gender, race, religion, and political party celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama as our 44th President. At the National Association of Manufacturers, we embrace his message of hope and renewal for our country. And we commit ourselves to working together to bring our economy back, create and preserve American jobs, and strengthen America’s stature around the world.
We recognize the road ahead will be challenging. But Americans have always risen above challenges and shattered barriers to success. The NAM is proud that throughout our nation’s history, manufacturing has been a significant part of the solution and our nation’s progress.
As we witness the unfolding of history today, we are reminded of the wisdom of President Obama’s predecessors.
Franklin Roosevelt, the President who faced the most daunting economic challenge in our nation’s history, offered this vision. “We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.” His leadership saved the nation from financial ruin, when many thought the task impossible. This vision is as applicable today as it was 75 years ago.
Abraham Lincoln is the President who is often cited by our new President as one who provides him guidance and inspiration. “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of the earth,” said the President who began the process of healing our nation after the Civil War.
There is no doubt the path ahead for our new President will be filled with very serious challenges. Our economy is in crisis and our nation is in a recession not seen for generations. Manufacturing has not been spared, and the downturn has led to less production, lost jobs and closed facilities. But manufacturing is the engine that drives the U.S. economy, and it is the sector that can – and will – lead our nation into economic recovery.
There is, thankfully, a different tone in Washington, D.C. these days. This week, on the streets, in the offices and on the airwaves, the overwhelming feeling is that there is a real desire from all people to come together as one united nation to bring our country out of this recession and into an era of sustained growth.
There is no question we are at a crossroads in history. As Senator Mark Warner emphasized at the NAM Leadership Luncheon on Monday, “We have to get this right. But we’re not going to get it done just by Congress passing a law. We’re not going to get it done with incremental steps…with sound bites…with politics as usual.” He is right. As a nation, we must look beyond our current struggles, just as Lincoln and FDR did during the tumultuous early days of their administrations.
To achieve sustained economic prosperity, we pledge to work with policymakers to pursue competitive tax policies that create jobs and economic growth, establish trade policies that expand markets for U.S. products overseas, and enact energy policies that decrease costs and reduce our dependence on foreign sources. With long-term policies that support U.S. competitiveness, we will emerge stronger, with the foundation in place for a vibrant manufacturing economy and a better quality of life for all Americans.
Manufacturers stand ready to work with President Obama and with his Administration by contributing all that manufacturing has to offer – innovation, invention, productivity and, above all, the diligent efforts of America’s working men and women.
The challenges are real, the opportunities vast. As we celebrate a new beginning and pray for the success of our new President, we remember what the promise of a strong and prosperous America can mean for the world, as former President Ronald Reagan so vividly reminded us: “Presidents come and go. History comes and goes, but principles endure and insure future generations to defend liberty – not a gift from government, but a blessing from our Creator. Here, the lamp of individual conscience burns bright. By that I know we will all be guided to that dreamed-of day when no one wields a sword and no one drags a chain.”
Mr. President, may you succeed beyond the expectations of your nation’s people and be recognized in history as one of our greatest.
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