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President Trump's inauguration speech, annotated

by Vox Staff on January 20, 2017

Shortly after taking the oath to become the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump delivered an inaugural address to hundreds of thousands of onlookers in Washington.

The speech, which aired on C-SPAN and every major broadcast and cable news network, sought to rally the nation behind an "America-first" populist vision. Here is a full transcript of that speech, with annotations from reporters across the newsroom.

Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans, and people of the world, thank you.

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. 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. Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power. And we are grateful to President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent. Thank you.

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Today's ceremony however, has very special meaning, because today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, DC, and giving it back to you, the people.

For too long, [those in politics] have reaped the rewards of government while 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.

This line clearly speaks to how many people feel, but in reality there are more people employed in the United States in January 2017 than at any previous time in American history, and inflation-adjusted wages are higher than they have ever been.

Matthew Yglesias,

That all changes starting right here and right now, because this moment is your moment. 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.

Because what truly matters is not what truly controls our government but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.

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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 only uses the word “women” twice, once here and once in reference to the “men and women of our military.” Both references are to “men and women.” He also mentions “Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities” (and “inner cities” has been a problematic phrase for Trump when it comes to race relations). Either way, it’s interesting that he never specifically talks about women’s issues after a campaign that was so strongly defined by gender on both sides.

Emily Crockett,

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction, that a nation exists to serve its citizens. 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

Two things worth noting here. Trump often paints a blighted picture of poverty in “inner cities,” but there are more poor people in American suburbs than in urban centers. And Trump’s proposed policies are far more likely to worsen poverty, including among children, than improve it.

Libby Nelson,

This is a clear expression of Trump's economic nostalgia and promises of a very particular type of renewal, but it's more evocative than it is true, in a macro sense. There are certainly rusted-out factories in America, but the United States has never enjoyed larger manufacturing output than it does today.

Jim Tankersley,

The United States spends more per student than nearly all developed countries (although most public schools probably wouldn’t describe themselves as “flush with cash,” given that many teachers have to crowdfund books and supplies for their classrooms). As for “deprived of all knowledge,” American students’ scores on international tests aren’t great compared with other developed countries — about average on math and science, below average in math — but it’s a bit harsh to say they know nothing.

Libby Nelson,

 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.

“American carnage” is the early favorite as “line of the speech.”

Jim Tankersley,

We are one nation, and their pain is our pain. 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.

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For many decades, we have 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.

Trump is in a literal sense correct here: Under the Obama administration, the Pentagon’s budget and the size of the armed forces have both shrunk. But Trump ignores that some of those cuts came because of Republican-mandated spending limits, while others were the natural result of Obama winding down the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yochi Dreazen,

We have 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.

The federal government hasn't "refused" to defend the US/Mexico border; to the contrary. But some Border Patrol agents were so frustrated by Obama's policies that they became unwilling to apprehend immigrants crossing the border. They've been some of Trump's strongest supporters, and he promises to give them free rein.

Dara Lind,

 Interestingly, Trump is recycling what had been a Democratic talking point during the George W. Bush administration. Half of what Trump is saying is correct in a literal sense: The US is estimated to have spent roughly $5 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the latter half makes an unfair linkage; money is fungible, and the Bush and Obama administrations could have chosen to spend that money here at home (or to have borrowed and spent other money on such projects); they chose not to.

Yochi Dreazen,

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. We assembled here today are 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, America first .

“America First” got its start as an isolationist slogan among Americans who resisted entry into World War II for a host of reasons. But it became associated with virulent anti-Semites as war approached and was almost taboo in American politics for two generations. Trump is determined to bring it back.

Libby Nelson,

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.

There’s no doubt that opening the doors to foreign imports has been detrimental to the interests of some Americans who lost jobs in import-competing industries. This negative impact seems to have been concentrated in a handful of swing states and may have given Trump the White House. But only a relatively small number of Americans work in manufacturing, and many of those who do work in manufacturing sectors like airplanes and capital goods where the United States is a net exporter. A serious round of trade protectionism risks simply turning the politics of imports on its head — substantial gains for a geographically concentrated minority of Americans while most people suffer from higher prices and reduced competition.

Matthew Yglesias,

America will start winning again, winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams. 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.

At the moment, Trump’s main infrastructure plan focuses on giving private investors tax credits for building things like new toll highways. Experts tend to think the plan is inadequate for addressing many of America’s most pressing infrastructure needs, but it seems unlikely that the GOP Congress is going to authorize massive new transportation spending.

Brad Plumer,

We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.

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. 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 reform the world against radical Islamic terrorism , which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth.

Here, Trump is managing to offer both reassuring and deeply alarming words in a single sentence. Trump has questioned the value of NATO and the US alliances with countries like South Korea and Japan, deeply worrying longstanding US allies in Europe and Asia. Trump is trying to at least somewhat allay those fears. But the second half is far more problematic. No senior military or intelligence officials believe that Islamist terror can be “eradicated”; the best-case scenario is that measures are taken to reduce the ability of groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS to mount attacks in Europe and the US. That’s a tall order, however. And even if those efforts were somehow successful — again, a near impossibility — the US would have no way of preventing them from carrying out attacks in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or other Muslim-majority countries where they enjoy at least a small amount of popular support.

Yochi Dreazen,

Trump here is fulfilling a campaign promise to refer to major terror threats to America as “radical Islamic terrorism” rather than in religiously neutral terms, like President Obama (and President George W. Bush before him) preferred. Obama has long argued that religious framing of that nature could backfire and alienate potential Muslim allies the US needs in its war on terror. But Trump and others on the right argued that Obama was failing to accurately define the nature of the threat as they saw it.

Andrew Prokop,

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. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly , but always pursue solidarity.

This is a nice sentiment, but there’s a long tradition of white Americans questioning whether nonwhite Americans can really love their country, and Trump himself has a well-documented history of prejudice based on both race and gender.

Libby Nelson,

One singular and notable facet of Trump’s campaign was how much he lied.

Libby Nelson,

When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.

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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. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long 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.

“All talk, no action” is an insult Trump has applied to a lot of politicians, but most recently he used it to refer to Rep. John Lewis — an insult that led dozens of Democrats to skip Trump’s inauguration in support of the civil rights hero.

Libby Nelson,

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. We will not fail. 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 harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.

Trump seems to be promising here to battle the ravages of viral health threats. This may be tricky given that his plans for public health, at the moment, amount to job creation. As he said in his health care reform position statement, “The best social program has always been a job — and taking care of our economy will go a long way towards reducing our dependence on public health programs.” With the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, his party will also kill the  Prevention and Public Health Fund, which was designed to bolster funding for the prevention and response to outbreaks like Ebola and Zika, among other public health efforts.

Julia Belluz,

A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights, and heal our divisions. It's 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.

For the most part, President Trump didn’t pick sides about who, exactly, needed to “open their hearts.” But this tips his hand: The question of whether black and brown Americans really do enjoy the same freedoms as white ones (say, in voting rights or the criminal justice system) is very much an open one. By talking about Americans as individuals who are all alike and all share the same opportunities, Trump is playing into the idea that racism is no longer a problem in American life and anyone who believes otherwise is just playing the victim.

Dara Lind,

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the wind-swept plains of Nebraska, they look 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.

This is meant as a unifying rhetorical flourish, so Trump can be granted a bit of poetic license — but light pollution means the skies over the Nebraskan plains and urban centers like Detroit actually look very different.

Libby Nelson,

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, 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, 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.

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