In John F. Kennedy's famous inaugural address he compelled us to, "Ask not what your country can do for you'ask what you can do for your country." I've taken the liberty of rewriting his speech to my own liking.
We observe today the failings of the state – symbolizing an end as well as a beginning – signifying renewal as well as change. Each of us, individually, must declare our highest oath.
No man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of any other.
The world is very different now. For man holds in his hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the enormous power wielded by nations continues to obstruct instead of help. Our revolutionary beliefs are universally suppressed around the globe – the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state.
We dare not forget today that we lead an all important revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to individual and state alike, that the torch has been passed to this generation of libertarians – tempered by war, hounded by countless laws, proud of our sovereign selves – and unwilling to witness or permit suppression of the natural rights to which we have always been committed, and to which we are committed today.
Let every nation know, whether it wished us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.
This much we pledge – and more.
To those we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge that one form of statist control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by another. We ask all to support our freedom – and to know that that those who foolishly seek power by riding the back of the tiger shall end up inside.
To those in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge free trade to help them help themselves – not because we seek riches from them, but because the market will best provide riches to all. If a free market cannot help the many who are poor, an interventionist state has no hope of helping them at all.
To all around the world, we offer a special pledge – to welcome you in free trade – in a new alliance for progress – to assist free men and free enterprise in casting off the chains of poverty.
But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all know that we oppose aggression anywhere. And let every power know that each of us intends to remain master of our own property.
To the world's many states we deny our support – to prevent them from continuing their suppression – to withdraw from them the monopoly of force – and to reduce the area in which their writ may run.
Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge, but a request: that all sides begin anew a quest for peace and free trade. Do not think we tempt you with weakness. Now that we have tasted freedom we each stand strong. You cannot conquer us without conquering each one of us.
So let us begin anew – remembering that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never act out of fear. Let us never fear to trade.
Let us all explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.
Let us all seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease and even death, plumb the ocean's depths and encourage the arts through peaceful commerce.
Let us all unite to heed, in all corners of the earth, the command of Isaiah – to "undo the heavy burdens... (and) let the oppressed go free."
And if the beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of oppression, let each join in creating new endeavors, not a new balance of power, but a new world of freedom, where the strong do not seek to control the weak and the peace is preserved.
All this may not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor may it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.
In our hands will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since the many countries around the world were founded, countless generations have been summoned to give testimony to their national loyalty. The graves of the young remind us of those who answered the call of service to the state.
Now the trumpet summons us – not as a call to serve the state, but as a call to serve ourselves. Not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need – not as a call to battle, though embattled we are – but a call to bear the burden of personal responsibility, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation" – a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war.
Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?
In the long history of the world we have been granted the role of defending liberty and freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the devotion, which we bring to each our endeavors will light us all – and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow libertarians: ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for yourself.
Finally, ask of us here the same high standards of integrity that we ask of you. With liberty and freedom our only sure reward, let us trade to the benefit of all, knowing that here on earth our lives and our property must truly be our own.