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Inaugural speech of President Mikheil Saakashvili
/ 21 Jan.'08 / 17:52

January 20, Tbilisi

·Fellow citizens of Georgia (salutations to all of Georgia’s regions); distinguished guests; your all holiness. Welcome.

·I am honored and humbled to stand before you today as the leader not of one party, but of one nation-a nation united in the common belief that together we can make Georgia free, whole, and strong.

·This responsibility binds together all citizens of this great country-our strength is our unity.

·As President, I am beholden to the people of Georgia.

·I will stay true to your will, to the rights and responsibilities enshrined in our Constitution, and to the formidable duties endowed in the Office of the President.

·Two weeks ago, we held the most competitive election in the history of our country.

·In that election, you cast your ballot for a set of ideas, you voted for a path forward, you voted for a new tomorrow, you voted for a Georgia without poverty.

·This election proved that our democracy is blossoming, and that we can build democratic institutions that will endure far longer than any single individual.

·Today, I stand here as the instrument of your wishes. Over the next five years, I will dedicate myself to making Georgia whole again - and to eliminating poverty in our country.

·The election had one clear victor - and that was the people of Georgia.

·It is a victory that we have earned together. Our political parties, our civil society, every resident of Georgia and each member of our diaspora.

·I would like to thank all of the candidates who contested this campaign on democratic principles-driven by their convictions, their passion, and their ideas.

·A united Georgia needs our unity now, to work together towards our many common goals.

·For those who are embittered by the outcome of this election, let me say this: I understand your disappointment and your anger. But the time for division has passed.

·Our votes might differ, but our dreams do not.

·The goals we share as citizens of Georgia are far more important than what separates us.

·We cannot turn our back on the promising road that lies ahead. We must work with courage and conviction, hand in hand, to build a single and united Georgia.

·Today, we gather not merely to mark the start of a new presidency. We are here together to herald-across this land and around the world-that Georgia has reached the next stage in its historic journey of democracy and the rule of law.

·On this journey we combine the determination of an ancient people and the energy of a young Republic.

·We resolve anew to ensure Georgia is safe from our adversaries; at peace with our neighbors; united by mutual respect; and integrated across all our territories, from Tskhinvali to Akhalkalaki - Sighnaghi to Sukhumi.

·Four years ago, Georgians joined together to break the chains of hopelessness and stagnation; we rejected failed theories that said the lives of the many could be dictated by the few; and we insisted on ending corruption that ate away at our soul.

·We joined together to say “enough”- enough chaos; enough cronyism; enough division; enough of businesses with no real work; enough of a people with no hope.

·Four years later, much remains to be done. But thank God our freedom continues, and our destiny is in our own hands.

·As citizens of Georgia, we are heirs to a great land and a rich legacy - but not to an easy life. Our geography and our history teach us that our road is difficult.

·And that same history tells us that defending freedom is not an easy task. Nothing in fact is irreversible.

·The road to freedom is lined with many challenges. Only through hard work, perseverance and unity will our freedom endure.

·It is that unity and sense of national purpose that we must strive to maintain.

·Our nation may be blessed with tremendous beauty and richness - but it is also burdened by the enduring challenges of statehood.

·As much as Georgia is a prize for all our citizens, it requires truly heroic efforts to defend.

·Four years ago the prize that is Georgia was under threat. Our statehood was dying and the Georgian government was on its knees.

·It was exactly at this point that we took a stand - and pledged never to give up our country - and let it fail.

·Instead, we took a solemn pledge that the people of Georgia will do everything to protect and strengthen our nation.

·And today, four years later, Georgian statehood is firmly standing on its feet.

·As never before, our will to defend and protect our democracy has never been stronger.

·I want to express my gratitude to all those people who did the impossible, allowing us to celebrate our freedom and progress today.

·I want to thank all those people who did not abandon Georgia, all who serve and sacrifice today.

·Some of them are represented behind me today, sitting here among powerful leaders and our most distinguished foreign guests. They are:

-The soldiers who defend our security, both on our soil and in distant lands;

-The farmers and workers who are the engine of our economy;

-The teachers and doctors who tend to our people;

-The journalists, human rights advocates, and civil society activists who give freedom a clear voice.

--- And the talented members of our diaspora who have chosen to return to build a better Georgia.

·I salute, as well, our political opposition, for there can be no freedom without a vigorous competition of ideas.

·And let me say again clearly to all who competed in this election: Our opinions might divide us, but I know we are always united by our love of Georgia and our commitment to its democratic freedom - now and in the future.

·I have deep respect for what you contribute.

·In a democracy, at one point or another, all of us must serve in the opposition. And during my term as President, I will take steps to ensure that the opposition has a more influential and formalized role in our major institutions.

·For me, today is not a day of triumph, but a day of rededication. It is a day to speak the truth, frankly and boldly.

·Four years ago, the Rose Revolution swept across our country with unbridled promise. It is time now to renew that promise, to reflect on what we achieved and to learn from our shortcomings.

·Over the past four years, we began an audacious process of change and reform, admired and even imitated around the world.

·These reforms opened our society, freed our economy, eliminated gangsterism, empowered the country and unleashed the talents of our people by attracting new investment and jobs.

·There is now opportunity where there was once only despair. Uncertainty has yielded to faith in our future.

·In the last four years, we also made the exercise of power more democratic. The apparatus of the state, once bankrupt or seized by cronies, is now back in the hands of the people. Hopelessness has been challenged and beaten.

·This process of reform must continue, for there is no going backward. But our process of change must also take on an added dimension.

·I worked hard during the campaign to understand your hopes and your fears-to understand your challenges and your lives. Our task today is to make them better.

·I traveled to scores of villages and cities. I witnessed a country transformed. Modern roads have replaced dirt paths. Schools and hospitals have blossomed across the land. Areas once torn by tension are now thriving.

·But I would be wrong if I did not also share with you another Georgia that I saw.

·I saw too many families struggling to live on meager incomes. I saw too many men and women barely enduring in conditions that should shame us all. I saw too many people denied education, health care, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

·I have taken this personally. We all share their pain.

·Over the past four years, our priority was freeing our workers and entrepreneurs, our farmers and businesses so they could begin to modernize and compete in a global economy.

·Over the next five years, our priority will be to ensure that the benefits of that liberation reach every family of Georgia.

·If we want freedom to endure, prosperity and opportunity must expand. Our success cannot be measured in monetary figures alone, but in the social values we espouse.

·Democracy must do more than break chains; it must feed our families, heal our wounded, educate our children, and create jobs for our workers.

·We have not yet achieved that goal. Too many Georgians are unemployed. Too many pensioners and parents and children live in poverty.

·The lack of employment, of money, of basic food and medicine-these are deprivations that threaten Georgia’s security -for they eat away at the faith and hope without which a nation cannot survive.

·Once, our great challenge was to build a Georgia without corruption, a Georgia with responsible leadership. Now our great challenge is to build a Georgia without poverty-to ensure that the benefits of our reforms reach every farm and village, home and person in our land.

·There is much we will do to start building a Georgia without poverty. Today, I’d like to highlight three initiatives.

·First, to create a more free and vibrant economy, we will establish targeted credit programs that will give people real tools so that can go back to work.

·Second, we will improve the programs that deliver social benefits to those who most need our help. Today, too few of Georgia’s poorest receive the support they need.

·By targeting more of those funds to those who most need them, we can start to build a floor beneath the poorest among us, so they can stand on their own feet.

·Third, we must improve life in our rural communities, so they are not left behind by the sweeping changes modernizing our nation and our economy.

·We must make sure that natural gas and tractors are delivered to all our villages, that better roads are built, that accessible credit is provided, and that pathways to new markets are opened.

·Georgia’s heart beats in its villages, and our country cannot truly prosper if our villages are not thriving.

·These efforts, and the goal of Georgia without poverty, will be the work of a lifetime. It will last beyond my government. But poverty does not wait, and so our work cannot wait.

·Today I commit to you that our efforts to build a Georgia without poverty will take concrete form within the next 50 working days, on each of the three issues I have just outlined. In 50 working days, by the beginning of April, here is what our new government will do:

·By the beginning of April, we will have created programs to provide accessible credit. It will take time to create enough employment for Georgia, but within 50 working days, accessible credit will be a reality.

·By the beginning of April, I will have created a “Georgia Without Poverty Commission.” This commission-which will include experts from inside and outside government and hopefully members of the opposition-will design a comprehensive plan to reform our social benefits programs.

·These must be refocused on the poor, including pensions of 100 US dollars for those living in poverty. It will take some years to put the recommendations in place, but in 50 working days, the commission will have begun its work.

·By the beginning of April, I will have initiated a new program to deliver new and necessary medical equipment to village doctors. Improving the health of our villages will take great efforts, but within 50 working days, life-saving supplies will begin reaching the hands of our villages.

·These are detailed commitments, and I expect to be held accountable. Fifty working days from today, in the beginning of April, I will provide a progress report to the nation.

·In all of this, I will ask the opposition for their ideas, their cooperation, and their help. And if we succeed, they will share in the credit.

·In 50 working days, I want to be able to report, not that I completed the first steps toward a Georgia without poverty, but that we all took those steps together.

·To achieve that goal, we must start immediately.

·Even before I submit the composition of my new government to parliament, I intend to start putting in place the programs I have described today.

·To all my staff, and to all senior officials, my message is simple: starting tomorrow, and for the next 50 days, no time off, no holidays, for Georgia is depending on us.

·This is how we will write the next chapter of Georgia’s democratic journey. We are building a democracy for all citizens of Georgia, not just for the privileged few.

·In the next five years, we will measure our success not only by what we achieve within our country, but by the bonds we build with our neighbors and allies.

·Secure borders should serve as bridges, not barriers. Bridges to the north, the south, the east, and west.

·Georgia is forever yoked to Europe. We are joined by a common and unbreakable bond-one based on culture-on our shared history and identity-and on a common set of values that has at its heart, the celebration of peace, and the establishment of fair and prosperous societies.

·Together, with our partners in the European Union we will continue to strengthen these historic ties.

·During this election, the people of Georgia demonstrated their clear and unequivocal sentiments about Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic destiny.

·For many years, our nation has had the privilege to stand side by side with nations from around the world, serving a cause that is larger than ourselves-the cause of liberty and security.

·We have made these contributions-and sacrifices-not for short-term benefit, but rather, because we share the same values-values that we treasure and that we must help defend.

·We Georgians understand that our own well-being depends on the well-being of other nations, near and far. The only way to have a friend, said the poet, is to be one.

·I have heard the voice of the Georgian people when they expressed their overwhelming desire to enter NATO-and so too has the community of shared values that makes up this great organization.

·Together with you and our partners, we will do our utmost to complete the process.

·But let me be clear: Fulfilling the dreams and desires of the people of Georgia does not mean disregarding the concerns and interests of our neighbors.

·Four years ago I stood before you and extended my hand in friendship and cooperation to our neighbors and colleagues in Russia.

·Today I do the same once again.

·The path of transformation is never an easy one. It means finding the power not only to change on the inside, but to change as well on the outside.

·It is my hope that together with our friends in Russia, we can walk down this path of change together-in a spirit of mutual respect, camaraderie and shared gains.

·Today, in our region we are constructing exciting new projects, linking peoples and economies in ways never thought possible before.

·With our friends and partners in Ukraine, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and further east to Central Asia we are building a new economy - one that is open for all to join in and prosper. For all to lend their skills, talents, energy and ideas.

·There is much we can do together. Let us not lose any more time.

·Looking to the future, we ask God’s blessing for the great tasks that we will shoulder-over the next 50 days-and the next five years.

·We will start building a Georgia without poverty. We will continue strengthening our security and unity. We will reach out to Russia, to invite better relations. We will continue our progress toward NATO and the European Union.

·I will personally do everything in my power to ensure that by the time a new President is sworn in, we will have regained our territorial integrity, with Abkhazia and South Ossetia peacefully reunited with the rest of Georgia’s sovereign lands.

·And the rightful residents of these great regions of Georgia-these heroes of our struggle for reunification-will themselves be reunited with their ancestral homes. The children of Abkhazia and South Ossetia-so many thousands of whom have been born in exile-will be connected again to their history and their future.

·All this cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one government. It requires the work of one nation, united in purpose.

·By holding this ceremony before the grand pillars of our parliament, we remind ourselves: the institutions of freedom tower above us all.

·We swear in a president; we inaugurate a new government; but we rise or fall as a nation depending on the strength and integrity of our institutions: a strong democracy; an empowered opposition; an independent judiciary; a civilian-led military; an accountable government; and a thriving civil society.

·So over the next five years, as we work for a Georgia without poverty, as we work to improve our security, we will also work to strengthen the foundations of these institutions of freedom, and to ensure they are strong enough to accomplish the great work that lies before us - in this government, and in governments yet to come.

·Strengthening these institutions is the only way to ensure that Georgia’s democracy and freedom will be safe for millennia to come.

·Taken together, these are the principal goals of my Presidency - why I am swearing an oath before all of you today. These are the reasons why now is the time for all of us to stand together.

·So now let us come together to join in that work.

·Many parties, but one Georgia.

·Different religions, but with faith in one God.

·Different ethnic groups but one country.

·Five crosses, but one flag.

·Strength in unity.

·So that whatever our beliefs or opinions, we can turn to our children and grandchildren, when our own days have neared their end, and tell them: we have done all we could so that you can continue Georgia’s great journey, in prosperity, in peace, and in freedom.

·May god bless and protect Georgia.

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