Michael KreponBunting and the Bomb

Will President Barack Obama speak of nuclear matters during his second inaugural address? If past is prologue, he will offer a sentence or two. Only twice in the nuclear age has a Presidential inaugural address not touched on nuclear danger. George W. Bush’s second oration in 2005, marked by soaring rhetoric about the expansion of freedom and somber notes about combatting violent extremism, avoided this topic. The closest George H.W. Bush came in 1989 was, “We will stay strong to protect the peace.”

Here’s a compilation of quotes from previous inaugural addresses, courtesy of Jonathan Fox:

“We have made every effort to secure agreement on effective international control of our most powerful weapon, and we have worked steadily for the limitation and control of all armaments.” – Harry S Truman, 1949

“Science seems ready to confer upon us, as its final gift, the power to erase human life from this planet.” — Dwight David Eisenhower, 1953

“And now, as in no other age, we seek it [peace] because we have been warned, by the power of modern weapons, that peace may be the only climate possible for human life itself.” Dwight David Eisenhower, 1957

“Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms–and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.” — John F. Kennedy, 1961

“Ours is a time of change–rapid and fantastic change–bearing the secrets of nature, multiplying the nations, placing in uncertain hands new weapons for mastery and destruction, shaking old values and uprooting old ways.” — Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1965

“With those who are willing to join, let us cooperate to reduce the burden of arms, to strengthen the structure of peace, to lift up the poor and the hungry.” – Richard Nixon, 1969

“We shall continue, in this era of negotiation, to work for the limitation of nuclear arms and to reduce the danger of confrontation between the great powers.” – Richard Nixon, 1973

“We pledge perseverance and wisdom in our efforts to limit the world’s armaments to those necessary for each nation’s own domestic safety. And we will move this year a step toward our ultimate goal–the elimination of all nuclear weapons from this Earth.” – Jimmy Carter, 1977

“We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength.” – Ronald Reagan, 1981

“We’re not just discussing limits on a further increase of nuclear weapons; we seek, instead, to reduce their number. We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.” – Ronald Reagan, 1985

“The world economy, the world environment, the world AIDS crisis, the world arms race: they affect us all.” – Bill Clinton, 1993

“We will stand mighty for peace and freedom and maintain a strong defense against terror and destruction. Our children will sleep free from the threat of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.” – Bill Clinton, 1997

“We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge. We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors.” – George W. Bush, 2001

“With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat and roll back the specter of a warming planet.” – Barack Obama, 2009


  1. Leonard Eiger (History)

    Thanks for the compilation! Let us hope that President Obama will make a strong statement of his intention to honor our nations obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (and more). Then, let us keep the pressure on to make good-faith efforts toward disarmament. The (Doomsday) clock is ticking.

  2. krepon (History)

    January 21, 2013: Not one word.