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NAACP's Ben Jealous at Obama Inauguration: "Never Elect Someone to Make Change Happen For You"

January 21, 2013



Ben Jealous

CEO and president of the NAACP.


Four years after making history by becoming the first African-American U.S. president, Barack Obama is kicking off his second term on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In an Inauguration Day special, we air voices of hope and resistance from the Peace Ball Sunday night in Washington, D.C., beginning with NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. "The challenge to us is to remember what we learned when we first entered this movement: that you never elect somebody to make change happen for you," Jealous says. "You elect somebody to make it a little easier for your movement to keep on making change happen." [includes rush transcript]


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Washington, D.C., today, where President Barack Obama is set to publicly take the oath of office for his second term, after becoming the first African-American U.S. president four years ago. As many as 800,000 people are expected to attend this year’s celebration, smaller than the nearly two million people who crammed into Washington, D.C., to witness his 2009 inauguration, but still the largest second inauguration in history. President Obama first gathered with his family Sunday in the Blue Room of the White House to privately recite the 35-word oath that was read to him by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me. I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...that I will faithfully execute...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...that I will faithfully execute...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...the office of president of the United States...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...the office of president of the United States...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...and will, to the best of my ability...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...and will, to the best of my ability...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...preserve, protect and defend...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...preserve, protect and defend...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: ...the Constitution of the United States.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...the Constitution of the United States.



CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice. Thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama being sworn in Sunday by Supreme Court Justice John Roberts during a private ceremony at the White House. He’ll repeat those words when he raises his right hand at today’s public inauguration, while laying his left hand on two Bibles—one owned by Abraham Lincoln, the other owned by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Afterward, Obama will deliver a speech laying out his plans for the next four years.

The inaugural ceremony will include music from singers James Taylor, Beyoncé and others, which we’ll carry live during our extended five-hour inauguration special. After our regular broadcast ends for the hour, we’ll continue to bring you coverage until 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, including the swearing-in ceremony. Some stations will run the whole five-hour special; for others, you can go to our website at

This year, the inauguration also comes on the federal holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech 50 years ago, not far from here at the Lincoln Memorial. Later in our special coverage, we’ll air excerpts of some of Dr. King’s less-often-played speeches, including "Beyond Vietnam," why he opposed the war in Vietnam.

But first, we turn to some of the voices of hope and resistance from Sunday night’s Peace Ball. Not affiliated with any political party, the celebration at the Mead Center for American Theater paid tribute to the continuing struggle for peace and justice here in the United States and throughout the world. We begin with NAACP President Ben Jealous.

BENJAMIN JEALOUS: This is the place to be tonight. The challenge for our country was never to see the day when a person of color would be president. No, the challenge for our country was to ensure that it would be safe for it to happen again and again. We knew that it could be Condoleezza Rice. It could be Colin Powell. But we got Barack Obama. We got a man who is a product of a progressive movement. And as we stand here tonight ever so humble, reminiscing about ancestors who did not see this day, about people like Medgar Evers who gave their lives so we would see this day, let us walk out of here tonight talking to our children as a movement, as members of a movement that is triumphant.

I want you not to forget what happened last year or two years ago, when they said that we could never be where we are right now, when they tried to teach our children that the tea party was not a group of people who started a war for democracy against a king, but rather a group of people who started a war against democracy for would-be kings. And they said that we, organized people, would be run over by organized money. They said that we, organized people, would never turn out like we did in 2008. They said that they could attack women’s rights, LGBT rights, students’ rights, workers’ rights, voting rights, and we would balkanize.

And then something funny happened on their way to victory. We came together like we’ve never come together before. They said that we couldn’t pass marriage equality in one state on the ballot, and we won victories in all four states. They said that we could never save comprehensive immigration reform, and now Sean Hannity says that he supports it. They said that they were going to steal our democracy from us, and we took it back.

So here’s the challenge. The challenge to us is to remember what we learned when we first entered this movement: that you never elect somebody to make change happen for you; you elect somebody to make it a little easier for your movement to keep on making change happen. And so, brothers and sisters, I implore you tonight, have a good time, party, rest well, and then get right back on the battlefield Tuesday morning, because we took our democracy back, and we ain’t giving it up to nobody. Thank you, and God bless. Fired up! Fired up! Fired up! God bless you all.

AMY GOODMAN: That was president of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, speaking at the Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance here in Washington, D.C. on Sunday night. We’ll be back with more from the Peace Ball, including Angela Davis, Sonia Sanchez and others, in a moment.

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