Inaugural speech by President Mikheil Saakashvili

January 20, 2008

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.


Mikheil Saakashvili sworn In

I would like to greet Kartli, Kakheti, Imereti, Mengrelia, Guria, Abkhasia, Adjara, Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Ratcha, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Shida Kartli.


I would like to greet all of Georgia and all Georgians residing abroad. I would like to greet all guests who arrived here today.

This is the very place where the brave Georgian heroes sacrificed their lives for the freedom and independence of Georgia. The cadets (Junkers), who did their best to defend the homeland from the Bolshevik invasion, have fallen here. Heroes, fighting for the independence of Georgia have been slain here on April 9, 1989. Soviet army and tanks brutally suppressed them on this very spot. I would like to ask you to pay tribute to their memory by preserving silence for fifteen seconds.

Please be seated. . .

These young people sacrificed their lives for their dream. Today it is our obligation to make this dream come true. We can materialize this vision by transforming Georgia into united, stable, democratic, independent and powerful state. From Tsiteli Khidi (Red Bridge) to river Psou, form Sarpi to Daryali, Georgia must become a state, wherein the knowledge and education becomes the most precious fortune; wherein the education of our children becomes the highest priority; wherein the people become competitive against the background of globalization, which includes dangers, but at the same time gives unique chance to the small nations, possessing abilities, education, culture, fighting spirit, to take their respective place in the world community.

Georgia is the country of unique culture. We are not only old Europeans, we are the very first Europeans, and therefore Georgia holds special place in European civilization. Georgia should serve as a paragon for democracy where all citizens are equal before the law, where every citizen will have an equal opportunity for the pursuit of success and realization of his or her possibilities. Georgia should become and will become a homeland for independent, educated and proud people.

Georgia is home not only for all Georgians, but also for all ethnic minorities, residing in Georgia. Every citizen, who considers Georgia as its homeland, be they Russian, Abkhasian, Osetian, Azerbaijanian, Armenian, Jewish, Greek, Ukrainian, Kurd - is our greatest wealth and treasure.

Georgia must have an efficient government, responsible before the people; a government, where every citizen is represented and heed is paid to every citizen's opinion. The people listened to government so far, now it is time for the government to listen to people very attentively. The government has defended itself from the people before. Now it is time for the government to defend its own people and each individual citizen. The people have been punished by the impotency of the government so far, and we have recently proved on this very square, that the moment appears when the people punish the government for its impotency and lack of patriotism.

Georgian nation has always been an intelligent nation. Today we need the intellect more than ever. Neither oil nor gold, but our talent, our intellect, our abilities, our education and educated people represent our most precious wealth. Georgia must become a country, which will learn how to use its natural advantages. We possess economic potential and skillful labor force, who can work, who are not afraid of labor, who are keen on working when the work is interesting and when they have such opportunity.

We have key geostrategical location. We are the cultural crossroads, where cultures get together and we possess unique, breathtaking nature. I have never met any foreigner who has visited Georgia even only once, and has not fallen in love with our homeland at first sight. These are abundant and useful resources and we will activate these resources by all means, to make society firmly stand on its feet, to cope with our hardships, because hardship and poverty are an insult for Georgian nation and its history, for its culture, for every person, for every member of society.

Our nation has proved to the whole world, that it is always able to defend its dignity during crucial moments, able to coexist with dignity and participate in friendly completion with leading nations. The time has come when Georgians should not depend only on others; the time has come when we should no longer ask what the world does for us, how it helps us, what assistance it allocates, though of course we are very grateful for all this, but the time has come when we should ask, what will Georgia will do for the world and what contribution it can make in the world progress.

Georgia will be stable ally for all friendly states. Georgia should be formed as the state assuming international responsibility, as the dignified member of international community, as the state, which regardless the highly complicated geopolitical situation and location, has equally benign relations with all its neighbors, and at the same time does not forget to take its own place in European family, in European civilization, the place lost several centuries ago. As an ancient Christian state, we should take this place again. Our direction is towards European integration. It is time for Europe finally to see and appreciate Georgia and undertake steps towards us. And first signs of these are already evident. Today, we have not raised European flag by accident - this flag is Georgian flag as well, as far as it embodies our civilization, our culture, essence of our history and perspective, and vision of our future.

At the same time, we are grateful and appreciate the help, rendered by the United States for years, when Georgia faced the most acute hardship; when we were in the most desperate need for a friend, the United States backed us. This will never fade from our memories and Georgian people will pass this sense of gratitude to the next generations, like the Europeans, assisted by the Americans during World War II, did after the war.

At the same time we have very fine relations with our neighbors and we would like to have very good relations with Russia. Georgia does not need Russia as a foe; we need Russia as a friend. We need Russia as an ally, as a powerful partner and today I would like to offer a friendly hand to Russia on behalf of the Georgian people and I wish to see the formation and progress of this friendship.

Great barriers lie ahead. Georgia will have to overcome huge obstacles to achieve our goals. We have to revive our country together, and build the Georgia of our and our ancestors' dreams. Georgia was powerful when it was united. We have to unite in order to grow stronger; we have to build a powerful democracy based on the protection of human rights and the supremacy of law; we have to eradicate corruption. At the current stage each corrupted official is a traitor to state interests in my opinion. We will root out the corruption and change the system that gave birth to the malignant circle of corruption.

We should create a judicial system wherein each person starting with the president and ending with an ordinary citizen, will be equally responsible before the law. We will carry out reform of the government and establish real self-governance. We must carry out the reform of governance, where every professional, honest, motivated person will find their place and will be able to participate in the state building process.

We must create a powerful army. Yesterday and today I visited military units, we have to do much in this sphere. We have to revive the Georgian chivalrous spirit, which made it possible for us to endure all these centuries. In this sphere, we have to revive the traditions of David the Builder, Giorgi the Brilliant, three hundred Aragvelis, the heroes of the Didgori battle and other heroes. Otherwise Georgia cannot stand on its own feet as a state, and armed forces need care not only from the president and the government, but also from each Georgian family. It is a matter of dignity for every Georgian family to help our armed forces and create a potent Georgian army.

I would like to place particular emphasis on the selflessness and calm transition undertaken by the interim government in recent months. I would like to express my gratitude towards Nino Burdjanadze, who conducted this process very well. Despite the pessimistic forecasts, despite talk about the inability of the new authorities to control the situation, we have managed to control the situation and succeed in the establishment of stability, and I would like to express my gratitude to every person, every representative of state apparatus and every citizen, who helped us in this endeavor.

I believe in this new, educated, active and patriotic generation, coming to power as a coherent group and at the same time I think that all generations, including the generations of my grandparents and of my parents still have the opportunity to make their own contribution in state development and transgenerational bridge should crush down under no circumstances. The unification of this bridge is one of the main guarantees for the success of the new generation.

I am becoming the president of these proud people, the people who look towards the future with hope, who long for the Georgia of our dreams, for Georgia of my dreams and I am ready to serve these people in order to make them more proud; in order to justify everybody's hopes and together build a Georgia we dream about and our ancestors dreamt about. Now it is the time for toilsome work. Nothing will be done in one day, president alone cannot achieve everything, but if the people, all of us, labor together day and night, we will really achieve very serious success. I am sure of this, but this requires hard work, huge enthusiasm and great optimism.

Recent events have released an energy of immense proportions, which is kept in the Georgian nation, and enormous hope as well. Today like never before, the spark of hope discernible in the eyes of every Georgian should turn into a positive energy, positive energy for our children, in order to create much better Georgia for them, and they are looking at us with eyes full of hope. Let's look into the eyes of our children and find out what they are expecting from us and how disastrous and bad it would be for us to undermine their trust in us.

Today I am becoming president of Georgia. I am dedicating my presidency to the heroes who have fallen for the independence of Georgia; I am dedicating my presidency to every poor man of Georgia; I am dedicating my presidency to the next generations, to the dreams they cherish and to the materialization of these dreams. I am dedicating my presidency to the unification and strengthening of Georgia.

God bless Georgia, our homeland!


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