You have seen the headlines, He talked about Syria, about Russia and about how this is not a war against Islam, but rather a fight against extremists around the world. It was the last few moments of his speech
that gave me pause.
This is what America is prepared to do – taking action against immediate threats, while pursuing a world in which the need for such action is diminished. The United States will never shy away from defending our interests, but nor will we shrink from the promise of this institution and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the notion that peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of a better life.
I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals; that America has plenty of problems within our own borders. This is true. In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri – where a young man was killed, and a community was divided. So yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions. And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear.
But we welcome the scrutiny of the world – because what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems and make our union more perfect. America is not the same as it was 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even a decade ago. Because we fight for our ideals, and are willing to criticize ourselves when we fall short. Because we hold our leaders accountable, and insist on a free press and independent judiciary. Because we address our differences in the open space of democracy – with respect for the rule of law; with a place for people of every race and religion; and with an unyielding belief in the ability of individual men and women to change their communities and countries for the better.
After nearly six years as President, I believe that this promise can help light the world. Because I’ve seen a longing for positive change – for peace and freedom and opportunity – in the eyes of young people I’ve met around the globe. They remind me that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what God you pray to, or who you love, there is something fundamental that we all share. Eleanor Roosevelt, a champion of the UN and America’s role in it, once asked, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places,” she said, “close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works.”
This passage reminded me of another President, one that many Americans became intimate with just this month, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In a speech at Madison Square garden given on October 31, 1936
, he stated:
For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.
We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me--and I welcome their hatred.
President Obama is no FDR; he will never use the office he holds the way FDR did. Having said that - this is a president who welcomes the scrutiny of the world and his own nation. For a few years now, prognosticators, pundits allies and foes have wondered what if Mr. Obama Gave a speech such at the one given by FDR. This is one excellent analysis from 3 years ago
Franklin D. Roosevelt did not fix the economy with the New Deal programs he signed into law in his first term. As he prepared in the fall of 1936 to face the voters he promised to double down on the kind of economic interventionism he had already tried, in a spirit of constant experimentation until he found something that would resuscitate the economy more than the first round of stimulus had.
In a big hard-hitting New York Times piece, political psychologist Drew Westin channeled the frustration of many liberals with what they see as the too-timid, polite, retreating President Obama who is too unwilling to what FDR did.
Westen cited the famous “I welcome their hatred” passage as an example of the kind of speech Obama needs to give, to call out the plutocrats and to double down on “change” as FDR did. I linked to it when it appeared, and also to a smart Jonathan Chait rebuttal, which argued that Westin overrated the power of a presidential address.
A couple of days later, a friend sent me this table of the partisan breakdown of Congress going back to the 1850s. If you look it over you’ll see that the current status of Washington -- closely divided government -- is not the historical norm. There have been long periods when both the Repubs and the Dems held total control of all branches and even of the Senate by filibuster-proof margins. (In fact, Obama experienced something like that during the first two years of his current term.)
It would be silly to think that FDR’s speech was the reason he was able to win that victory or pass those bills. Rather, he was able to give that speech because he had little to fear politically from the financiers or the profiteers he vilified, nor legislatively from the Repubs in Congress. He wasn't courting swing voters in key states (he carried 46 or the then-48) nor did he need any moderate Republicans to help him pass his second-term program.
We have right now, a Congress that will not return to Washington DC until October 1 and will leave the next day. They will not be back for the rest of the year. Yesterday from the United Nations General Assembly President Obama came as close to anything to the "I welcome their hatred speech" that I think we may see. It had the added bonus of being on a global scale, sitting there for the entire world to see.
I abhor bombs, I abhor war, but I also believe this: Peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of a better life.
We are not a perfect nation, and we have no perfect leaders, but I welcome the integrity it takes to say that mistakes made do not mean we should stop striving to be a better nation, not just for our own citizens, but as residents of the Planet Earth. Small steps and small ways will eventually bring the momentum we need.
President Barack Obama will announce a new executive order at the United Nations meeting on climate change Tuesday, directing federal agencies to consider climate change in all international development programs.
A White House official said the order will require agencies to "factor climate resilience into the design of their international development programs and investments." The White House didn't release the text of the order prior to the announcement. Obama also will announce tools that the U.S. plans to make available to other countries to "help vulnerable populations around the world strengthen their climate resilience."
The announcement comes amid pressure on the U.S. and other developed countries to commit more funding to climate aid for poorer nations.
Confronting the global Climate crisis is a universal human right and as the president quotes Eleanor Roosevelt, I will too
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
Eleanor Roosevelt, “In Our Hands” (1958 speech delivered on the tenth anniversary of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)