America: Still Earth's Last, Best Hope
By Barack Obama
While EV World doesn't endorse political candidates, especially 18 months ahead of a presidential election, we found Senator Obama's remarks insightful, in particular the focus on leading by example. We thank H. Stetzenmeyer in Geneva, Switzerland for bringing the Senator's remarks to our attention. Also see the Institute for Policy Study's new FY 2008 Unified Security Budget proposal.
Good morning. We all know that these are not the best of times for America's reputation in the world. We know what the war in Iraq has cost us in lives and treasure, in influence and respect. We have seen the consequences of a foreign policy based on a flawed ideology, and a belief that tough talk can replace real strength and vision.
Many around the world are disappointed with our actions. And many in our own country have come to doubt either our wisdom or our capacity to shape events beyond our borders. Some have even suggested that America's time has passed.
But while we know what we have lost as a consequence of this tragic war, I also know what I have found in my travels over the past two years.
In an old building in Ukraine, I saw test tubes filled with anthrax and the plague lying virtually unlocked and unguarded - dangers we were told could only be secured with America's help.
On a trip to the Middle East, I met Israelis and Palestinians who told me that peace remains a distant hope without the promise of American leadership.
At a camp along the border of Chad and Darfur, refugees begged for America to step in and help stop the genocide that has taken their mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.
And along the crowded streets of Kenya, I met throngs of children who asked if they'd ever get the chance to visit that magical place called America.
So I reject the notion that the American moment has passed. I dismiss the cynics who say that this new century cannot be another when, in the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good.
I still believe that America is the last, best hope of Earth. We just have to show the world why this is so. This President may occupy the White House, but for the last six years the position of leader of the free the world has remained open. And it's time to fill that role once more.
I believe that the single most important job of any President is to protect the American people. And I am equally convinced that doing that job effectively in the 21st century will require a new vision of American leadership and a new conception of our national security - a vision that draws from the lessons of the past, but is not bound by outdated thinking.
In today's globalized world, the security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people. When narco-trafficking and corruption threaten democracy in Latin America, it's America's problem too. When poor villagers in Indonesia have no choice but to send chickens to market infected with avian flu, it cannot be seen as a distant concern. When religious schools in Pakistan teach hatred to young children, our children are threatened as well.
Whether it's global terrorism or pandemic disease, dramatic climate change or the proliferation of weapons of mass annihilation, the threats we face at the dawn of the 21st century can no longer be contained by borders and boundaries.
The horrific attacks on that clear September day awakened us to this new reality. And after 9/11, millions around the world were ready to stand with us. They were willing to rally to our cause because it was their cause too - because they knew that if America led the world toward a new era of global cooperation, it would advance the security of people in our nation and all nations.
We now know how badly this Administration squandered that opportunity. In 2002, I stated my opposition to the war in Iraq, not only because it was an unnecessary diversion from the struggle against the terrorists who attacked us on September 11th, but also because it was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the threats that 9/11 brought to light. I believed then, and believe now, that it was based on old ideologies and outdated strategies - a determination to fight a 21st century struggle with a 20th century mindset.
There is no doubt that the mistakes of the past six years have made our current task more difficult. World opinion has turned against us. And after all the lives lost and the billions of dollars spent, many Americans may find it tempting to turn inward, and cede our claim of leadership in world affairs.
I insist, however, that such an abandonment of our leadership is a mistake we must not make. America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission - we must lead the world, by deed and example.
We must lead by building a 21st century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people. We must lead by marshalling a global effort to stop the spread of the world's most dangerous weapons. We must lead by building and strengthening the partnerships and alliances necessary to meet our common challenges and defeat our common threats.
And America must lead by reaching out to all those living disconnected lives of despair in the world's forgotten corners - because while there will always be those who succumb to hate and strap bombs to their bodies, there are millions more who want to take another path - who want our beacon of hope to shine its light their way.
This election offers us the chance to turn the page and open a new chapter in American leadership. The disappointment that so many around the world feel toward America right now is only a testament to the high expectations they hold for us. We must meet those expectations again, not because being respected is an end in itself, but because the security of America and the wider world demands it.
This will require a new spirit - not of bluster and bombast, but of quiet confidence and sober intelligence, a spirit of care and renewed competence. It will also require a new leader. And as a candidate for President of the United States, I am asking you to entrust me with that responsibility.
There are five ways America will begin to lead again when I'm President. Five ways to let the world know that we are committed to our common security, invested in our common humanity, and still a beacon of freedom and justice for the world.
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