Reflections on Obama’s acceptance speech


In response to my own blog earlier in the day,  I have to admit that Obama’s acceptance speech contains much that is good – I only hope that he is able to live up to these fine words!

It is good to see him acknowledge that there are others far more deserving: “Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize — Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela — my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics.  I cannot argue with those who find these men and women — some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I”.

Likewise, it is good to read his statement that “I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war.  What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace”.

I cannot, though, agree with his statement that “the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans”.  He claims that “We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest”. I am quite convinced that there are many in the USA who have advocated war specifically because they want to impose their will on the world. The USA as a state has regularly promoted war  – in Iraq, in Vietnam, in Afghanistan, in Grenada…  Many people across the world have suffered explicitly because of US foreign policy – this is indeed self-interest; whether or not it is enlightened is a matter for debate.

Obama’s  agenda is in the interest of a capitalist US economy based on the individual rather than the communal values that so many people elsewhere in the world value so much.  He says, “Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting”. To me, what matters more is how the individual behaves within the context of the communities that they are part of; it is the responsibilities that we have to others that are of more importance than a claim that we have any rights as individuals.

And, please, will he, along with other citizens of the USA, stop claiming that the USA is America. He claims that “America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens”.  This is debatable, but there is a huge difference between one country, the United States of America, and the entire continent, or indeed continents of America.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Reflections on Obama’s acceptance speech

  1. Lisa M. Cespedes

    I agree with you, his opening words were commendable and served as a brief break for many of us who questioned the grounds for him deserving this prize. “And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage”.

    He certainly has a lot to live up to now, and I do hope he does. I believe that he will aim for that.

    As you, I also disagree strongly with the statement about the U.S. playing a pivotal role in underwriting global security for more than six decades; sadly, it has been the contrary.

    While I agree with your statement, “what matters more is how the individual behaves within the context of the communities that they are part of”, I am hesitant about “it is the responsibilities that we have to others that are of more importance”, as I believe that we have foremost responsibilities to ourselves, and anything else develops from there.

    In reference to calling the U.S., ‘America’, I have been arguing that same point since I was in elementary school (in Costa Rica). There are many more countries in that continent, and they don’t go by ‘America’.

    It was a very nice speech and I wish Obama the best in accomplishing his goals!

    Lisa

  2. Michael Downey

    Your comments remind me that today in the US Congress, Representative Dennis Kucinich gave a striking speech, considering it was only one-minute long. His message challenged Obama’s concept of ‘enlightened self-interest’: “War is often not just. Sometimes, it’s just war.”

    Video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37lR-sFJWW4

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