On June 14, 2012, President Obama affixed his signature to the “U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa.” It identified four focus areas: democratic institutions; growth, trade and investment; peace and security; and opportunity and development. The response from the policy community was a shrug. Mwangi Kimenyi of the Brookings Institution claimed that the policy document was neither “new” nor “strategic,” and did not establish a “foundation for creative engagement with an emerging Africa.”
The Obama administration must confront two challenges. First, it must convey more effectively the important contributions the U.S. has already made toward these priorities. Second, Mr. Obama has to put his personal stamp on specific initiatives he considers central to his legacy.
The president’s talk in Ghana in July 2009 electrified the audience by declaring that America was ready to help the continent build a broader base for prosperity. The gateway to that transformation was eliminating bad governance. While this message was repeated in the June 2012 policy document, it is lost in the long list of program initiatives.
The president’s critics suggest that the U.S. should focus on the great opportunities in an economically resurgent Africa. Look at the dizzy expansion, they say, of China in Africa and how its engagement in mineral extraction, trade, construction, and infrastructure has been supported by frequent visits from China’s top leaders.
Often overlooked in these critiques is that the American predominant role in advancing global peace and security includes Africa. This is an argument Mr. Obama himself needs to make. Africa is not only a continent of “frontier economies,” it remains one of “frontier states.” The U.S. plays a unique role in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and increasing good governance within African states.
Mr. Kimenyi suggests that Mr. Obama should “shelve” his June 12 strategy and “start afresh.” I won’t go that far. But Mr. Obama needs to step up to the plate. He should plan a visit to Africa in 2013 that includes stops in several countries, convene a roundtable on Africa to garner policy ideas from academic experts and analysts, and lay out his “Agenda for Africa” in a major address to the American public. Moreover, he should lead a comprehensive international effort to end the relentless wars and economic predation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The consequences have been genocidal for the Congolese people.
Despite the economic upswing, and China’s growing presence in African infrastructure, manufacturing accounts for a paltry share of Africa’s output. Mr. Obama should highlight the contributions American corporations can make to industrialization and job creation in the continent. He should put forward incentives for American institutions to pursue deeper engagement with their African counterparts, especially in higher education and health care. Mr. Obama’s name is on a dozen program initiatives in Africa, but who knows it? That must change, and soon.
Richard Joseph is the John Evans Professor of International History and Politics at Northwestern University and a Senior Fellow with the Program on Global Economy and Development of The Brookings Institution.
The fiscal cliff is the result of a do nothing Congress intent on stopping the President from getting a second term, and President Obama's inability to create any bipartisan movement during his first term. So on January 2, 2013, to reduce the budget deficit, $530 million in tax increases will combine with massive spending cuts. This was a short term plan President Obama made with the Republican Congress. If this happens, the economy will fall into a deep recession meaning unemployment could rise to above 12%, and the whole world economy could fall apart. Most of Europe is in a recession and the economies in China and India are beginning to slow significantly. An American recession would have catastrophic effects internationally as well as in this country.
The good news is that the re-election of President Obama deflates the do nothing agenda of the Republicans. Doing nothing means Republicans will be responsible for the national and world economy collapsing. So hopefully Congress is motivated to finally do something. And while the President has always attempted to compromise, now Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has indicated that he is open to compromise. The biggest obstacle to reform and compromise are the extreme right wing Republicans and Tea Party members who advocate no new taxes of any kind. Ironically, should these extremists refuse to compromise and stall progress, then taxes will be raised and spending cuts will be implemented. 5 Key Pieces of the Fiscal Cliff:
1. Expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts. Tax changes ratified in 2001 and 2003 are set to expire at the end of this year. If they do expire, the top tax rate rises from 35% to 39.6%. and all other income brackets also rise. The child tax credit is cut in half and taxes on capital gains rise. Potential Cost to the Economy $110 billion.
2. End of Payroll Tax Holiday and Extended Unemployment Benefits. In February, President Obama signed a continuation of a 2% payroll tax holiday and extended the number of weeks a worker can receive unemployment benefits. These are both set to expire on December 31. Potential Cost to the Economy $115 billion.
3. Reduction in Medicare Payments to Doctors. Lawmakers have delayed for years the Sustainable Growth Rate Formula. This requires a substantial reduction in Medicare payments to physicians. If this change is not delayed again, Medicare payments to doctors will drop 27.4%. Potential Cost to the Economy $10 billion.
4. Introduction of Automatic Spending Cuts. Stating January 2 across the board spending cuts take effect because the congressional super committee failed to reach a budget deal. Defense spending will be cut nearly 10 %, non discretionary spending falls about 8% and Medicare payments to providers fall 2%. Potential Cost to the Economy $65 billion.
5. Debut of Obamacare Taxes The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes several tax increases, including a 1% increase in payroll taxes on high earners. Potential Cost to the Economy $25 billion.
To avoid disaster the President will need to convey to Congress his reelection mandate. The American people have chosen to not fund the recovery on the backs of he middle class and poor. Instead, the highest earners in society who have recently benefited the most from the Bush tax breaks will pay a little more. This is the will of the people. Speaker Boehner and President Obama will need to be strong leaders and move this country in a direction consistent with the vote of the people.
Dr. Charles C. Mbonu writes from USA
DEMOCRACY has no better alternative because it guarantees freedom of speech and the exercise of choice through debate and argumentation. In the particular case of the Obama victory, American system of democracy ensures a brutal, albeit expensive, but workable way of power succession based on the calculated will of the people. This is an enthronement of the will of the people and the love of country rather than a myopic sense of leadership by ascription, entitlement, grandstanding, and opportunistic self-righteousness, that ultimately silences intellect and creativity, and culminates in irrational, provincial thinking in solving corporate and national challenges. Obama inherited a damaged economy and a politically divided country, which he doggedly worked to assuage, even in the face of stiff opposition and ill-will. Because of his race, his opponents used subtle prejudicial posturing to discredit his achievements and laid rhetorical claim to supremacy in the field of governance, power appropriation, economic strategizing, and the philosophical roadmap that America must take. They were dated.
Alas, the young and sophisticated Obama is astute in political strategizing than his opponents and is a better reader of the contemporary political, economic, and philosophical pulse of America. More importantly, the American electorate is smarter and less forgetting and forgiving of any person, group, or political party whose actions or inactions threaten the American dream or presume that such dream is the preserve of a handful rich white men. Reality is that America is becoming Browner and her politics can no longer be that of coalition through assimilation, but through diversity. By a short future time, the non-Whites in America will become the majority. So, America’s future will witness the likes of Obama! An American is an American, period, regardless of race, pedigree, and religion. As America’s younger and diversified populations are becoming less race-conscious and pragmatically embrace equality for all, the true experiment in democracy lies in country’s future. This will be a country where anyone from anywhere (as long as he or she meets the residency and citizenship requirements) can aspire to any office or any height in any field.
Obama knew that the “ruling class” in America had turned the structure of the country to one that favoured them for years at the expense of the middle class that built and continues to build the country. The American capitalism and, by extension the American democracy, can only survive with a vibrant and educated middle class that was fast diminishing when Obama took office in 2008. Hence, he favoured tax cuts for the middle class, investment in education, and a smarter and tighter regulation of Wall Street that was taking undue economic advantage of the middle class. He also ensured that government-backed retirement programmes and social entitlements, including healthcare (which constitute the safety net of the majority of Americans) were shored up, rather than being left to the “market forces manipulation,” which the other party favoured and which would enrich Wall Street and their allies. Former president Bush cut taxes to the rich, slim percentage of the country, in the trickledown tradition of Reaganomics, which had resulted in the economic downturn of the country, because the rich, rather than invest their surplus money in America, shipped factories overseas in search of cheaper labour and less stringent regulations. Jobs for Americans diminished and the economy slowed. Obama became the rescuer of the people.
The real lesson is that democracy is a numbers game. As such, Obama appealed to the young and organized them into a movement; he appealed to the retirees, labour unions, intellectuals, and women. He invested and cultivated the Latino population, which is the fastest growing minority population in the country (Almost 15 per cent). In other words, Obama’s appeal is egalitarian while the other party relied on the old permutation of the rich enticing the middle class and the poor to work hard in order to become like them. Michigan auto workers knew that Obama was on their side when he bailed out the auto industry and brought Detroit back from the brink of collapse. So much for the argument that the role of government should be minimized. The Obama campaign’s slogan in the 2008 election was “Yes, we can” and “Change we can believe in.” For 2012 it was “Forward!” This cast Romney and his party as belonging to the past (old white establishment) and the new Democratic party as the contemporary party of the coalition of futuristic Whites, Blacks, Latinos, Indians, etc. That in the face of defeat, the Republicans are now thinking of re-engineering and creating an inclusive and diverse appeal, suggests that the Obama strategy is futuristic.
Come to think of it, Obama understands something else: That a restive middleclass does not bode well for political and economic stability. There must not be an American Spring, Summer, or Winter akin to that of the Arabs. A stable and productive American middle class is the security of the American super rich. This lesson was lost on the GOP in this last election with their elitist posture and disguised Puritanism.
The arrow of time is always pointing forward, but the pronouncements and actions and realities in the Nigerian polity suggest that we may not learn much from the Obama phenomenon. Instead of forming coalitions for our collective survival, we are busy separating and tearing down our peoples, ambitions, and our doom. If Nigeria should become a failed state, we all will suffer from and for it. While it is easier to fracture, it may be impossible to build any of the splinters into a meaningful, workable entity. A bloated Nigerian federal government is not the Obama idea of a meaningful government role in the affairs of a people. The idea is that of a federal government that would ensure that a major artery to the nation such as the Lagos-Ibadan expressway is at least four lanes each way, well lit, and allows for ease and secure movement of people, goods, and services. If such a deplorable road should exist in a rural town such as the one I live in Middletown, Delaware, so much noise would have been made about it that all of those in power would have lost their positions in the last Tuesday election—that is, from the mayor to the representatives and the governor! The successful lawsuits that would have resulted from lost lives, businesses, and legal punitive damages would have rendered the government bankrupt. This metaphor should inform you the reader that I find it difficult to see if Nigeria can begin to see itself in comparison to the US. So, the problem is not the country, but the cognitive complexity or lack thereof of the people. Politically, economically, and philosophically, we are simpletons! We turn out graduates in droves and do not pretend to have jobs for them; we exhort imbecility without qualms; and we have a penchant for stealing money without creating wealth. The Nigerian elite is philosophically bankrupt in that they are ignorantly arrogant about life. Little do they realize that the purpose of wealth is in commonwealth and not ‘my wealth’ and they brazenly are consumptive without realizing that those who envy them in the Nigerian environment do so out of ignorance and perhaps out of hopelessness. When they come overseas to flaunt their ill-gotten wealth, they are looked upon as buffoons even in their private jets! Just one question from the host or onlooker would throw them off completely: What is the per capital income of your country and what is her unemployment rate? I would like to do an analysis of the Nigerian condition and suggest ways forward in this article, but that has been done by many intelligent and forward looking Nigerians. As Wole Soyinka once said and I paraphrase him here: You can cry yourself hoarse in Nigeria and no one would pretend to even hear you!
A meaningful meeting of the constituents of Nigeria to forge a way forward is necessary to know that we have not disobeyed the laws of physics and the universe by betraying the arrow of time that always points forward. So, to sum the lessons of the Obama victory for governments in Africa, I shudder to say that the Africans will learn nothing from it than engage in empty boast that one of their sons is the President of the United States. On the other hand, Obama’s call to the middle class to become politicized and ‘conscientized’ will fall to the ground because they do not exist—the middle-class has been battered out of existence in Nigeria! The appeal to the intellect and reason through argumentation will be met with parroted “yes we can,” meaning “who are you to talk to us to change and assure us that we can? Well, uh, what do you have for us? You know that nothing goes for nothing here, don’t you? We need kola, men!”
Nigeria is rich and should be at par at least with South Korea, but for the simpletons that have usurped and sucked her nectar dry. The Nigerian populace is young and energetic, but has been raped to unconsciousness. The Nigerian young have hope, but for how long will they be denied. Hope delayed is indeed hope denied. Somebody please show me a ray of hope somewhere in Nigeria so I may latch on to it. It must exist, I know.
Prof. Daniel Awodiya is of Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, New York.
Pictures credit:JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward.
OBAMA: It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.
Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come.
OBAMA: I want to thank every American who participated in this election...
... whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time.
By the way, we have to fix that.
Whether you pounded the pavement or picked up the phone...
... whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard and you made a difference.
I just spoke with Governor Romney and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign.
We may have battled fiercely, but it's only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service and that is the legacy that we honor and applaud tonight.
In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.
I want to thank my friend and partner of the last four years, America's happy warrior, the best vice president anybody could ever hope for, Joe Biden.
OBAMA: And I wouldn't be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago.
Let me say this publicly: Michelle, I have never loved you more. I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you, too, as our nation's first lady.
Sasha and Malia, before our very eyes you're growing up to become two strong, smart beautiful young women, just like your mom.
OBAMA: And I'm so proud of you guys. But I will say that for now one dog's probably enough.
To the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics...
The best. The best ever. Some of you were new this time around, and some of you have been at my side since the very beginning.
But all of you are family. No matter what you do or where you go from here, you will carry the memory of the history we made together and you will have the life-long appreciation of a grateful president. Thank you for believing all the way, through every hill, through every valley.
You lifted me up the whole way and I will always be grateful for everything that you've done and all the incredible work that you put in.
I know that political campaigns can sometimes seem small, even silly. And that provides plenty of fodder for the cynics that tell us that politics is nothing more than a contest of egos or the domain of special interests. But if you ever get the chance to talk to folks who turned out at our rallies and crowded along a rope line in a high school gym, or saw folks working late in a campaign office in some tiny county far away from home, you'll discover something else.
OBAMA: You'll hear the determination in the voice of a young field organizer who's working his way through college and wants to make sure every child has that same opportunity.
You'll hear the pride in the voice of a volunteer who's going door to door because her brother was finally hired when the local auto plant added another shift.
You'll hear the deep patriotism in the voice of a military spouse whose working the phones late at night to make sure that no one who fights for this country ever has to fight for a job or a roof over their head when they come home.
That's why we do this. That's what politics can be. That's why elections matter. It's not small, it's big. It's important. Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy.
That won't change after tonight, and it shouldn't. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty. We can never forget that as we speak people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter, the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.
But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America's future. We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers.
A country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation, with all the good jobs and new businesses that follow.
OBAMA: We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.
We want to pass on a country that's safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation that is defended by the strongest military on earth and the best troops this - this world has ever known.
But also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war, to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being. We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America, open to the dreams of an immigrant's daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag.
To the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner.
To the furniture worker's child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president - that's the future we hope for. That's the vision we share. That's where we need to go - forward.
That's where we need to go.
Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It's not always a straight line. It's not always a smooth path.
By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won't end all the gridlock or solve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward. But that common bond is where we must begin. Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over.
And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you've made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead.
Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual.
You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We've got more work to do.
OBAMA: But that doesn't mean your work is done. The role of citizens in our Democracy does not end with your vote. America's never been about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government. That's the principle we were founded on.
This country has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that's not what makes us strong. Our university, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.
What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on earth.
OBAMA: The belief that our destiny is shared; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations. The freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights. And among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That's what makes America great.
I am hopeful tonight because I've seen the spirit at work in America. I've seen it in the family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbors, and in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see a friend lose a job.
I've seen it in the soldiers who reenlist after losing a limb and in those SEALs who charged up the stairs into darkness and danger because they knew there was a buddy behind them watching their back.
I've seen it on the shores of New Jersey and New York, where leaders from every party and level of government have swept aside their differences to help a community rebuild from the wreckage of a terrible storm.
And I saw just the other day, in Mentor, Ohio, where a father told the story of his 8-year-old daughter, whose long battle with leukemia nearly cost their family everything had it not been for health care reform passing just a few months before the insurance company was about to stop paying for her care.
I had an opportunity to not just talk to the father, but meet this incredible daughter of his. And when he spoke to the crowd listening to that father's story, every parent in that room had tears in their eyes, because we knew that little girl could be our own.
And I know that every American wants her future to be just as bright. That's who we are. That's the country I'm so proud to lead as your president.
OBAMA: And tonight, despite all the hardship we've been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I've never been more hopeful about our future.
I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. I'm not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight.
I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.
America, I believe we can build on the progress we've made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you're willing to try.
I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We're not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.
And together with your help and God's grace we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you, America. God bless you. God bless these United States.
When President Obama won election in 2008, United States was experiencing a great recession that was never seen since 1929 Great depression. President Obama inherited the depressing economy from President George Bush and the economic outlook was quite bleak with rising unemployment, growing debt and deficits.
The American economic landscape was in dire straits, one can correctly said that United States economy in 2008 was hemorrhaging; the economy was losing more than 700,000 jobs per month, and in the first 13 months of Obama’s administration the economy lost 4.316 million jobs. Stock Exchange was under-performing and Dow Jones Industrial Average was once at depressed 6,700.
President Obama and his economic team get to work immediately and finally they changed the economic climate. The bleeding has stopped and the economy has recovered all the lost jobs and added 5.4 million jobs in the last 32 months. In the dwindling manufacturing sector about 479,000 manufacturing jobs were created since 2010 and no matter how you look at it, it is a great achievement. Due to the competition coming from China and India on manufacturing sector, United States was losing those jobs but Obama’s trade policy is gradually but steadily reversing the course. And stock exchange has recovered and Dow Jones Industrial Average hit over 10,000 in 2012.
President Obama is strong on war against terrorism, and has decimated al-Qaeda globally. He ended the war in Iraq in accountable method and working responsibly to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. President Obama Affordable Healthcare Act that was signed into law will extend healthcare insurance to all Americans.
President Obama has cut taxes for 98 percent American households and for small businesses. He bailed out Auto industry and saved more than one million auto industry jobs.
President Obama deserves a second term to finish the job he has started, the American people will support him and comes Tuesday he will win reelection.
Mr. Emeka Chiakwelu is the principal Policy Strategist at Afripol.
ONE thing that has struck me about the debates so far is how little President Obama has conveyed about what I think are his two most innovative domestic programs. While I don’t know how Obamacare will turn out, I’m certain that my two favorite Obama initiatives will be transformative.
His Race to the Top program in education has already set off a nationwide wave of school reform, and his Race to the Top in vehicles — raising the mileage standards for American-made car and truck fleets from 27.5 miles per gallon to 54.5 m.p.g. between now and 2025 — is already spurring a wave of innovation in auto materials, engines and software. Obama mentioned both briefly in the last debate, but I want to talk about them more, because I think they are the future of progressive politics in this age of austerity: government using its limited funds and steadily rising performance standards to stimulate states and businesses to innovate better economic, educational and environmental practices.
While it is too scary for Obama to tell people in so many words, his races to the top in schools and cars are both based on one brutal fact: “The high-wage, medium-skilled job is over,” as Stefanie Sanford, a senior education expert at the Gates Foundation, puts it. The only high-wage jobs, whether in manufacturing or services, will be high-skilled ones, requiring more and better education, and Obama’s two races to the top aim to produce both more high-skill jobs and more high-skilled workers.
In the Race to the Top in schools, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has built on the good works of his predecessor, Margaret Spellings, and President George W. Bush, who put in place No Child Left Behind. Though never perfect, No Child Left Behind was still a game-changer for education reform because it gave us the data to see not only how individual schools were doing but how the most at-risk students were doing within those schools. Without that, educational reform based on accountability of teachers and principals could never start.
The purpose of Race to the Top, Secretary Duncan explained to me, was basically to say that if we now live in a world where every good high-wage job requires more skill, we need to get as many of our schools as possible educating their students “to college- and career-ready standards,” measured against the best in the world, because that is whom our kids will be competing against. “We have to educate our way to a better economy,” Duncan argues. “The path to the middle class today runs straight through the classroom.”
So, Race to the Top said to all 50 states, we have a $4.35 billion fund that Washington will invest in the states that come up with the best four-year education reform plans that have these components: 1) systems for data-gathering on student performance, dropout rates, graduation rates and post-graduation college and vocational school success, so schools are held accountable for what happens to their students; 2) systems for teacher and principal evaluation and support, as well as systems to reward great teachers, learn from their best practices and move out those at the bottom — essentially systems that help elevate teaching into an attractive profession; 3) systems that propose turning around failing schools by changing the management and culture; 4) systems that set college- and career-ready, internationally benchmarked standards for reading and math.
IT is too early to draw any firm conclusions, but Duncan points to some early positives. Some 4,500 state and local teachers’ union affiliates have signed onto their state’s reform proposals, showing they want to be partners. Roughly 25 percent of the turnaround schools, Duncan said, “have already showed double-digit increases in reading or math in their first year and about two-thirds showed gains.” There have also been “huge reductions of discipline incidents.”
Although, over the two years of the program, 46 states submitted reform blueprints — and only the 12 best won grants from $70 million to $700 million, depending on the size of their student populations — even states that did not win have been implementing their proposals anyway. And because 45 states and the District of Columbia adopted similar higher academic standards (known as the “common core”) for reading and math, “for the first time in our history a kid in Massachusetts and a kid in Mississippi are now being measured by the same yardstick,” said Duncan.
In many cases, we have seen as much reform from those “who did not get a nickel as those who got $100 million,” Duncan added. As Jay Altman, the chief executive of FirstLine Schools, which manages the turnarounds of failing schools in New Orleans, put it, “Louisiana ended up not winning Race to the Top, but we got close, and the process stimulated Louisiana and other states to think more broadly about educational reform rather than just approach it piecemeal.”
As for Obama’s doubling of vehicle mileage by 2025, led by his Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation, it’s already driving more innovation in Detroit, as each car company figures out how it will improve mileage by 5 percent every year. The auto industry’s main newspaper, “Automotive News, used to be a sad collection of stories of failing dealerships and excess inventory,” notes Hal Harvey, the chief executive of Energy Innovation. “Now it is one technology story after another, all aimed at increasing fuel efficiency. Engines, transmissions, electrical systems, advanced materials are all in the midst of new revolutions. Finally the engineers are back at work!”
Carl Pope, the former executive director of the Sierra Club, notes that Mitt Romney rejects Obama’s auto Race to the Top and is vowing to import more oil from the Canadian tar sands through the Keystone XL pipeline. “So Romney wants to throw away our cheapest, cleanest oil — the stuff we make in Detroit through greater mileage efficiency — and replace it with the world’s most expensive and dirty oil from the Canadian tar sands,” says Pope. “That’s a swap only the Koch brothers could dream up.”
Yes, the costs for cars with higher miles per gallon will rise a touch, but the savings will be manyfold that amount. The Environmental Protection Agency projects families will save $1.8 trillion in fuel costs and reduce oil consumption by 2.1 million barrels per day by 2025, which is equivalent to one-half of the oil that we currently import from OPEC countries every day. It will cut six billion metric tons of greenhouse gases over the lifetimes of the vehicles sold through 2025 — more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the U.S. in 2010.
But remember: It’s all a secret. Don’t tell anyone.
A version of this op-ed appeared in New York Times print on October 21
Thomas L. Friedman won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, his third Pulitzer for The New York Times. He became the paper’s foreign-affairs Op-Ed columnist in 1995. Previously, he served as chief economic correspondent in the Washington bureau and before that he was the chief White House correspondent. In 2005, Mr. Friedman was elected as a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board. Mr. Friedman joined The Times in 1981 and was appointed Beirut bureau chief in 1982. In 1984 Mr. Friedman was transferred from Beirut to Jerusalem, where he served as Israel bureau chief until 1988. Mr. Friedman was awarded the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting (from Lebanon) and the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting (from Israel).
For those of us who have followed President Obama political career from when he became a US Senator from Illinois to the time he became President of the United States in 2008, clearly recognized the fact that, the Barack Obama who debated Governor Mitt Romney during the first presidential debate fall short of being the political juggernaut we all knew him to be.
During the first debate, his aura was recoiled, most often holding back with an absent minded appearance. To sum it all, the real President Obama was missing in action – as the assertive, warm, friendly, and upbeat Obama did not show up.
But let’s move on, everybody is entitled to a bad day, maybe he forget to drink his favorite smoothie or maybe the weather was not right for the debate. However, beyond the circumstances of the first debate, Americans, mostly, Democratic party base and the undecided voters in swing and battle ground states will appreciate seeing a tough debating and aggressive Obama on Tuesday night.
For Tuesday’s debate, there are guidelines the President Obama should follow:
The first and foremost, Let OBAMA be OBAMA. For the Tuesday’s debate, I hope to see President Obama rekindle his “HOPE” paradigm by being more assertive. He is a great speaker, who understood the plight of middle and working class Americans, a seasoned politician, and has been good in debates – he should be himself without the burden of trying to be too presidential, too polite and too nice. These qualities should be postponed for the presidential swearing in. As for now the American people want to see the feisty fighting Obama of 2008 to once again bring smiles to the American faces.
Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages
Bring Joe Biden’s debating template to the table: The vice president did a phenomenal and wonderful job; he was in charge and led the debate between him and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. President Obama should add to Biden’s debate template by bringing in his own personal quality without letting go of those fine theatrics displayed by the Honorable vice president Joe Biden – the smile, assertion and good old American confidence without apology.
The body-language factor, for it speaks a volume – this is as important as what a candidate articulation and mastering of the subject. President Obama’s must use his body-language to demonstrate the continuous rebound in the US economy, dropping unemployment rate, and to assure the American people of full recovery from eight years of Republicans fail policy that led the country into the greatest recession since 1929.
In all, President Obama must apply his personal charm and aura – most powerful of all, his big smile that always melt away any doubt and smooth away any rough edges. The upright looking and the big smile are always reassuring to the American people.
He should not allow any assertion by your opponent to go unanswered: At the heat of the moment, Governor Mitt Romney may throw in an assertion without specific; he should not allow him to get away with it – and make sure that such assertion is revisited in the next question before answering the question at hand.
Finally, this one works all time Mr. President: say your prayers and drink lots of water to calm your nerves; Paul Ryan is a testament to that.
Emeka Chiakwerlu, an Analyst and political strategist at Afripol.
Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentleman: I would like to begin today by telling you about an American named Chris Stevens.
Chris was born in a town called Grass Valley, California, the son of a lawyer and a musician. As a young man, Chris joined the Peace Corps, and taught English in Morocco. And he came to love and respect the people of North Africa and the Middle East. He would carry that commitment throughout his life. As a diplomat, he worked from Egypt to Syria, from Saudi Arabia to Libya. He was known for walking the streets of the cities where he worked -- tasting the local food, meeting as many people as he could, speaking Arabic, listening with a broad smile.
Chris went to Benghazi in the early days of the Libyan revolution, arriving on a cargo ship. As America’s representative, he helped the Libyan people as they coped with violent conflict, cared for the wounded, and crafted a vision for the future in which the rights of all Libyans would be respected. And after the revolution, he supported the birth of a new democracy, as Libyans held elections, and built new institutions, and began to move forward after decades of dictatorship.
Chris Stevens loved his work. He took pride in the country he served, and he saw dignity in the people that he met. And two weeks ago, he traveled to Benghazi to review plans to establish a new cultural center and modernize a hospital. That’s when America’s compound came under attack. Along with three of his colleagues, Chris was killed in the city that he helped to save. He was 52 years old.
I tell you this story because Chris Stevens embodied the best of America. Like his fellow Foreign Service officers, he built bridges across oceans and cultures, and was deeply invested in the international cooperation that the United Nations represents. He acted with humility, but he also stood up for a set of principles -- a belief that individuals should be free to determine their own destiny, and live with liberty, dignity, justice, and opportunity.
The attacks on the civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America. We are grateful for the assistance we received from the Libyan government and from the Libyan people. There should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice. And I also appreciate that in recent days, the leaders of other countries in the region -- including Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen -- have taken steps to secure our diplomatic facilities, and called for calm. And so have religious authorities around the globe.
But understand, the attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded -- the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; that in an interdependent world, all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens.
If we are serious about upholding these ideals, it will not be enough to put more guards in front of an embassy, or to put out statements of regret and wait for the outrage to pass. If we are serious about these ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of the crisis -- because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart and the hopes that we hold in common.
Today, we must reaffirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens -- and not by his killers. Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations.
It has been less than two years since a vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest the oppressive corruption in his country, and sparked what became known as the Arab Spring. And since then, the world has been captivated by the transformation that’s taken place, and the United States has supported the forces of change.
We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspiration of men and women who took to the streets.
We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy ultimately put us on the side of the people.
We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were no longer being served by a corrupt status quo.
We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the United Nations Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents, and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.
And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop and a new dawn can begin.
We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values -- they are universal values. And even as there will be huge challenges to come with a transition to democracy, I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people, and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world.
So let us remember that this is a season of progress. For the first time in decades, Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans voted for new leaders in elections that were credible, competitive, and fair. This democratic spirit has not been restricted to the Arab world. Over the past year, we’ve seen peaceful transitions of power in Malawi and Senegal, and a new President in Somalia. In Burma, a President has freed political prisoners and opened a closed society, a courageous dissident has been elected to parliament, and people look forward to further reform. Around the globe, people are making their voices heard, insisting on their innate dignity, and the right to determine their future.
And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot. Nelson Mandela once said: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and that businesses can be opened without paying a bribe. It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear, and on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.
In other words, true democracy -- real freedom -- is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissidents. In hard economic times, countries must be tempted -- may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.
Moreover, there will always be those that reject human progress -- dictators who cling to power, corrupt interests that depend on the status quo, and extremists who fan the flames of hate and division. From Northern Ireland to South Asia, from Africa to the Americas, from the Balkans to the Pacific Rim, we’ve witnessed convulsions that can accompany transitions to a new political order.
At time, the conflicts arise along the fault lines of race or tribe. And often they arise from the difficulties of reconciling tradition and faith with the diversity and interdependence of the modern world. In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening; in every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask themselves how much they’re willing to tolerate freedom for others.
That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity.
It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well -- for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and every faith. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion, we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.
I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. And the answer is enshrined in our laws: Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech.
Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. As President of our country and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day -- (laughter) -- and I will always defend their right to do so.
Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views, even views that we profoundly disagree with. We do not do so because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities.
We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression; it is more speech -- the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.
Now, I know that not all countries in this body share this particular understanding of the protection of free speech. We recognize that. But in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete. The question, then, is how do we respond?
And on this we must agree: There is no speech that justifies mindless violence. There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There’s no video that justifies an attack on an embassy. There’s no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.
In this modern world with modern technologies, for us to respond in that way to hateful speech empowers any individual who engages in such speech to create chaos around the world. We empower the worst of us if that’s how we respond.
More broadly, the events of the last two weeks also speak to the need for all of us to honestly address the tensions between the West and the Arab world that is moving towards democracy.
Now, let me be clear: Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not and will not seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad. We do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue, nor do we assume that the violence of the past weeks or the hateful speech by some individuals represent the views of the overwhelming majority of Muslims, any more than the views of the people who produced this video represents those of Americans. However, I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders in all countries to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism.
It is time to marginalize those who -- even when not directly resorting to violence -- use hatred of America, or the West, or Israel, as the central organizing principle of politics. For that only gives cover, and sometimes makes an excuse, for those who do resort to violence.
That brand of politics -- one that pits East against West, and South against North, Muslims against Christians and Hindu and Jews -- can’t deliver on the promise of freedom. To the youth, it offers only false hope. Burning an American flag does nothing to provide a child an education. Smashing apart a restaurant does not fill an empty stomach. Attacking an embassy won’t create a single job. That brand of politics only makes it harder to achieve what we must do together: educating our children, and creating the opportunities that they deserve; protecting human rights, and extending democracy’s promise.
Understand America will never retreat from the world. We will bring justice to those who harm our citizens and our friends, and we will stand with our allies. We are willing to partner with countries around the world to deepen ties of trade and investment, and science and technology, energy and development -- all efforts that can spark economic growth for all our people and stabilize democratic change.
But such efforts depend on a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect. No government or company, no school or NGO will be confident working in a country where its people are endangered. For partnerships to be effective our citizens must be secure and our efforts must be welcomed.
A politics based only on anger -- one based on dividing the world between “us” and “them” -- not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it. All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces.
Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism. On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than 10 Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.
The impulse towards intolerance and violence may initially be focused on the West, but over time it cannot be contained. The same impulses toward extremism are used to justify war between Sunni and Shia, between tribes and clans. It leads not to strength and prosperity but to chaos. In less than two years, we have seen largely peaceful protests bring more change to Muslim-majority countries than a decade of violence. And extremists understand this. Because they have nothing to offer to improve the lives of people, violence is their only way to stay relevant. They don’t build; they only destroy.
It is time to leave the call of violence and the politics of division behind. On so many issues, we face a choice between the promise of the future, or the prisons of the past. And we cannot afford to get it wrong. We must seize this moment. And America stands ready to work with all who are willing to embrace a better future.
The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt -- it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women -- it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons.
The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources -- it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs, the workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the women and men that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.
The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.
Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims and Shiite pilgrims. It’s time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, that’s the vision we will support.
Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on a prospect of peace. Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, those who reject the right of Israel to exist. The road is hard, but the destination is clear -- a secure, Jewish state of Israel and an independent, prosperous Palestine. Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties, America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey.
In Syria, the future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people. If there is a cause that cries out for protest in the world today, peaceful protest, it is a regime that tortures children and shoots rockets at apartment buildings. And we must remain engaged to assure that what began with citizens demanding their rights does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence.
Together, we must stand with those Syrians who believe in a different vision -- a Syria that is united and inclusive, where children don’t need to fear their own government, and all Syrians have a say in how they are governed -- Sunnis and Alawites, Kurds and Christians. That’s what America stands for. That is the outcome that we will work for -- with sanctions and consequences for those who persecute, and assistance and support for those who work for this common good. Because we believe that the Syrians who embrace this vision will have the strength and the legitimacy to lead.
In Iran, we see where the path of a violent and unaccountable ideology leads. The Iranian people have a remarkable and ancient history, and many Iranians wish to enjoy peace and prosperity alongside their neighbors. But just as it restricts the rights of its own people, the Iranian government continues to prop up a dictator in Damascus and supports terrorist groups abroad. Time and again, it has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful, and to meet its obligations to the United Nations.
So let me be clear. America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited. We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace. And make no mistake, a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That’s why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that’s why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights. That’s why this institution was established from the rubble of conflict. That is why liberty triumphed over tyranny in the Cold War. And that is the lesson of the last two decades as well.
History shows that peace and progress come to those who make the right choices. Nations in every part of the world have traveled this difficult path. Europe, the bloodiest battlefield of the 20th century, is united, free and at peace. From Brazil to South Africa, from Turkey to South Korea, from India to Indonesia, people of different races, religions, and traditions have lifted millions out of poverty, while respecting the rights of their citizens and meeting their responsibilities as nations.
And it is because of the progress that I’ve witnessed in my own lifetime, the progress that I’ve witnessed after nearly four years as President, that I remain ever hopeful about the world that we live in. The war in Iraq is over. American troops have come home. We’ve begun a transition in Afghanistan, and America and our allies will end our war on schedule in 2014. Al Qaeda has been weakened, and Osama bin Laden is no more. Nations have come together to lock down nuclear materials, and America and Russia are reducing our arsenals. We have seen hard choices made -- from Naypyidaw to Cairo to Abidjan -- to put more power in the hands of citizens.
At a time of economic challenge, the world has come together to broaden prosperity. Through the G20, we have partnered with emerging countries to keep the world on the path of recovery. America has pursued a development agenda that fuels growth and breaks dependency, and worked with African leaders to help them feed their nations. New partnerships have been forged to combat corruption and promote government that is open and transparent, and new commitments have been made through the Equal Futures Partnership to ensure that women and girls can fully participate in politics and pursue opportunity. And later today, I will discuss our efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking.
All these things give me hope. But what gives me the most hope is not the actions of us, not the actions of leaders -- it is the people that I’ve seen. The American troops who have risked their lives and sacrificed their limbs for strangers half a world away; the students in Jakarta or Seoul who are eager to use their knowledge to benefit mankind; the faces in a square in Prague or a parliament in Ghana who see democracy giving voice to their aspirations; the young people in the favelas of Rio and the schools of Mumbai whose eyes shine with promise. These men, women, and children of every race and every faith remind me that for every angry mob that gets shown on television, there are billions around the world who share similar hopes and dreams. They tell us that there is a common heartbeat to humanity.
So much attention in our world turns to what divides us. That’s what we see on the news. That’s what consumes our political debates. But when you strip it all away, people everywhere long for the freedom to determine their destiny; the dignity that comes with work; the comfort that comes with faith; and the justice that exists when governments serve their people -- and not the other way around.
The United States of America will always stand up for these aspirations, for our own people and for people all across the world. That was our founding purpose. That is what our history shows. That is what Chris Stevens worked for throughout his life.
And I promise you this: Long after the killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens’s legacy will live on in the lives that he touched -- in the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook photo to one of Chris; in the signs that read, simply, “Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.”
They should give us hope. They should remind us that so long as we work for it, justice will be done, that history is on our side, and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed.
Thank you very much.
President Obama: Michelle, I love you. The other night, I think the entire country saw just how lucky I am. Malia and Sasha, you make me so proud…but don’t get any ideas, you’re still going to class tomorrow. And Joe Biden, thank you for being the best Vice President I could ever hope for.
Madam Chairwoman, delegates, I accept your nomination for President of the United States.
The first time I addressed this convention in 2004, I was a younger man; a Senate candidate from Illinois who spoke about hope – not blind optimism or wishful thinking, but hope in the face of difficulty; hope in the face of uncertainty; that dogged faith in the future which has pushed this nation forward, even when the odds are great; even when the road is long.
Eight years later, that hope has been tested – by the cost of war; by one of the worst economic crises in history; and by political gridlock that’s left us wondering whether it’s still possible to tackle the challenges of our time.
I know that campaigns can seem small, and even silly. Trivial things become big distractions. Serious issues become sound bites. And the truth gets buried under an avalanche of money and advertising. If you’re sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me – so am I.
But when all is said and done – when you pick up that ballot to vote – you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation. Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs and the economy; taxes and deficits; energy and education; war and peace – decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children’s lives for decades to come.
On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties.
It will be a choice between two different paths for America.
A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.
Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known; the values my grandfather defended as a soldier in Patton’s Army; the values that drove my grandmother to work on a bomber assembly line while he was gone.
They knew they were part of something larger – a nation that triumphed over fascism and depression; a nation where the most innovative businesses turned out the world’s best products, and everyone shared in the pride and success – from the corner office to the factory floor. My grandparents were given the chance to go to college, buy their first home, and fulfill the basic bargain at the heart of America’s story: the promise that hard work will pay off; that responsibility will be rewarded; that everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules – from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, DC.
I ran for President because I saw that basic bargain slipping away. I began my career helping people in the shadow of a shuttered steel mill, at a time when too many good jobs were starting to move overseas. And by 2008, we had seen nearly a decade in which families struggled with costs that kept rising but paychecks that didn’t; racking up more and more debt just to make the mortgage or pay tuition; to put gas in the car or food on the table. And when the house of cards collapsed in the Great Recession, millions of innocent Americans lost their jobs, their homes, and their life savings – a tragedy from which we are still fighting to recover.
Now, our friends at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right. They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last thirty years:
“Have a surplus? Try a tax cut.”
“Deficit too high? Try another.”
“Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!”
Now, I’ve cut taxes for those who need it – middle-class families and small businesses. But I don’t believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit. I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China. After all that we’ve been through, I don’t believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small businesswoman expand, or the laid-off construction worker keep his home. We’ve been there, we’ve tried that, and we’re not going back. We’re moving forward.
I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one. And by the way – those of us who carry on his party’s legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.
But know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I’m asking you to choose that future. I’m asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country – goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit; a real, achievable plan that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation. That’s what we can do in the next four years, and that’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States.
We can choose a future where we export more products and outsource fewer jobs. After a decade that was defined by what we bought and borrowed, we’re getting back to basics, and doing what America has always done best:
We’re making things again.
I’ve met workers in Detroit and Toledo who feared they’d never build another American car. Today, they can’t build them fast enough, because we reinvented a dying auto industry that’s back on top of the world.
I’ve worked with business leaders who are bringing jobs back to America – not because our workers make less pay, but because we make better products. Because we work harder and smarter than anyone else.
I’ve signed trade agreements that are helping our companies sell more goods to millions of new customers – goods that are stamped with three proud words: Made in America.
After a decade of decline, this country created over half a million manufacturing jobs in the last two and a half years. And now you have a choice: we can give more tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, or we can start rewarding companies that open new plants and train new workers and create new jobs here, in the United States of America. We can help big factories and small businesses double their exports, and if we choose this path, we can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years. You can make that happen. You can choose that future.
You can choose the path where we control more of our own energy. After thirty years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. We’ve doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries. In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by one million barrels a day – more than any administration in recent history. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly two decades.
Now you have a choice – between a strategy that reverses this progress, or one that builds on it. We’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last three years, and we’ll open more. But unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan, or endanger our coastlines, or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers.
We’re offering a better path – a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks; where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy; where we develop a hundred year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet. If you choose this path, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.
And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet – because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.
You can choose a future where more Americans have the chance to gain the skills they need to compete, no matter how old they are or how much money they have. Education was the gateway to opportunity for me. It was the gateway for Michelle. And now more than ever, it is the gateway to a middle-class life.
For the first time in a generation, nearly every state has answered our call to raise their standards for teaching and learning. Some of the worst schools in the country have made real gains in math and reading. Millions of students are paying less for college today because we finally took on a system that wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on banks and lenders.
And now you have a choice – we can gut education, or we can decide that in the United States of America, no child should have her dreams deferred because of a crowded classroom or a crumbling school. No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don’t have the money. No company should have to look for workers in China because they couldn’t find any with the right skills here at home.
Government has a role in this. But teachers must inspire; principals must lead; parents must instill a thirst for learning, and students, you’ve got to do the work. And together, I promise you – we can out-educate and out-compete any country on Earth. Help me recruit 100,000 math and science teachers in the next ten years, and improve early childhood education. Help give two million workers the chance to learn skills at their community college that will lead directly to a job. Help us work with colleges and universities to cut in half the growth of tuition costs over the next ten years. We can meet that goal together. You can choose that future for America.
In a world of new threats and new challenges, you can choose leadership that has been tested and proven. Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did. I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. We have. We’ve blunted the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over. A new tower rises above the New York skyline, al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama bin Laden is dead.
Tonight, we pay tribute to the Americans who still serve in harm’s way. We are forever in debt to a generation whose sacrifice has made this country safer and more respected. We will never forget you. And so long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known. When you take off the uniform, we will serve you as well as you’ve served us – because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job, or a roof over their head, or the care that they need when they come home.
Around the world, we’ve strengthened old alliances and forged new coalitions to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. We’ve reasserted our power across the Pacific and stood up to China on behalf of our workers. From Burma to Libya to South Sudan, we have advanced the rights and dignity of all human beings – men and women; Christians and Muslims and Jews.
But for all the progress we’ve made, challenges remain. Terrorist plots must be disrupted. Europe’s crisis must be contained. Our commitment to Israel’s security must not waver, and neither must our pursuit of peace. The Iranian government must face a world that stays united against its nuclear ambitions. The historic change sweeping across the Arab World must be defined not by the iron fist of a dictator or the hate of extremists, but by the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people who are reaching for the same rights that we celebrate today.
So now we face a choice. My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.
After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy – and not al Qaeda – unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally. My opponent said it was “tragic” to end the war in Iraq, and he won’t tell us how he’ll end the war in Afghanistan. I have, and I will. And while my opponent would spend more money on military hardware that our Joint Chiefs don’t even want, I’ll use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work – rebuilding roads and bridges; schools and runways. After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.
You can choose a future where we reduce our deficit without wrecking our middle class. Independent analysis shows that my plan would cut our deficits by $4 trillion. Last summer, I worked with Republicans in Congress to cut $1 trillion in spending – because those of us who believe government can be a force for good should work harder than anyone to reform it, so that it’s leaner, more efficient, and more responsive to the American people.
I want to reform the tax code so that it’s simple, fair, and asks the wealthiest households to pay higher taxes on incomes over $250,000 – the same rate we had when Bill Clinton was president; the same rate we had when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest surplus in history, and a lot of millionaires to boot.
Now, I’m still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission. No party has a monopoly on wisdom. No democracy works without compromise. But when Governor Romney and his allies in Congress tell us we can somehow lower our deficit by spending trillions more on new tax breaks for the wealthy – well, you do the math. I refuse to go along with that. And as long as I’m President, I never will.
I refuse to ask middle class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut. I refuse to ask students to pay more for college; or kick children out of Head Start programs, or eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor, elderly, or disabled – all so those with the most can pay less.
And I will never turn Medicare into a voucher. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and dignity they have earned. Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care – not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more. And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it – not by turning it over to Wall Street.
This is the choice we now face. This is what the election comes down to. Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s just the price of progress. If you can’t afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent’s advice and “borrow money from your parents.”
You know what? That’s not who we are. That’s not what this country’s about. As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights – rights that no man or government can take away. We insist on personal responsibility and we celebrate individual initiative. We’re not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system – the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known.
But we also believe in something called citizenship – a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations.
We believe that when a CEO pays his autoworkers enough to buy the cars that they build, the whole company does better.
We believe that when a family can no longer be tricked into signing a mortgage they can’t afford, that family is protected, but so is the value of other people’s homes, and so is the entire economy.
We believe that a little girl who’s offered an escape from poverty by a great teacher or a grant for college could become the founder of the next Google, or the scientist who cures cancer, or the President of the United States – and it’s in our power to give her that chance.
We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.
Because we understand that this democracy is ours.
We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.
As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government.
So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens – you were the change.
You’re the reason there’s a little girl with a heart disorder in Phoenix who’ll get the surgery she needs because an insurance company can’t limit her coverage. You did that.
You’re the reason a young man in Colorado who never thought he’d be able to afford his dream of earning a medical degree is about to get that chance. You made that possible.
You’re the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home; why selfless soldiers won’t be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love; why thousands of families have finally been able to say to the loved ones who served us so bravely: “Welcome home.”
If you turn away now – if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible…well, change will not happen. If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are making it harder for you to vote; Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control health care choices that women should make for themselves.
Only you can make sure that doesn’t happen. Only you have the power to move us forward.
I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. The times have changed – and so have I.
I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the President. I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I have held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn’t return. I’ve shared the pain of families who’ve lost their homes, and the frustration of workers who’ve lost their jobs. If the critics are right that I’ve made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them. And while I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.”
But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America. Not because I think I have all the answers. Not because I’m naïve about the magnitude of our challenges.
I’m hopeful because of you.
The young woman I met at a science fair who won national recognition for her biology research while living with her family at a homeless shelter – she gives me hope.
The auto worker who won the lottery after his plant almost closed, but kept coming to work every day, and bought flags for his whole town and one of the cars that he built to surprise his wife – he gives me hope.
The family business in Warroad, Minnesota that didn’t lay off a single one of their four thousand employees during this recession, even when their competitors shut down dozens of plants, even when it meant the owners gave up some perks and pay – because they understood their biggest asset was the community and the workers who helped build that business – they give me hope.
And I think about the young sailor I met at Walter Reed hospital, still recovering from a grenade attack that would cause him to have his leg amputated above the knee. Six months ago, I would watch him walk into a White House dinner honoring those who served in Iraq, tall and twenty pounds heavier, dashing in his uniform, with a big grin on his face; sturdy on his new leg. And I remember how a few months after that I would watch him on a bicycle, racing with his fellow wounded warriors on a sparkling spring day, inspiring other heroes who had just begun the hard path he had traveled.
He gives me hope.
I don’t know what party these men and women belong to. I don’t know if they’ll vote for me. But I know that their spirit defines us. They remind me, in the words of Scripture, that ours is a “future filled with hope.”
And if you share that faith with me – if you share that hope with me – I ask you tonight for your vote.
If you reject the notion that this nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election.
If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election.
If you believe that new plants and factories can dot our landscape; that new energy can power our future; that new schools can provide ladders of opportunity to this nation of dreamers; if you believe in a country where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules, then I need you to vote this November.
America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder – but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer – but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless these United States.