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An Independent Inauguration speech – what I’d like President Obama to say

President Obama

President Obama

I have never written any kind of speech; certainly not a political speech. The election of Barack Obama to the Presidency has captured the imagination of people around the world. Events in Iraq and Afghanistan, the profound challenges of Global warming and the current chaos in the world financial system demonstrate not only how increasingly inter-dependent we are as nations and peoples, but how uniquely America and its political strategies and values affect us all.

I have no doubt President Obama’s actual speech will be both better written and better argued that this effort. But it seemed worth the effort and once written, worth sharing.

In my lifetime attitudes to America have shifted from exaggerated admiration to excessive hostility. Since that fateful moment at 12.30pm Central Standard Time on Friday November 22nd November 1963 in Dallas, America appeared to have lost its way and frequently bemused its friends. For the last 8 years that bemusement moved from bewilderment to an exasperation bordering on contempt. The weight of expectation placed upon any President taking over in present circumstances, let alone one young, black and to a degree inexperienced (though by definition all first-term Presidents are) seems overwhelming. My effort at an Inauguration speech is directed to that central issue. I can also put in things I’d like to hear and that perhaps should be said that Mr Obama cannot say for reasons of political pragmatism.

For quantitative, not qualitative comparison – FDR’s 1st Inaugural was 1880 words; JFK’s 1357; Clinton’s 1584. This is 1329,

For what it’s worth therefore:

An Independent Inauguration Speech

My brother and sister Americans. I stand before you today one man, but I am not alone: for I am here at your will. We stand today one nation, but we are not alone: for our love of liberty and dedication to defend it is shared by peoples around the world.

Nothing does you, the American people more credit, nor resonates with the deepest strength of our political beliefs more than that at this time, in this place, you have chosen to place your trust in the first black President in the history of the United States: and when eventually as you will, you place that trust in a first woman President that too will demonstrate, as throughout our history, that we live by the proposition we hold sacred – government of the people, by the people, for the people. All the people: Democrat, Republican, Independent; regardless of race, colour, creed or gender.

These are dangerous and challenging times and no lesson is timelier than that in this, the most powerful nation on earth, ultimate power rests with the people not the state. Second only to this is our acknowledgement that just as we are one nation under God we are part of one world under many Gods. The separation of power between church and state was established as a fundamental principle by the wisdom of the founding fathers of these United States to allow men and women of many faiths, or none, to live and prosper together in mutual respect under the impartial protection of the law. It is central to our moral consciousness as a nation that we respect, indeed cherish, the diversity in ethnicity, faith, gender and belief that lies at the heart of the resilience, talent and courage of this great nation.

We seek and offer peaceful co-existence with all people of all nations: but let no one doubt our continued dedication and commitment to defend at home and abroad, our freedom as Americans to live by these principles, and the right of people of other nations to do the same when they have freely chosen to do so. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by denying it at home; we cannot seek legitimate ends by illegitimate means. These principles we hold sacred were not designed to make our lives easy – they were designed to make us free.

At the heart of all deep relationships between people or peoples, lies trust. And at the heart of trust lies respect. As individuals and nations we cannot demand respect, we must earn it. Power, military or economic, can command fear or dependence but not respect or gratitude. Let the word go out that the American people, with the last measure of devotion if that be necessary, will defend our beliefs. We do not seek to impose those beliefs on others – because we cannot, for they must be freely chosen as they were by the American people. But we stand ready to exercise our power to aid other peoples to be free to choose how they shall be governed.

We seek the trust of other nations for we will earn it. Without trust there can be no free, fair and stable trade. The current crisis in the world financial system is ascribed to a lack of confidence but in truth the cause is deeper – no less than the loss of trust. We can only recover this by first confronting the painful truth that those Franklin Roosevelt once called the “rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods” through unprincipled and incompetent behaviour have all but destroyed the trust without which the system they have exploited for their own gain cannot work. We must be resolute and clear-eyed about this: we will establish effective, fair and firmly implemented regulation but this alone will not, cannot restore the fundamental trust upon which the recovery of the world financial system critically depends. No, the exchangers of mankind’s goods material and financial must recover their own sense of honour, moral principle and integrity upon which every fair trade is based. No longer can some of our greatest talent be spent not in prospering within the rules of fair and equal trade: but in misapplying their gifts to circumvent any regulation wherever possible. Without a general ethos of self-control, personal integrity and honesty neither Main Street nor Wall Street will earn the trust they should deserve. Only then will we recover the confidence and justified pride upon which respect for America around the world must be based.

I have spoken of the need for change and my conviction that the American people are ready to respond to that need. Not change for its own sake. With the world around us changing by the minute we must embrace the need to adapt in order to maintain the harmony of our most cherished beliefs and principles with an ever-changing world. We must first develop to the full the immense talent of our people through the equal opportunity of all the children of America to a first-class education. We must ensure that as free trade within the Global economy draws traditional jobs away from the United States, we replace them with new jobs that exploit to the full the exciting new demands of the challenge of Global Warming. The same holds true for the unstoppable dynamism and impact of Information and Communications technology not just on the way we sustain ourselves but the way we see ourselves.

Having educated our children and helped them aspire to a pride in meeting the challenge of a dynamic, often dangerous world, we must ensure that their hard work and commitment is as free from the consequences of ill-health as possible. It must be our aim as with any civilised, principled free society to ensure that all our people have access to good healthcare. Equally that aspiration must be informed by a rigorous, ideology-free approach to finding the money to afford such a system.

For those of you, especially journalists and commentators, disappointed not to hear from me today specifics of policy, a blue-print for success, my recipe for financial recovery I say this is a day to unite our people behind our deepest principles upon which we agree; the beliefs and ends that unite us, not the means to those ends upon which we will and must often differ. The 20th century might be called the century of ideology, when men and women looked to philosophical theory and political systems to solve the problems of nations and the world. I call upon all Americans today of all faiths or none, man or woman, Democrat or Republican, black white or red and all the shades between, to join me in dedicating ourselves not just in aspiring to these great shared ideals but achieving them by whatever means we can make work that respects our moral and constitutional principles. I cannot do it alone, no one can. No one ever has. But together, building on aims and ideals we share and that unite us; and through mutual trust and respect confronting honestly our differences to resolve or minimise them, there is nothing this great nation of ours cannot achieve, no challenge we cannot meet, no ideal we cannot aspire to.

A wise man once said “the bad leader is he who the people hate; the good leader is he who the people love; the great leader is he who the people say – we did it ourselves.”

I will lead but your continued trust, your good will, your commitment and support are the essential demands I must make upon you. You have my promise upon all that I hold dear, upon my honour that I will never take your trust for granted, nor abuse it. The history of this great nation of ours proves beyond doubt that united we can meet any challenge, withstand any hardship and when necessary, defeat any foe.

Can we do this in 2009? Yes we can. We must. We will.

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