"With our European allies, we revitalized NATO and increased our cooperation on everything from counterterrorism to missile defense. We've reset our relationship with Russia, strengthened Asian alliances, built new partnerships with nations like India." declared President Obama in yesterday's State of the Union Address (Enhanced video).
The focus of his speech was of course domestic rather than foreign -- "and perhaps properly so, given Americans' continuing preoccupation with the economy. Even in that context, though, President Obama's portrait of U.S. engagement in the world was thin -- and weak. By Obama's account, the most important American foreign initiatives in 2011 will be retreats," comments Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post.
Still, I very much like his speech. I felt inspired afterwards, and I assume the speech moved many Americans as well. An optimistic yet realistic message during tough times.
My favorite quotes:
This is our generation's Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -- (applause) -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people. (...)
That's what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves. (...)
What's more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -- the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That's why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. (...)
We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair. (...) Let's also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child's success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as "nation builders." Here in America, it's time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. (Applause.) We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones.
I consider the speech's ending especially inspirational:
Brandon started a company in Berlin, Pennsylvania, that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology. And one day last summer, he saw the news that halfway across the world, 33 men were trapped in a Chilean mine, and no one knew how to save them.
But Brandon thought his company could help. And so he designed a rescue that would come to be known as Plan B. His employees worked around the clock to manufacture the necessary drilling equipment. And Brandon left for Chile.
Along with others, he began drilling a 2,000-foot hole into the ground, working three- or four-hour -- three or four days at a time without any sleep. Thirty-seven days later, Plan B succeeded, and the miners were rescued. (Applause.) But because he didn't want all of the attention, Brandon wasn't there when the miners emerged. He'd already gone back home, back to work on his next project.
And later, one of his employees said of the rescue, "We proved that Center Rock is a little company, but we do big things." (Applause.)
We do big things.
From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That's how we win the future.
We're a nation that says, "I might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea for a new company." "I might not come from a family of college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree." "I might not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them, and I need to try." "I'm not sure how we'll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we'll get there. I know we will."
We do big things. (Applause.)
The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, more than two centuries later, it's because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.
Chancellor Merkel should give such a speech. You see, I am already dreaming...