American Elephants


“Obama’s Last Lecture” by The Elephant's Child

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President Obama delivered his final address to the U.N General assembly on Tuesday. I listened to a bit online, and decided to get the transcript, as I prefer to read it unadulterated. The Wall Street Journal headline over their commentary was “Obama’s Last Lecture,” and my immediate response was “Please God, Make It So.” President Obama started right off to tell the delegates just what an impressive difference he had made in the world and how very important it was. As  usual, it was all about him.

From the depths of the greatest financial crisis of our time, we coordinated our response to avoid further catastrophe and return the global economy to growth.  We’ve taken away terrorist safe havens, strengthened the nonproliferation regime, resolved the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomacy.  We opened relations with Cuba, helped Colombia end Latin America’s longest war, and we welcome a democratically elected leader of Myanmar to this Assembly.  Our assistance is helping people feed themselves, care for the sick, power communities across Africa, and promote models of development rather than dependence.  And we have made international institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund more representative, while establishing a framework to protect our planet from the ravages of climate change.

This is important work.  It has made a real difference in the lives of our people.  And it could not have happened had we not worked together.  And yet, around the globe we are seeing the same forces of global integration that have made us interdependent also expose deep fault lines in the existing international order.

We see it in the headlines every day.  Around the world, refugees flow across borders in flight from brutal conflict.  Financial disruptions continue to weigh upon our workers and entire communities.  Across vast swaths of the Middle East, basic security, basic order has broken down.  We see too many governments muzzling journalists, and quashing dissent, and censoring the flow of information.  Terrorist networks use social media to prey upon the minds of our youth, endangering open societies and spurring anger against innocent immigrants and Muslims.  Powerful nations contest the constraints placed on them by international law.

He hit all his favorite progressive notes: inequality, the one percent controlling all the wealth, beggar thy neighbors policies, injustice undermining people’s faith in the system, soulless capitalism,  the gap between rich and poor, and I loved this one: “with further investment in infrastructure and early childhood education and basic research, I’m confident that such progress will continue.” About infrastructure, remember there weren’t any shovel-ready jobs. It has been a dismal eight years, with no real recovery, an economy never reaching even a basic 3% growth, an economy burdened by excessive regulation, overreaching controls, and of course the constant pursuit of some way, any way, to stop the normal warming and cooling of our planet, on which he has squandered billions to no avail whatsoever.

On the other hand he’s for democracy, our democratic Constitution, our Bill of Rights and the ideals which let our ordinary  people organize and march and protest.  The American narrative, I guess. It was a lecture.

The speech is here if you want to read it.


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