"This is Not the Usual Election, It Is About Who We Are as a People": Obama
NEW DELHI: President Barack Obama took the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday, highlighting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s qualifications for office, elaborating on his own track record, reaffirming the values the United States of America was built on, and attacking “homegrown demagogue” Donald Trump.
In a powerful speech that highlighted the dangers of the politics of fear and exclusion, Obama said that this election was not just about “Democrats versus Republicans.” Referring to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week, the US President said that the narrative there was a “deeply pessimistic vision.”
The crux of his speech lay in the point “America is already great. America is already strong” -- a direct counter to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” rhetoric. He called upon the country to reject the politics of fear, exclusion and cynicism, in a speech that applies as much to America as it does to most parts of the world.
“Fair to say, this is not your typical election. It’s not just a choice between parties or policies; the usual debates between left and right. This is a more fundamental choice – about who we are as a people, and whether we stay true to this great American experiment in self-government,” Obama said.
“Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s precisely this contest of ideas that pushes our country forward. But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican – and it sure wasn’t conservative. What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world. There were no serious solutions to pressing problems – just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate.”
“And that is not the America I know.”
“The America I know is full of courage, and optimism, and ingenuity. The America I know is decent and generous. Sure, we have real anxieties – about paying the bills, protecting our kids, caring for a sick parent. We get frustrated with political gridlock, worry about racial divisions; are shocked and saddened by the madness of Orlando or Nice. There are pockets of America that never recovered from factory closures; men who took pride in hard work and providing for their families who now feel forgotten; parents who wonder whether their kids will have the same opportunities we had.”
“Most of all, I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together – black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young and old; gay, straight, men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love.”
Obama used the above sentiment to underscore his support for Hillary Clinton. “That’s the America I know. And there is only one candidate in this race who believes in that future, and has devoted her life to it; a mother and grandmother who’d do anything to help our children thrive; a leader with real plans to break down barriers, blast through glass ceilings, and widen the circle of opportunity to every single American – the next President of the United States, Hillary Clinton,” he said.
The US President then contrasted Clinton’s track record with that of Donald Trump. “And then there’s Donald Trump. He’s not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either. He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated,” Obama said.
“Does anyone really believe that a guy who’s spent his 70 years on this Earth showing no regard for working people is suddenly going to be your champion? Your voice? If so, you should vote for him. But if you’re someone who’s truly concerned about paying your bills, and seeing the economy grow, and creating more opportunity for everybody, then the choice isn’t even close. If you want someone with a lifelong track record of fighting for higher wages, better benefits, a fairer tax code, a bigger voice for workers, and stronger regulations on Wall Street, then you should vote for Hillary Clinton.”
“Meanwhile, Donald Trump calls our military a disaster. Apparently, he doesn’t know the men and women who make up the strongest fighting force the world has ever known. He suggests America is weak. He must not hear the billions of men, women, and children, from the Baltics to Burma, who still look to America to be the light of freedom, dignity, and human rights. He cozies up to Putin, praises Saddam Hussein, and tells the NATO allies that stood by our side after 9/11 that they have to pay up if they want our protection. Well, America’s promises do not come with a price tag. We meet our commitments. And that’s one reason why almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago.”
Obama concluded his speech with the theme that America, is already great. “America is already great. America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump,” he said.
“In fact, it doesn’t depend on any one person. And that, in the end, may be the biggest difference in this election – the meaning of our democracy.”
“Ronald Reagan called America “a shining city on a hill.” Donald Trump calls it “a divided crime scene” that only he can fix. It doesn’t matter to him that illegal immigration and the crime rate are as low as they’ve been in decades, because he’s not offering any real solutions to those issues. He’s just offering slogans, and he’s offering fear. He’s betting that if he scares enough people, he might score just enough votes to win this election.”
“That is another bet that Donald Trump will lose. Because he’s selling the American people short. We are not a fragile or frightful people. Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order. We don’t look to be ruled. Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago; We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that together, We, the People, can form a more perfect union.”
“America has never been about what one person says he’ll do for us. It’s always been about what can be achieved by us, together, through the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring work of self-government.”
“And that’s what Hillary Clinton understands. She knows that this is a big, diverse country, and that most issues are rarely black and white. That even when you’re 100 percent right, getting things done requires compromise. That democracy doesn’t work if we constantly demonize each other. She knows that for progress to happen, we have to listen to each other, see ourselves in each other, fight for our principles but also fight to find common ground, no matter how elusive that may seem.
Hillary knows we can work through racial divides in this country when we realize the worry black parents feel when their son leaves the house isn’t so different than what a brave cop’s family feels when he puts on the blue and goes to work; that we can honor police and treat every community fairly. She knows that acknowledging problems that have festered for decades isn’t making race relations worse – it’s creating the possibility for people of good will to join and make things better.”
Obama then turned to American values and the working of democracy. “America has changed over the years. But these values my grandparents taught me – they haven’t gone anywhere. They’re as strong as ever; still cherished by people of every party, every race, and every faith. They live on in each of us. What makes us American, what makes us patriots, is what’s in here. That’s what matters. That’s why we can take the food and music and holidays and styles of other countries, and blend it into something uniquely our own. That’s why we can attract strivers and entrepreneurs from around the globe to build new factories and create new industries here. That’s why our military can look the way it does, every shade of humanity, forged into common service. That’s why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end,” he said.
“That’s America. Those bonds of affection; that common creed. We don’t fear the future; we shape it, embrace it, as one people, stronger together than we are on our own.”
In his concluding remarks, the US President again asked the people of America to reject fear and cynicism. “This year, in this election, I’m asking you to join me – to reject cynicism, reject fear, to summon what’s best in us.”