Sunday, January 17, 2016
President Obama’s 8th State of the Union Address
January 16, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi
Let me start first of all, by maintaining that President Barack Hussein Obama has crafted a unique niche for himself as the first Non-white president of the United States elected for two consecutive terms. On January 12, he delivered his eighth and the final State of Union address lasting for an hour before a galaxy of the congressmen, military top brass and important representatives from various strata of life.
He would be ranked in history as one of the outstanding and brilliant presidents of the United States. In his address he exuded tremendous candor, a deep spirit of sincerity, profound honesty and indeed earnest outspokenness. He demonstrated that how deeply and steadfastly he is wedded to the supreme interests of the people of this great country.
The central theme and vision of his address both for the American political leadership and the world at large is to work together for a better future of mankind. He pleaded transformation of the planet earth into an abode of peace and progress for all people and nations in a spirit of cordiality and togetherness.
His administration effectively combated rampant terrorism, revitalized the moribund and sick industrial sector, reformed health care system, reinvigorated energy sector, resurrected a shattered economy and recovered it from the worst economic crisis in generations. Besides, 14 million new jobs were created during the last seven years.
Externally, despite stiff opposition from the vested interests, radical Republican lobbies, war mongers, Israel and Saudi Arabia, he brought into the international limelight Iran’s contentious nuclear program with strict watch on its further development.
In return a host of stifling sanctions and embargoes imposed on Iran were lifted. The removal of excruciating sanctions on Iran would not only benefit the hard-pressed Iranian people but also hold the Iranian nuclear program on a certain permissible threshold. Incidentally the sanctions have been lifted today.
He enunciated that his priority number one has been to protect the American people and going after terrorist networks and keep America safe. He is of the view that America should not involve herself in distant wars unless America faces a threat to its integrity and security. He talked of leading the world without becoming its policeman. “America should not try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis”, he maintained.
He called for dismantling the discrimination and hatred based upon race, religion, cast creed and region particularly in case of Muslims who are under the malicious burden of being labeled en-bloc as terrorists by certain lobbies.
In regard to racial or religious hatred against Muslim Americans he asserted that, “When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn't make us safer. That's not telling it like it is. It's just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country" We the People”
He exhorted the Americans to “see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first bound by a common creed”.
He remarked “When the frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don't look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.”
He stressed that everyone must have a fair shot at opportunity and security in a new economic plan. Americans have to “reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can't bankroll our elections”.
The political process should be changed so that it ensures that it is not “just who gets elected but how they get elected”. He called for ending the “practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around”.
He emphasized that “American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world except when we kill terrorists; and occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership means a wise application of military power.”
President Obama’s preference for peaceful approach than military onslaughts towards resolution of the global issues has been the most outstanding hallmark of his achievements. He wound up American military presence in Afghanistan and in the Middle East especially in Iraq. Despite pressures he refrained from committing American troops in the Middle East, in Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya and other places involved in civil wars.
Thus he saved American blood to be spilled for others as was done in Vietnam, Korea and later in the Middle East particularly during the post Saddam Hussain era. There was military intervention but a better sense prevailed and the American forces were withdrawn not only from Iraq but also from Afghanistan.
My personal reckoning about Obama’s place in history is that he would stand in the sublime line of such stalwart presidents who were trend setters and served the American people in an exemplary manner. Some of those illustrious presidents, among others, are Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklyn D. Roosevelt.