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When the traitor formerly known as Bradford Manning wanted a sex-change operation, the U. After the new Chelsea Manning was convicted of betraying the United States, the commander in chief inexplicably offered clemency. The Manning saga was one of the darkest hours of the Obama presidency. Health care. Reach him at scott runswitchpr.

Scott Jennings Opinion contributor. Scott Jennings, columnist. Obama asserted the American narrative and was unabashedly proud of it; he was an authentic American nationalist. But he did not imagine that he could make progress with the rest of the world dependent on the world sharing that narrative. It was for such vision that Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The prize was an awkward moment for a President in office for less than a year and was premature, only adding to the weight of expectations on already burdened shoulders.

I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars … I'm responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict — filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other. His decision to increase the US presence by committing an additional 35, troops in December seemed to undermine his parallel efforts to reshape the narrative of US foreign policy.

Moreover, his decision to increase predator drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan initiated by Bush sent further mixed messages to those he was trying to persuade and co-opt. Obama has been described as Bush-lite, a president who might talk the language of soft power but who often resorts to hard power solutions. Much as he seems to evoke John F. Kennedy rather than Jimmy Carter in his approach, he increasingly resembles a Cold War style Democratic hawk. As he noted in Oslo:. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people … Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms.

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To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason. Yet Obama did not believe that an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan was an option he could consider, given the policies and strategy set in place by his predecessor.

We need them. They will be useful in this coalition. However, Biden also made clear that in return for the new tone and approach of the Obama administration, the US would expect more from its partners. It is not only the war in Afghanistan that has exposed the dilemmas Obama faces.

Obama and Latin America

On a range of issues, from climate change to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the challenges posed by Iran and North Korea, Obama has often found himself having to compromise. As Zbigniew Bzrezinski argued in early He has done this remarkably well.

In less than a year, he has comprehensively reconceptualized U. Climate change was one such issue, but even despite the pressing domestic challenges Obama faced, he played a crucial role in helping facilitate negotiations with the Chinese and Indians behind the scenes at Copenhagen. Although those negotiations delivered a non-binding agreement that fell far short of what many had hoped for, the challenges of getting a comprehensive, binding agreement were always going to exceed the persuasive powers of one individual. Obama generated leverage with Russia in abandoning Bush-era plans for a missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic that had led to a deep rift in relations, and developing a new plan focused on the threat of short-range missiles from Iran.

Crucially, the improved relationship with Russia is now beginning to facilitate cooperation on Iran, with the Russians supporting tough new UN sanctions. However, the term was also picked up by Joseph Nye. A good reputation fosters goodwill and brings acceptance for unpopular ventures. This approach will require a shift in how the U. Obama and Clinton have built upon the Public Diplomacy 2. Updates via text message reached 20, non-US citizens in over countries around the world, with the texts being available in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and eight other languages.

In addition, translated versions of the speech were available to download on YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace, and the South Asian social networking site Orkut. The White House used Facebook to conduct an international discussion on the event, while responses to the speech submitted via text messages were compiled and later posted on America. The Obama Administration has breathed new life into public diplomacy initiatives, and accorded it a far higher priority than the Bush Administration. The focus on listening and engagement is pronounced as is the deliberate effort to communicate respect and understanding.

The rhetoric is less shrill, less demanding and less confrontational. Metaphorically, the image of U. To that end, the US under Obama has achieved a better balance than under Bush, but there remain policies, including the use of force in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the failure to close Guantanamo, that continue to undermine the image of America the administration is trying to disseminate.

Barack Obama: American Historian | History News Network

So I want to be clear. I did not take sides in that late-night-food debate. The truth is, after eight years in the White House, I needed to spend time one-on-one with Michelle if I wanted to stay married—and she says hello, by the way. I also wanted to spend quality time with my daughters, who were suddenly young women on their way out the door. And I should add, by the way, now that I have a daughter in college, I can tell all of the students here, your parents suffer. They cry privately. It is brutal.

The Basic Truth Most Americans Don’t Want to Hear

So please call. Send a text. We need to hear from you, just a little something. And truth was, I was also intent on following a wise American tradition of ex-presidents gracefully exiting the political stage and making room for new voices and new ideas. And we have our first president, George Washington, to thank for setting that example. After he led the colonies to victory as General Washington, there were no constraints on him, really.

He was practically a god to those who had followed him into battle. There was no Constitution, there were no democratic norms that guided what he should or could do.


And he could have made himself all powerful. He could have made himself potentially president for life. And instead he resigned as commander in chief and moved back to his country estate. And six years later, he was elected president. But after two terms, he resigned again and rode off into the sunset. And the point Washington made, the point that is essential to American democracy, is that in a government of and by and for the people, there should be no permanent ruling class.

There are only citizens who, through their elected and temporary representatives, determine our course and determine our character. And as a fellow citizen, not as an ex-president but as a fellow citizen, I am here to deliver a simple message, and that is that you need to vote because our democracy depends on it. I know politicians say that all the time. I have been guilty of saying it a few times, particularly when I was on the ballot. But just a glance at recent headlines should tell you that this moment really is different.

The stakes really are higher. The consequences of any of us sitting on the sidelines are more dire. The fact is, democracy has never been easy and our Founding Fathers argued about everything. We waged a Civil War. We overcame depression. Still, most Americans alive today, certainly the students who are here, have operated under some common assumptions about who we are and what we stand for.

Out of the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution and the Great Depression, America adapted a new economy, a 20th-century economy, guiding our free market with regulations to protect health and safety and fair competition. Empowering workers with union movements, investing in science and infrastructure and educational institutions like U of I.

Strengthening our system of primary and secondary education and stitching together a social safety net. And all of this led to unrivaled prosperity and the rise of a broad and deep middle class, in the sense that if you worked hard, you could climb the ladder of success. Now not everyone was included in this prosperity. And although discrimination remained a pernicious force in our society, and continues to this day, and although there are controversies about how to best ensure genuine equality of opportunity, there has been at least rough agreement among the overwhelming majority of Americans that our country is strongest when everybody is treated fairly, when people are judged on the merits and content of their character and not the color of their skin or the way in which they worship God, or their last names.

The hoarding of the American dream. And that consensus then extended beyond our borders, and from the wreckage of World War II we built a postwar web, architecture, system of alliances and institutions to underwrite freedom and oppose Soviet totalitarianism and help poorer countries develop.

We made mistakes, at times we lost sight of our ideals. We had fierce arguments about Vietnam, and we had fierce arguments about Iraq. Fitful progress, incomplete progress, but progress. It was won because of countless quiet acts of heroism and dedication by citizens, by ordinary people, many of them not much older than you. It was won because rather than be bystanders to history, ordinary people fought and marched and mobilized and built and, yes, voted to make history.

Each time we painstakingly pull ourselves closer to our founding ideals, that all of us are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, the ideals that say every child should have opportunity and every man and woman in this country who is willing to work hard should be able to find a job and support a family and pursue the American dream, the ideals that say we have the responsibility to care for the sick and infirm and we have a responsibility to conserve the amazing bounty, the natural resources of this country and of this planet for future generations—each time we have gotten closer to those ideals, somebody somewhere has pushed back.

The status quo pushes back.

My president was black. Sometimes the backlash comes from people who are genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change. And you happen to be coming of age during one of those moments. It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He is just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years. But think about it—you have come of age in a smaller, more connected world, where demographic shifts and the winds of change have scrambled not only traditional economic arrangements but our social arrangements, and our religious commitments, and our civic institutions.

This change has happened fast, faster than any time in human history, and it created a new economy that has unleashed incredible prosperity. For those with unique skills or access to technology and capital, a global market has meant unprecedented wealth. For those not so lucky—for the factory worker, for the office worker, or even middle managers, those same forces may have wiped out your job, or at least put you in no position to ask for a raise.

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So you have come of age during a time of growing inequality, of fracturing of economic opportunity. And that growing economic divide compounded other divisions in our country—regional, racial, religious, cultural—and made it harder to build consensus on issues.

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  • Barack Obama: American Historian?

It made politicians less willing to compromise, which increased gridlock, which made people even more cynical about politics. The birth of the new American aristocracy. And then the reckless behavior of financial elites triggered a massive financial crisis, 10 years ago this week, a crisis that resulted in the worst recession in any of our lifetimes and caused years of hardship for the American people, for many of your parents, for many of your families.

Millions of people were losing their homes. Many were worried we were entering into a second Great Depression. So we worked hard to end that crisis, but also to break some of these longer-term trends, and the actions we took during that crisis returned the economy to healthy growth, and initiated the longest streak of job creation on record, and we covered another 20 million Americans with health insurance, and we cut our deficits by more than half, partly by making sure that people like me, who have been given amazing opportunities by this country, pay our fair share in taxes to help folks coming up behind them.

And by the time I left office, household income was near its all-time high, and the uninsured rate hit an all-time low and wages were rising and poverty rates were falling. Anyway, I digress.