Transcript: Illinois Senate Candidate Barack Obama
Tuesday, July 27, 2004; 11:09 PM
Candidate for U.S. Senate in Illinois, Barack Obama, delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston Tuesday night. Here is a transcript of his remarks.
OBAMA: Thank you so much. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Dick Durbin. You make us all proud.
On behalf of the great state of Illinois...
... crossroads of a nation, land of Lincoln, let me express my deep gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention. Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let's face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely.
My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin- roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.
OBAMA: But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place, America, that's shown as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before him.
While studying here my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas.
Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor, my grandfather signed up for duty, joined Patton's army, marched across Europe. Back home my grandmother raised a baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA and later moved west, all the way to Hawaii, in search of opportunity.
And they too had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream born of two continents.
OBAMA: My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or "blessed," believing that in a tolerant America, your name is no barrier to success.
They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren't rich, because in a generous America you don't have to be rich to achieve your potential.
They're both passed away now. And yet I know that, on this night, they look down on me with great pride.
And I stand here today grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents' dreams live on in my two precious daughters.
I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
OBAMA: Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy; our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...
... that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
That is the true genius of America, a faith...
... a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles; that we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm; that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door; that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe; that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution; and that our votes will be counted -- or at least, most of the time.
This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and our commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers and the promise of future generations.
OBAMA: And fellow Americans, Democrats, Republicans, independents, I say to you, tonight, we have more work to do...
... more work to do, for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that's moving to Mexico, and now they're having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay 7 bucks an hour; more to do for the father I met who was losing his job and chocking back the tears wondering how he would pay $4,500 a months for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits that he counted on; more to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her who have the grades, have the drive, have the will, but doesn't have the money to go to college.
Now, don't get me wrong, the people I meet in small towns and big cities and diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solves all of their problems. They know they have to work hard to get a head. And they want to.
Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you: They don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or by the Pentagon.
Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn.
OBAMA: They know that parents have to teach, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things.
People don't expect -- people don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice.
In this election, we offer that choice. Our party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. And that man is John Kerry.
John Kerry understands the ideals of community, faith and service because they've defined his life. From his heroic service to Vietnam to his years as prosecutor and lieutenant governor, through two decades in the United States Senate, he has devoted himself to this country. Again and again, we've seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available. His values and his record affirm what is best in us.
John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded. So instead of offering tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas, he offers them to companies creating jobs here at home.
OBAMA: John Kerry believes in an America where all Americans can afford the same health coverage our politicians in Washington have for themselves.
John Kerry believes in energy independence, so we aren't held hostage to the profits of oil companies or the sabotage of foreign oil fields.
John Kerry believes in the constitutional freedoms that have made our country the envy of the world, and he will never sacrifice our basic liberties nor use faith as a wedge to divide us.
And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an option sometimes, but it should never be the first option.
You know, a while back, I met a young man named Seamus (ph) in a VFW hall in East Moline, Illinois. He was a good-looking kid, 6'2", 6'3", clear eyed, with an easy smile. He told me he'd joined the Marines and was heading to Iraq the following week.
OBAMA: And as I listened to him explain why he had enlisted -- the absolute faith he had in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and service -- I thought, this young man was all that any of us might ever hope for in a child. But then I asked myself: Are we serving Seamus (ph) as well as he's serving us?
I thought of the 900 men and women, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors who won't be returning to their own hometowns. I thought of the families I had met who were struggling to get by without a loved one's full income or whose loved ones had returned with a limb missing or nerves shattered, but still lacked long-term health benefits because they were Reservists.
When we send our young men and women into harm's way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they are going, to care for their families while they're gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return and to never, ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace and earn the respect of the world.
OBAMA: Now, let me be clear. Let me be clear. We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued. And they must be defeated.
John Kerry knows this. And just as Lieutenant Kerry did not hesitate to risk his life to protect the men who served with him in Vietnam, President Kerry will not hesitate one moment to use our military might to keep America safe and secure.
John Kerry believes in America. And he knows that it's not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are all connected as one people.
If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child.
If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for their prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandparent.
If there's an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.
It is that fundamental belief -- it is that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper -- that makes this country work.
OBAMA: It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family: "E pluribus unum," out of many, one.
Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.
Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.
There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.
The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.
We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states.
There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.
We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
OBAMA: In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?
John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism here, the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't think about it, or health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it.
That's not what I'm talking. I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.
OBAMA: Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope: In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days ahead.
I believe that we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity.
I believe we can provide jobs for the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair.
I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs, and that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices and meet the challenges that face us.
America, tonight, if you feel the same energy that I do, if you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do, if you feel the same hopefulness that I do, if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon, from Washington to Maine, the people will rise up in November, and John Kerry will be sworn in as president. And John Edwards will be sworn in as vice president. And this country will reclaim it's promise. And out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come.
Thank you very much, everybody.
God bless you.
MLK'S SPEECH AT WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
December 18, 1963
The program normally heard at this time will be delayed this evening so that we may present the following special direct broadcast.
We now leave our studios.
Garrard Macleod: Good evening, this is Garrard Macleod speaking to you from the Herman W. Read Fieldhouse on the west campus of Western Michigan University. This evening we present an address by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. His topic tonight will be "Social Justice." Dr. King's address this evening will be the first in a series of three lectures on the topic "Conscience of America." Dr. King's appearance here at Western is being sponsored cooperatively by the University's Honors College and the University Assembly Programs Committee and the Student Council. Arrangements for tonight's address and the other lectures in the series, entitled "Conscience of America" were made by Dr. Samuel Clark, Director of the Honors College. The crowd so far tonight is surprisingly small here at the Field House. Of course, we have only to observe that it is a miserable night and very shortly now, we'll be hearing from Dr. King. His topic, as we mentioned, "Social Justice." Dr. King will be introduced by Western Michigan University President, James W. Miller. Dr. Miller will be introduced by Dr. Sam Clark who is Director of the Honors College.
While we're waiting for the program to begin tonight we might look briefly at some of the background of Martin Luther King. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, January 15, 1929, son of Dr. and Mrs. Martin L. King, Senior. Dr. King, Senior, is co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. King, Junior, is married to Coretta Scott. They have four children. Our speaker tonight received his education, his elementary and high school education, in the public schools of Atlanta, Georgia. His educational career then branched out somewhat, in fact, quite a good deal. He received his bachelor's degree at Morehouse College in 1948 and his bachelor of divinity degree at Crozer Theological Seminary, Chester, Pennsylvania in 1951. He also studied at the University of Pennsylvania, 1950 to 51. He studied at Harvard University, 1952-53. He received his Ph.D. from Boston University in 1955.
Coming now to the speaker's stand, Dr. Sam Clark, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, and Western Michigan University's President, Dr. James W. Miller. In just a moment we will begin our program tonight. Dr. Clark is now coming to the podium. We take you now to the podium and Dr. Samuel Clark.
Dr. Samuel Clark: Four announcements before the program begins. The annual Christmas concert of the University choir has been scheduled for this evening. They have kindly postponed their program until tomorrow. The concert will occur tomorrow at 8:15 p.m. in the University theater.
A question and answer period will follow this evening's address. Those of you who wish to ask a question may do so by writing it out on a piece of paper and giving it to one of the ushers that are above. They also have cards on which you can write your questions. The ushers will bring them down to the platform.
Our speaker for this evening must leave the field house at 9:30 in order to catch a plane a little after 10:00. We are asking that you remain seated for just a while after the program ends in order that he may leave. There is the possibility of many people wanting to meet him and get autographs and so on, but the very tight schedule in getting out to the airport prevents this. President James Miller will introduce the speaker for this evening.
Dr. James Miller: Students, faculty, and guests of the University. My assignment is a most pleasant one. I've been asked to first to draw your attention to the complete University symposium lecture series on the "Conscience of America" and also to introduce our distinguished speaker at the first of this series of lectures.
An educational institution has many purposes. Certainly one of these purposes is to prepare individuals to the point that they will possess not only superior qualities of analysis to go to the heart of complex problems, of which we have an abundance, but also to have the courage and the ability to state their convictions clearly, concisely, and openly. But this is not enough.
There is yet another purpose. The logical consequence of study and thought is action. If you don't remember anything else, remember that. The logical consequence of study and thought is action. Otherwise, this whole business of education is a sham. Higher education can be rightfully proud of its position of leadership in the areas of technical and scientific revolutions. Where we have fallen down is in producing leaders in matters political, moral, cultural, and spiritual. These are the areas in which we should be seeking a revolution. The spiritual strength of America demands personal development and involvement in matters not only economic but also spiritual, social, and moral. The President Emeritus of Brown University, Dr. Henry M. Wristin, said, "An underdeveloped citizen physically, mentally, and morally is not an energizer but a burden upon society."
For these reasons, we are most certainly pleased that our faculty and our student council have arranged for this series of lectures and discussions on the "Conscious of America." The series opens this evening with a discussion of "Social Justice." The second topic will be "Wealth and the Human Spirit" and the third will be "Peace and Force." No more significant series of lectures could be offered on any university campus.
We are most fortunate to have as a speaker in the first of the "Conscience of America" series a man who was cited in 1957 by the Gallop Poll as one of the most admired religious leaders in the world. He is the same man who was selected in 1957 by Time Magazine as one of the ten outstanding personalities of the year. His citations, more than seventy-five in number, include one which I feel it is most important to call to your attention, namely, that our speaker is ranked as one of the sixteen world leaders who contributed most to the advancement of freedom in the year 1959. This was a poll conducted by Link Magazine of New Delhi, India. In addition to his regular duties as co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, our speaker has authored several books. The three most recent are "Stride Toward Freedom" published by Harper and Brothers in 1958. This book received a Ainsfield-Wolf award as the best book on race relations in 1958 "The Measure of Man" published the Christian Education Press in 1959 and most recently, back in this year, 1963, "Strength to Love" published by Harper and Row. Our speaker is married. He is the father of four children. He was educated in the public schools of Atlanta, Georgia, studied at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University from 1950 to 1953. In 1955, he received his Ph. D. degree in the field systematic theology from Boston University in the east. His thesis was "A Comparison of God in the thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman." This will be of particular interest to our students and faculty in the department of philosophy and religion at Western. He holds honorary degrees from a dozen or more universities throughout this country. Now that I've said all of this, may I say that his real importance as an individual is that while he has personally had to meet great adversity to gain his knowledge, he has done with his knowledge what all educated people should do, namely, he has put it to use for public advantage. It gives me great pleasure at this time to introduce on the Western Michigan University campus, a distinguished theologian, a gentleman of thought, and a leader for nonviolent action, the Reverend Martin King, Junior. Reverend King.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: President Miller, Dr. Clark, members of the faculty and members of the student body of this great institution of learning, ladies and gentlemen, I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here and to have the opportunity of being a part of your lecture series. I think I should say in the beginning that I owe you and this University a great apology. I am so sorry that I was unable to fulfil my commitment on the second of December and I can assure you that was because of health circumstances beyond my control, but I am very happy that we could rearrange this date and I want to express my appreciation to the committee and to the University for extending the invitation. It is always a rich and rewarding experience for me when I can take a brief break from the day to day and hour to hour demands of our struggle in the South to discuss the issues involved in this struggle with college and university students. So again, I say I am very delighted to be here.
In line with the theme that has been selected for this series, I would like to use as a subject from which to speak a social justice and the emerging new age. Some time ago the former prime minister to England, Mr. Harold MacMillan, was taking a trip through Africa. He stopped at one point to make this significant statement, "The wind of change is blowing in Africa." Certainly, we can enlarge that statement by saying the wind of change is blowing all over our world today. It is sweeping away an old order and bringing into being a new order.
Now we are all familiar with this old order that is passing away. We have lived with it and we have seen it in all of its dimensions. We have seen the old order in its international dimensions in the form of colonialism and imperialism. As you know, the vast majority of the peoples of our world live in Asia and Africa. For many, many years, people of these two continents were dominated politically, exploited economically, segregated and humiliated by some foreign power. But even there we notice change has taken place. I can remember when Mrs. King and I first journeyed to Africa to attend the independence celebration of the new nation of Ghana. We were very happy about the fact there were now eight independent countries in Africa. But since that night in March, 1957, some twenty-seven new independent nations have come into being in Africa. This reveals to us that the old order of colonialism is passing away, and the new order of freedom and human dignity is coming into being.
But not only have we seen the old order in its international dimensions, we have seen it in our own nation in the form of slavery and racial segregation. We all know the long history of the old order in America. It had its beginning in 1619 when the first slaves landed on the shores of this nation. They were brought here from the soils of Africa. Unlike the Pilgrim fathers who landed at Plymouth a year later, they were brought here against their wills. Throughout slavery, the Negro was treated in a very inhuman fashion. He was a thing to be used, not a person to be respected. He was merely a depersonalized cog in a vast plantation machine. The famous Dred Scott decision of 1857 well illustrated the status of the Negro during slavery. For in this decision, the Supreme Court of the United States said in substance that the Negro is not a citizen of this nation, he is merely property subject to the dictates of his owner. It went on to say that the Negro has no rights that the white man is bound to respect.
Living with the conditions of slavery and then later segregation, many Negroes lost faith in themselves. Many came to feel that perhaps they were less than human, perhaps they were inferior. But then something happened to the Negro. Circumstances made it possible and necessary for him to travel more. The coming of the automobile, the upheavals of two world wars, the great depression. So his rural plantation background gradually gave way to urban industrial life. His economic life was gradually rising and even his cultural life was gradually rising through the steady decline of crippling illiteracy.
All of these forces conjoined to cause the Negro to take a new look at himself. His religion revealed to him that God loves all of his children and that all men are made in his image. That the basic thing about a man is not his specificity but his fundamental. Not the texture of his hair or the color of his skin but his eternal dignity and worth. So the Negro could now unconsciously cry out with the eloquent poet. "Fleecy locks and black complexions cannot alter nature's claim. Skins may differ, but affection dwells in blacks and white the same. If I was so tall to reach the poll, or grasp the ocean with a span I must be judge by my soul, the mind is the standard of the man!"
With this new sense of dignity and this new sense of self-respect, a new Negro came into being, with the new determination to struggle, to suffer and sacrifice in order to be free. With this reevaluation of the heart of the Negro of his basic intrinsic nature, we could see something of a gradual decline and a gradual end in the old order.
Then some else happened to bring about a gradual end to the old order in the United States, the Supreme Court, as I said, had rendered in 1857 the Dred Scott Decision. In 1896, the Supreme Court of our nation rendered another decision which was known as the Plessy versus Ferguson Decision. Here the doctrine of separate but equal was established as a law of the land. Then in 1954, the Supreme Court of our nation came out with another decision. It examined the legal body of segregation and pronounced it constitutionally dead. On May 17 of that year, the United States Supreme Court said the old Plessy doctrine must go, that separate facilities are inherently unequal and that to segregate a child on the basis on his race is to deny that child equal protection of the law. As a result of this decision, we've seen numerous changes in our nation. To put it figuratively in biblical language, we've broken loose from the Egypt of slavery and we have moved through the wilderness of legal segregation and now we stand on the border of the promised land of integration. The old order of segregation is passing away. The new order of freedom, justice, and human dignity is coming into being. There can be no gainsaying of the fact that the system of segregation is on its deathbed today. The only thing uncertain about it is how costly the segregationists will make the funeral. The old order is passing away. The new order is coming into being.
Now whenever anything new comes into history, it brings with it news responsibilities and new challenges. I would like to mention some of the challenges that we face in the world and in our nation as a result of this emerging new age of social justice. I would like to start on the world scale by saying more than ever before that men and women are challenged to develop a world perspective.
The world in which we live is geographically one. Now we are challenged to make it one in terms of brotherhood. Now it is true that the geographical oneness of this age has come into being to a large extent through man's scientific ingenuity. Man through his scientific genius has been able to dwarf distance and place, time and change. Our jet plans have compressed minutes into distances that once took months and weeks and days. I think Bob Hope has adequately described this new jet age in which we live. He said "It is an age in which it is possible to take a non-stop flight from Los Angeles, California to New York city--a distance of some three thousand miles--and if on taking off in Los Angeles you develop hiccups, you will 'hic' in Los Angeles and 'cup' in New York City." You know it is possible because time difference to take a non-stop flight from Tokyo, Japan on Sunday morning and arrive in Seattle, Washington on the preceding Saturday night and when your friends meet you at the airport and ask when you left Tokyo, you will have to say, I left tomorrow. Now this is a bit humorous but I'm trying to laugh a basic fact into all of us. It is simply this, that through our scientific genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood. Now through our ethical and moral commitment, we must make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools. This is the great challenge of the hour. This is true of individuals. It is true of nations. No individual can live alone. No nation can live alone.
Some time ago, it was our good fortune to journey to that great country known as India. I never will forget the experience. I never will forget the marvelous experiences that came to Mrs. King and I as we met and talked with the great leaders of India, met and talked with hundreds and thousands of people all over the cities and villages of that vast country. These experiences will remain dear to me as long as the chords of memories shall linger. But I must also say that there were those depressing moments, for how can one avoid being depressed when he sees with his own eyes millions of people going to bed hungry at night? How can one avoid being depressed when he sees with his own eyes millions of people sleeping on the sidewalks at night, no beds to sleep in, no houses to go in. How can one avoid being depressed when he discovers that out of India's population, more than 400,000,000 people, some 380,000,000 earn less than ninety dollars a year. Most of these people have never seen a doctor or dentist. As I notice these conditions, something within me cried out, "Can we in America stand idly by and not be concerned?" Then an answer came, "Oh, no, because the destiny of the United States is tied up with the destiny of India and every other nation." I started thinking about the fact that we spend millions of dollars a day to store surplus food. I said to myself, I know where we can store that food free of charge, the wrinkled stomachs of the millions of God's children that go to bed hungry at night.
All I'm saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we're caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality. John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms. "No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of a Continent, a part of the main." He goes on toward the end to say "Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee." It seems to me that this is the first challenge. This emerging new age.
There is another basic challenge. We are challenged to get rid of the notion, once and for all, that there are superior and inferior races. This notion still lingers around in various quarters in spite of the fact that certain intellectual disciplines like the anthropological sciences have said to us that there isn't any truth in this. Great anthropologists like Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead and the late Melville Herskovits and others have said that through their long years of study there is not truth in the idea there are superior and inferior races. There may be superior and inferior individuals academically within all races, but there are no superior and inferior races. We have learned there are four types of blood and these four types of blood are found within all racial groups, and yet, the notion still lingers around there are superior and inferior races.
Now there was a time when people used to argue this notion on the basis of religion and the Bible. It is tragic how individuals will often use religion and the Bible or misuse religion and the Bible to crystalize a status quo and justify their prejudices. So it was argued from some pulpits that the Negro was inferior by nature because of Noah's curse upon the children of Ham. Then the apostle Paul's dictum became a watchword "Servants be obedient to your masters."
Then one brother probably studied the logic of the great philosopher Aristotle. You know Aristotle did a great deal to bring into being what we now know as formal logic. Formal logic has a big word called the syllogism. The syllogism has a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. And so this brother decided to put his argument of the inferiority of the Negro in the framework of an Aristotelian syllogism. He could say all men are made in the image of God. This was his major premise. Then came the minor premise. God is, as everybody knows, not a Negro; therefore, the Negro is not a man. This was the type of reasoning that prevailed and it still gets around. I read just the other day where someone in Mississippi said that God was a charter member of the White Citizens Council. These ideas still linger. But on the whole, the Biblical justifications have passed away. The arguments are now on more subtle sociological cultural grounds. The Negro is not culturally ready for integration, the argument goes, and if you integrate the schools and other facilities, you will pull the white race back a generation. And the Negro is a criminal, you see. These arguments go on ad infinatum. The people who set forth these arguments never go on to say that if there are lagging standards in the Negro community, and there certainly are, they lag because of segregation and discrimination. Criminal responses and other things like this are environmental and not racial. Economic deprivation, social isolation, ignorance, poverty breed crime, whatever the racial group may be, and it is a tortuous logic to use the tragic results of segregation as an argument for the continuation of it. There is a need to go for the causal root, to grapple with the problem at that point and to get rid of the notion once and for all that there are superior and inferior races. There are too many things alive in our nation and in our world to disprove this notion that has existed all too long. Then we're challenged after working in the realm of ideas, to move out into the arena of social action and to work passionately and unrelentingly to make racial justice a reality. In other words, there is great need to develop an action program in order to remove all of the vestiges of the old order.
Now in order to do this, we must answer and deal with one or two myths that are still disseminated and often block powerful social action in order to grapple with the evils of society. One argument is the myth of time. This myth says in substance that only time can solve problems that we face in the area of human relations. So there are those who say to individuals struggling to make justice a reality. Why don't you wait and stop pushing so hard. If you will just be patient and wait 100 or 200 years the problem will work itself out. Well this argument still goes around. The only answer that one can give to this myth is that time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. I'm convinced that the people of ill-will in our nation have often used time much more effectively that the people of good will. It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and violent actions of the bad people who will bomb a church in Birmingham, Alabama but for the appalling silence of the good people who sit idly by and say wait on time. Somewhere along the way we must see that time will never solve the problem alone but that we must help time. Somewhere we must see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels on inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God. Without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social stagnation. We must always help time and realize that the time is always right to do right.
Now the other myth that gets around is the idea that legislation cannot really solve the problem and that it has no great role to play in this period of social change because you've got to change the heart and you can't change the heart through legislation. You can't legislate morals. The job must be done through education and religion. Well, there's half-truth involved here. Certainly, if the problem is to be solved then in the final sense, hearts must be changed. Religion and education must play a great role in changing the heart. But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also. [APPLAUSE] So there is a need for executive orders. There is a need for judicial decrees. There is a need for civil rights legislation on the local scale within states and on the national scale from the federal government.
The late President Kennedy, great late president of our nation, who faced the tragedy of an assassin's bullet, just a few months ago stood before this nation and said we face a moral issue in the area of human relations. Every American must be treated as a person. He went on to say that equality of opportunity must be a reality for every American if the American dream is to be a reality. Immediately after that, he recommended to the Congress of our nation the strongest package of civil rights legislation, the most comprehensive ever presented by any president of the United States. Now the challenge is before the Congress of our nation to pass this legislation, to pass this legislation because it is a moral issue, to pass this legislation because it is a necessity to make democracy a reality for all people of this nation, but we still see delaying tactics. We still see evasive schemes being used. We still see southern congressman tying up basic legislation in a particular committee, in this instance, the Rules Committee. We still see the possibility of the filibuster ahead in the senate. There is a great need at this hour for all people of good will of this nation to get together and say that this legislation must be passed and that it must be passed soon. I'm convinced that if it is not passed, this ugly sore of racial segregation on the body politic of our nation will suddenly turn malignant and we will be inflicted with an incurable cancer that will totally destroy the soul of American society. So that is a great opportunity ahead. As President Lyndon Johnson said in his first speech to the nation as he addressed Congress a few days ago, "The greatest tribute that we can pay to late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is to pass, and pass soon, the Civil Rights legislation that he recommended and then go out to implement this legislation after it is enacted." There is a need for legislation, as I said, in every state in our union. For this problem is not just a local sectional problem, it is national problem. De facto segregation in the north must be grappled with, with as seriousness and concern as de jure legislation in the south. We must come to see that quality of opportunity and employment must be a reality in northern communities as well as southern communities. There is need for legislation to make all of this a reality. There is need for legislation to make housing open so that there would be no discrimination in this area. For as long as there is residential segregation, there will be de facto segregation in every area of life. So the challenge is here to develop an action program.
Now I would not want to leave you with the impression that there is not a great role for the Negro himself to play in the area of action if freedom is to be a reality. This is why in the movement, in the south and over the nation, we've tried to say in figurative language that freedom is not some lavish dish that the federal government will pass out on the silver platter while the Negro merely furnishes the appetite. If freedom is to be a reality for the Negro, he must be willing to sacrifice and struggle for it and suffer when necessary. This is what we've tried to do in this whole struggle and this nonviolent revolution which is taking place in our nation.
I would like to say just a few words about this philosophy and method of nonviolence since it constitutes such a prominent place in our whole struggle. I am still convinced that nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and justice. There is power and real power in this method. First it has a way of disarming the opponent. It exposes his moral defenses. It weakens his morale and at the same time it works on his conscience. He just doesn't know how to handle it. If he doesn't beat you, wonderful. If he sets out to beat you, you develop the quiet courage of accepting blows without retaliating. If he doesn't put you in jail, wonderful. Nobody with any sense loves to go jail. If he puts you in jail, you go in that jail and transform it from a dungeon of shame to a haven of freedom and human dignity. Even if he tries to kill you, you develop the inner conviction that some things are so precious, that there are some things so dear, some things so eternally worthful, that they are worth dying for. If an individual has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live. When one discovers this, there is power in this method. It disarms the opponent, and he just doesn't know how to deal with it. I've seen this so many times in our struggle in the south. I've seen the opponents as they sought to block the advance of the nonviolent movement and whenever sporadic outbreaks of violence took place, they were very happy. They were not happy when there was an absolute commitment to nonviolence because they don't quite know how to handle nonviolence. It has this power. It has this way of disarming the opponent.
There is another thing about this method that is very important. It give the individual a method of struggling for moral ends through moral means. One of the great debates of history has been over the whole question of ends and means. There have been those individuals from Greek philosophy right on down to Machiavelli right on up to the present day who argue that the end justifies the means. I think this is one of the great weaknesses of communism. Right here, the argument that it doesn't matter about the means. Any method is justifiable in as much as it brings about the end of the goal of the classless society. This is where the nonviolent movement would break with communism or any other system that argues that the end justifies the means because in the long run of history the end is pre-existing in the means. The means represent the ideal in the making and the end in process. It is a wonderful thing to have a method of struggle that says you can use moral means to gain moral ends.
For there is another thing about this philosophy that says you can stand before an unjust system and resist it with all your might and yet maintain an attitude of active good will toward the perpetrators of that unjust system. So it goes on to say that the ethic of love can stand at the center of the nonviolent movement. Now when I talk about love at this point, people always have questions to raise. They begin to say, what do you mean, love those who are bombing your home and those who are oppressing you and using any method to keep you in the state of injustice, the state of slavery. How in the world can you love such people? Well let me rush on to say that when I speak of love, I'm not talking about emotional bosh. I think in so many instances, this whole idea is misunderstood. It is absurd to urge oppressed people to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense. I'm not talking about an affectionate emotion at this point. I think the Greek language comes to our rescue at this point, there are three words in the Greek language for love.
There is the word "eros." Eros is a sort of aesthetic love, a yearning of the soul for the realm of the divine. Plato used to talk about it a great deal in his dialogues. It has come to us to be a sort of romantic love. So we all know about eros. We have experienced it and read it in all of the beauties of literature. In a sense, Edgar Allen Poe was talking about eros when he talked about his beautiful Annabel Lee with a love surrounded by the halo of eternity. In a sense Shakespeare was talking about eros when he said "Love is not love which alters when an alteration finds or bends with the removal to remove. It is an ever fixed mark which looks on tempest and is never shaken. It is a star to every wandering bark." You know, I can remember that because I have quote it to my wife every now and then. That's eros.
The Greek language talks about "philia" which is the sort of intimate affection between personal friends. This is a significant love and on this level, you love people that you like, people that you have dealings with, people that are friends. This is friendship.
Then the Greek language comes out with the word, "agape." Agape is more than romantic or aesthetic love. Agape is more than friendship. Agape is creative, understanding, redemptive good will for all men. It is an overflowing love that seeks nothing in return. Theologians would say that this is the love of God operating in the human heart. When one rises to love on this level, he loves every man. He rises to the point of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. I believe that this is the kind of love that can carry us through this period of transition. This is what we've tried to teach through this nonviolent discipline.
So in many instances, we have been able to stand before the most violent opponents and say in substance, we will meet your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because non-cooperation with evil is just as much moral obligation as is cooperation with good, and so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Threaten our children and bomb our homes and our churches and as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hours and drag us out on some wayside road and beat us and leave us half-dead, and as difficult as that is, we will still love you. But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves, we will so appeal to your heart and your conscience that we will win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory. This is a nonviolent message. It has brought about many amazing changes. It has brought about integration at lunch counters in more than 350 cities in the South since the sit-in movement of 1960. It has brought an end, almost, to segregation in public transportation all over the south since the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and 6, the nonviolent freedom rides in 1961, and many changes are still taking place.
There is another thing about this attitude. We'll help those of us who have been the victims of oppression, and those of us who have been the victims of injustices in the old order, to go into the new order with the proper attitude, an attitude of reconciliation. It will help us to go in not with an idea of rising from position of disadvantage, to one of advantage, thus subverting justice. It will not cause us to substitute one tyranny for another. This is why I have said all over this nation that we must never substitute a doctrine of black supremacy for white supremacy. For the doctrine of black supremacy is as dangerous as white supremacy. God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men and brown men and yellow men but God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race, the creation of a society where all men will live together as brothers.
I think with all of these challenges being met and with all of the work, and determination going on, we will be able to go this additional distance and achieve the ideal, the goal of the new age, the age of social justice.
May I reiterate the problem will not work itself out. May I reiterate that it is not a sectional problem. No area of our country can boast of clean hands in the realm of brotherhood. It is one thing for a white person of good will in the north to rise up with righteous indignation when a bus is burning in Anniston, Alabama with freedom riders or when a church is burned or bombed in Birmingham, Alabama killing four, unoffending, innocent beautiful girls. When in Jackson, Mississippi a Medgar Evers is shot down or when in Oxford, Mississippi, some fifteen or sixteen thousand troops are necessary for our courageous James Meredith to go to a university of that state. A white person of good will in the north must rise up with as much righteous indignation when a Negro cannot live in his neighborhood, when a Negro cannot get a job in his firm, when a Negro cannot join his professional society, when a Negro cannot join his fraternity or her sorority. In other words, if this problem is to be solved there must be a sort of divine discontent all over this nation.
There are certain technical words within every academic discipline that soon become stereotypes and cliches. Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word in modern psychology. It is the word "maladjusted." This word is the ringing cry to modern child psychology. Certainly, we all want to avoid the maladjusted life. In order to have real adjustment within our personalities, we all want the well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurosis, schizophrenic personalities.
But I say to you, my friends, as I move to my conclusion, there are certain things in our nation and in the world which I am proud to be maladjusted and which I hope all men of good-will will be maladjusted until the good societies realize. I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self-defeating effects of physical violence. But in a day when sputniks and explorers are dashing through outer space and guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can win a war. It is no longer the choice between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence, and the alternative to disarmament. The alternative to absolute suspension of nuclear tests. The alternative to strengthening the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation. This is why I welcome the recent test-ban treaty.
In other words, I'm about convinced now that there is need for a new organization in our world. The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment--men and women who will be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos. Who in the midst of the injustices of his day could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." As maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln who had the vision to see that this nation would not survive half-slave and half-free. As maladjusted as Thomas Jefferson who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery would scratch across the pages of history words lifted to cosmic proportions, "We know these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator certain unalienable rights" that among these are "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." As maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth who could say to the men and women of his day, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. Pray for them that despitefully use you." Through such maladjustment, I believe that we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man's inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice. My faith is that somehow this problem will be solved.
In spite of the difficulties of this hour, I am convinced that we have the resources to make the American Dream a reality. I am convinced of this because I believe Carlyle is right. "No lie can live forever." I am convinced of this because I believe William Cullen Bryant is right. "Truth pressed to earth will rise again." I am convinced of this because I think James Russell Lowell is right. "Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne; Yet that scaffold sways the future, And behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, Keeping watch above His own." Somehow with this faith, we will be able to adjourn the councils of despair and bring new life into the dark chambers of pessimism. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation to a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. This will be a great day. This will be the day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God, Almighty, we are free at last!" Thank you. [APPLAUSE]
Military-Industrial Complex Speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961
Public Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960, p. 1035- 1040
My fellow Americans:
Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.
This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.
Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.
Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the Nation.
My own relations with the Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and, finally, to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.
In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the national good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the Nation should go forward. So, my official relationship with the Congress ends in a feeling, on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.
We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.
Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.
Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology -- global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger is poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle -- with liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.
Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research -- these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.
But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs -- balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage -- balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.
The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. I mention two only.
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present
- and is gravely to be regarded.
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.
Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.
Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.
Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war -- as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years -- I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.
Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.
So -- in this my last good night to you as your President -- I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find some things worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.
You and I -- my fellow citizens -- need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation's great goals.
To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration:
We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.
Obama Speech In Cairo: VIDEO, Full Text 4JUN09
Below, the full text of President Obama's speech in Cairo, Egypt, titled "A New Beginning."
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I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum.
We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world - tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.
Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.
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So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.
I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." That is what I will try to do - to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.
Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.
As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam - at places like Al-Azhar University - that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.
I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers - Thomas Jefferson - kept in his personal library.
So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.
But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words - within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."
Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores - that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.
Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.
So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations - to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.
Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.
For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. And when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.
This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.
That does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: we must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.
The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.
In Ankara, I made clear that America is not - and never will be - at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.
The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.
Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.
That's why we're partnering with a coalition of forty-six countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths - more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism - it is an important part of promoting peace.
We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.
Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."
Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future - and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its Security Forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.
And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.
So America will defend itself respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.
The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.
America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed - more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction - or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews - is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.
For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers - for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.
That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them - and all of us - to live up to our responsibilities.
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.
Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.
Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.
Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel's legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.
America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.
Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.
The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.
This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.
It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.
I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation - including Iran - should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.
The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.
I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.
There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments - provided they govern with respect for all their people.
This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.
The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.
Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.
Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of another's. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld - whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.
Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.
Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit - for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.
Indeed, faith should bring us together. That is why we are forging service projects in America that bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That is why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's Interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into Interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action - whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.
The sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights.
I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.
Now let me be clear: issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.
Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity - men and women - to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.
Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.
I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities. In all nations - including my own - this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities - those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.
But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradiction between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.
This is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf States have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas. I am emphasizing such investments within my country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas in this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.
On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America, while encouraging more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in on-line learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a teenager in Kansas can communicate instantly with a teenager in Cairo.
On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.
On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new Science Envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, and grow new crops. And today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.
All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.
The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world we seek - a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.
I know there are many - Muslim and non-Muslim - who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort - that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country - you, more than anyone, have the ability to remake this world.
All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort - a sustained effort - to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.
It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples - a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.
We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.
The Holy Koran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."
The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."
The Holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you
I Have a Dream - Address at March on Washington
August 28, 1963. Washington, D.C.
Watch the Full 16 min video of Martin Luther King's famous I Have a Dream Speach Watch the Full 16-min video of Martin Luther King's famous I Have a Dream Speach
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. [Applause]
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.
But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream Speech
* I Have A Dream Speech Text
* I Have A Dream Speech Audio
* I Have A Dream Speech Video
* I Have A Dream Speech Music
graduation ceremony, many dread attendance because of the painfully long, extraordinarily dry speeches. Often driping with overused clichés regarding never giving up, never letting people down, reaching for the stars, achieving dreams, maintaining integrity, and other overused, overly broad “inspirations” that end up dismissed the second the speaker steps away from the podium. Unsurprisingly, more daring types who choose to use their time to go completely against expectations and leave an impact using humor or frank discussions of tough subject matter such as death, cancer, and the dire state of the economy. Because of this, the risk-takers tend to garner a fair amount of attention on YouTube and other corners of the internet. The following commencement speeches, listed in no real particular order, stand as unique and memorable for either their hilarity, bucking of convention, or blunt honesty – sometimes all 3 at once.
1.) 1. Stephen Colbert 2006 Knox Commencement Address
In 2006, Knox College in Galesburg, IL conferred an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts to the titan of truthiness himself, comedian, author, commentator, and all-around awesome individual – Stephen Colbert. Allowing the audience to decide for itself if he adapts the satiric persona he adopts on The Colbert Report, he delivers a hilarious speech spanning 3 videos in total (available here and here). Commenting on drinking games revolving around the Lincoln-Douglas debates, questioning the school’s choice of mascot, and “sausage[s] of knowledge,” deposed Nigerian princes, (and more!), he engages and entertains the crowd and wrings considerable laughter out of a typically dry ceremony. Some parts even involve turning the generic platitudes of the usual commencement addresses up-side down, yet without ever compromising the intention of inspiring. Colbert is realistic enough to dissect the usual tenets of folly and cynicism present in youthful “wisdom” and understands that knowledge comes from experience far beyond the walls of a classroom. This inverts the expected while still keeping with the main point of delivering a commencement speech – a testament to Colbert’s considerable gift with words and concepts and proving that he fully deserved the honorary PhD.
2.) Conan O’Brien at Stuy 06 Graduation (Pt 1 of 2)
New York’s Stuyvescent High School played host to probably the only commencement speech in history that contains the phrases “sweet, sweet coin” and “pompous, self-important jackass.” Conan O’Brien received the honor of delivering their 2006 address, referencing his Harvard colors as visual shorthand for an over-inflated ego and dropping hilarious re-enactments of high school drama stereotypes. His trademark self-deprecation starts seeping into the speech, making it delightful viewing for his legions of fans. O’Brien enjoys subverting the stiff, boring, and utterly, painfully generic clichés regarding reaching for the stars and daring to dream that inspire yawns more than anything else. Instead, his giddily antisocial advice revolves around ostentatious displays of calling Stephen Hawking an “idiot,” burning anyone who questions the existence of a long-distance boyfriend or girlfriend with a “hot drink” to the face, and using diarrhea as an excuse to get out of a class. He does, of course, deliver some positive words on the value of knowledge and hard work as well – just in a way that actually imbues the typically mind-numbingly dull nature of a commencement address with interest and engagement. Now try to imagine Jay Leno up there in front of graduating seniors and keeping their attention by being genuinely funny.
3.) Will Ferrell Harvard Commencement Speech Part 1 of 5
Will Ferrell’s sense of humor may not be to everyone’s taste, of course, but the one thing everyone can agree on when it comes to his 2003 Harvard Class Day commencement address is that he managed to keep his clothes on for once. Beyond that, though, he enters into the auditorium with a bang, dancing enthusiastically to Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” and dressed in yacht yuppie attire in anticipation of a boat show. What follows is a deliriously enjoyable descent into manic man-child insanity, complete with screamed damnations of Harvard’s ignoring of Ferrell’s application, subsequent crying, and attempts to show the crowd “the real world through [his] eyes.” At the time, he was filming Anchorman – and plenty of Ron Burgundy’s Ted Baxter persona begins to leak through, with some excellent non sequiturs, random tangents, historical inaccuracies, and pseudointellectualism peppering an otherwise boring ceremony with his signature brand of humor. At one point, Ferrell launches into the George W. Bush impersonation that transformed him from sketch comedian to wildly popular movie star. Be sure to watch through until the end for a very special song performance!
4.) Alec Baldwin NYU Graduation Speech
No speech Alec Baldwin can give will come anywhere close to the David Mamet-penned “one scene wonder” from Glengarry Glenn Ross, but the man deserves points for trying. The NYU alumnus spoke to his alma mater in 2010 after failing to appear for the 2006 commencement. Due to the rain, the actor could only whittle his speech down to 5 minutes. The resulting video may not incite nearly as many laughs as the gut-busting hilarity of Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, or Will Ferrell, but few can argue that the man certainly knows how to speak – even when he starts to get a little choked up along the way, he still manages to maintain an air of authority and grace. Alec Baldwin could probably sit and read passages from the truly abysmal Twilight series and make them sound like brilliance on par with A Confederacy of Dunces, so it doesn’t matter if his speech delves into free-floating good times or not. He’s just that good. For his considerable contributions to the field of film, television, and theatre, NYU conferred an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree as well.
5.) Eugene Mirman 2009 LHS Commencement Speech
Russian-American comedian Eugene Mirman graduated from Massachusetts-based Lexington High School in 1992, returning again in 2009 to deliver a commencement address to the lucky seniors escaping their “12 years of knowledge prison.” Although he obviously has to tone himself down a little for the younger audience, some excellent snippets of political and social commentary still manage to slip in there – including how Americans try to “hook up” with foreigners when studying abroad, the fact that 18-year-olds can enlist in the military but not drink, and the crumbling economy. Like other comedians on this list, he finds humor in using generic well-wishes and nuggets of ostensible inspiration involving charging into the future and acting as leaders and reaching for the sky and the like. One of the better parts, though, involves him calling out the cliché of firing off “a personal anecdote about perseverance” and following it up with sage advice and song lyrics – which he then proceeds to do with epic hilarity.
6.) Rachel Maddow Commencement Address for Smith College Class of 2010
Smith College chose MSNBC political commentator Rachel Maddow to receive an honorary Doctor of Law degree and speak at its 2010 graduation ceremony. She starts off with a story regarding radical teetotaler Carrie Nation, sprinkling the woman’s “lust” for destroying property (specifically, saloons) with humor. It is not the type of story one expects to hear at a graduation, but Maddow enjoys researching and discussing political corruption past and present – and she is not ashamed to openly call out figures on the left and the right alike in her speech for their embarrassing behaviors. But the bulk of her speech concerns the history of the prohibition movement as a lesson in her belief that “personal triumphs are overrated” – even citing KFC’s salty, disgusting greasewad of shame and woe known as the Double Down as another example. She completely subverts the usual commencement platitudes by discussing how hard work and staying with dreams can frequently come at a considerable cost to the well-being of others, making a case for mindfulness and ethics and NOT living life every day as if it is not the last.
7.) ali g harvard speach part 1
Ignore the irony present in the title and enjoy British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s Class Day commencement address as his controversial satirical character Ali G. Never once breaking character, he passes the speech by parodying privileged Caucasians who borrow liberally from African-American and Afro-Caribbean cultures in order to seem cool and exotic without actually showing any real respect for the people and countries who shaped them. Most of Cohen’s work involves holding a mirror up to social stigmas, flaws, hypocrisies, and downright silliness, and he doesn’t reel any of it in to speak with the Harvard Class of 2004. Few would expect an Ivy League school commence speech to involve liberal amounts of porn, drugs, and alcohol references, but the comedian’s intentions remain, as always, satirical commentary rather than a juvenile last resort. As one can probably imagine, he also draws from the typical, hum-drum fare involving chasing dreams and spices it up with discussions of his own academic shortcomings, some of the fringe benefits of working in medicine, a woman’s role in the home, and “ka-nowledge.” It’s funny stuff for those in on the joke and with a love of politically incorrect reflections on how some members of society operate.
8.) Seth MacFarlane’s Harvard Class Day Speech (1 of 4)
Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane knows what people expect of his public appearances, and in 2006 his Harvard Class Day commencement speech came with a few guest stars. As the voice of numerous characters on the cartoon – most notably Peter, Stewie, and Brian Griffin and Glenn Quagmire – he took advantage of this claim to fame and played as all of them (save for the droll little dog) during his time at the microphone. Like he points out, nobody came to hear him spout off the usual inspirational platitudes. They wanted voices. Lots and lots of voices. MacFarlane pokes gentle fun at his own cash cow, Lost, Harvard itself, South Park, religion, Desperate Housewives, and…well…as Family Guy fans know…everything he can get his metaphorical hands on. As a bonus, he throws in a number of in-joke for fans of the show. For his entertaining remarks, the Harvard Class of 2006 declared him an honorary member.
9.) Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address
Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs was invited to deliver the commencement address at Stanford University in 2005. Though not a particularly humorous speech, Jobs does point out the irony that he never actually graduated from college before becoming one of the leading computer technicians and businessmen in the United States. 3 stories from his life form the cornerstone of the address, and while he does slip into the usual “follow your heart” dialogue, much of what Jobs has to say seems far more compelling when one realizes that only the year before he had received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Knowing this while watching his pleas to the graduates to find something they love, working hard, maintaining productive relationships, and constantly striving for something better adds an extra sense of urgency to his words. He speaks openly about his condition and how death leaves individuals feeling “vulnerable,” which seems morbid in a commencement speech but still serves a higher purpose. The universality of death can becomes an amazing motivator to keep with ones’ own affairs and goals, promoting individual innovation over staunch conformity.
10.) President Obama: Notre Dame Commencement
Frequently lauded for his warm, laid-back, and humorous public speaking acumen, it comes as little surprise that at least one university out there sought out American President Barack Obama for their commencement address. Notre Dame snapped up the honor in 2009 along with an honorary law degree, amidst controversy that he openly addressed towards the beginning of his speech. When an audience member begins interrupting him to protest his pro-choice leanings when it comes to abortion, the President declared that he did not wish to “[shy] away from things that are uncomfortable” and let the man and the audience express themselves before moving on. Surprisingly, he confronts the current dismal state of affairs head-on, not glossing over the fact that the graduates will be inheriting the tough financial, political, and environmental issues left behind by previous generations. He unashamedly shares the whats and whys behind his viewpoints and hopes that the left and the right can find common ground to rebuild America into something more positive and inclusive.
What individuals consider “inspiration,” of course, remains subjective. But the previous videos left a mark on thousands of graduates and viewers who felt like the speakers had something of genuine interest to say. Though many of them stuck with the expected positivity and encouragement, they did so in a way that was so uniquely them that they stood out amongst others who once took to the podium. Rather than falling back on tired old clichés, they took hold of expectations and added their own personal dimensions and quirks – or completely tossed them out the window and delivered rapid-fire awesomeness that left the venue feeling upbeat rather than exhausted with epic boredom.
Remarks by the President on the Economy in Parma, Ohio
Cuyahoga Community College West Campus, Parma, Ohio
2:06 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Ohio! Thank you, Cleveland! (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you very much, everybody. Everybody, please have a seat. Have a seat. We've got some business to do today. (Applause.) Thank you very much.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. Thank you.
Before we get started I want to just acknowledge some outstanding public servants who are here. First of all, somebody who I believe is one of the finest governors in this country -- Ted Strickland is here. (Applause.) The lieutenant-governor and soon-to-be junior senator from the great state of Illinois -- or Ohio -- I was thinking about my own home -- Lee Fisher is here. (Applause.)
I used to hear that line all the time about “senator from Illinois” -- that would be me. (Laughter.)
Outstanding mayor of Cleveland, Frank Jackson is here. (Applause.) The mayor of Parma, Dean DePiero. (Applause.) Somebody who is fighting for working families each and every day, Senator Sherrod Brown is here. (Applause.) And three of the hardest-working and finest members of the House of Representatives -- Dennis Kucinich, Marcia Fudge, and John Boccieri. (Applause.)
Good afternoon, everybody. It is good to be back in Ohio. (Applause.)
You know, in the fall of 2008, one of the last rallies of my presidential campaign was right here in the Cleveland area. (Applause.) It was a hopeful time, just two days before the election. And we knew that if we pulled it off, we’d finally have the chance to tackle some big and difficult challenges that had been facing this country for a very long time.
We also hoped for a chance to get beyond some of the old political divides -– between Democrats and Republicans, red states and blue states -– that had prevented us from making progress. Because although we are proud to be Democrats, we are prouder to be Americans -– (applause) -- and we believed then and we believe now that no single party has a monopoly on wisdom.
That’s not to say that the election didn’t expose deep differences between the parties.
I ran for President because for much of the last decade, a very specific governing philosophy had reigned about how America should work: Cut taxes, especially for millionaires and billionaires. Cut regulations for special interests. Cut trade deals even if they didn’t benefit our workers. Cut back on investments in our people and in our future -– in education and clean energy, in research and technology. The idea was that if we just had blind faith in the market, if we let corporations play by their own rules, if we left everyone else to fend for themselves that America would grow and America would prosper.
And for a time this idea gave us the illusion of prosperity. We saw financial firms and CEOs take in record profits and record bonuses. We saw a housing boom that led to new homeowners and new jobs in construction. Consumers bought more condos and bigger cars and better TVs.
But while all this was happening, the broader economy was becoming weaker. Nobody understands that more than the people of Ohio. Job growth between 2000 and 2008 was slower than it had been in any economic expansion since World War II -– slower than it’s been over the last year. The wages and incomes of middle-class families kept falling while the cost of everything from tuition to health care kept on going up. Folks were forced to put more debt on their credit cards and borrow against homes that many couldn’t afford to buy in the first place. And meanwhile, a failure to pay for two wars and two tax cuts for the wealthy helped turn a record surplus into a record deficit.
I ran for President because I believed that this kind of economy was unsustainable –- for the middle class and for the future of our nation. I ran because I had a different idea about how America was built. (Applause.) It was an idea rooted in my own family’s story.
You see, Michelle and I are where we are today because even though our families didn’t have much, they worked tirelessly -– without complaint -– so that we might have a better life. My grandfather marched off to Europe in World War II, while my grandmother worked in factories on the home front. I had a single mom who put herself through school, and would wake before dawn to make sure I got a decent education. Michelle can still remember her father heading out to his job as a city worker long after multiple sclerosis had made it impossible for him to walk without crutches. He always got to work; he just had to get up a little earlier.
Yes, our families believed in the American values of self-reliance and individual responsibility, and they instilled those values in their children. But they also believed in a country that rewards responsibility; a country that rewards hard work; a country built on the promise of opportunity and upward mobility.
They believed in an America that gave my grandfather the chance to go to college because of the GI Bill; an America that gave my grandparents the chance to buy a home because of the Federal Housing Authority; an America that gave their children and grandchildren the chance to fulfill our dreams thanks to college loans and college scholarships.
It was an America where you didn’t buy things you couldn’t afford; where we didn’t just think about today -– we thought about tomorrow. An America that took pride in the goods that we made, not just the things we consumed. An America where a rising tide really did lift all boats, from the company CEO to the guy on the assembly line.
That’s the America I believe in. (Applause.) That’s the America I believe in. That's what led me to work in the shadow of a shuttered steel plant on the South Side of Chicago when I was a community organizer. It’s what led me to fight for factory workers at manufacturing plants that were closing across Illinois when I was a senator. It’s what led me to run for President -– because I don’t believe we can have a strong and growing economy without a strong and growing middle class. (Applause.)
Now, much has happened since that election. The flawed policies and economic weaknesses of the previous decade culminated in a financial crisis and the worst recession of our lifetimes. And my hope was that the crisis would cause everybody, Democrats and Republicans, to pull together and tackle our problems in a practical way. But as we all know, things didn’t work out that way.
Some Republican leaders figured it was smart politics to sit on the sidelines and let Democrats solve the mess. Others believed on principle that government shouldn’t meddle in the markets, even when the markets are broken. But with the nation losing nearly 800,000 jobs the month that I was sworn into office, my most urgent task was to stop a financial meltdown and prevent this recession from becoming a second depression. (Applause.)
And, Ohio, we have done that. The economy is growing again. The financial markets have stabilized. The private sector has created jobs for the last eight months in a row. (Applause.) And there are roughly 3 million Americans who are working today because of the economic plan we put into place.
But the truth is progress has been painfully slow. Millions of jobs were lost before our policies even had a chance to take effect. We lost 4 million in the six months before I took office. It was a hole so deep that even though we’ve added jobs again, millions of Americans remain unemployed. Hundreds of thousands of families have lost their homes. Millions more can barely pay the bills or make the mortgage. The middle class is still treading water, and those aspiring to reach the middle class are doing everything they can to keep from drowning.
And meanwhile, some of the very steps that were necessary to save the economy -– like temporarily supporting the banks and the auto industry -– fed the perception that Washington is still ignoring the middle class in favor of special interests.
And so people are frustrated and they’re angry and they’re anxious about the future. I understand that. I also understand that in a political campaign, the easiest thing for the other side to do is to ride this fear and anger all the way to Election Day.
That’s what’s happening right now. A few weeks ago, the Republican leader of the House came here to Cleveland and offered his party’s answer to our economic challenges. Now, it would be one thing if he had admitted his party’s mistakes during the eight years that they were in power, if they had gone off for a while and meditated, and come back and offered a credible new approach to solving our country’s problems.
But that’s not what happened. There were no new policies from Mr. Boehner. There were no new ideas. There was just the same philosophy that we had already tried during the decade that they were in power -- the same philosophy that led to this mess in the first place: Cut more taxes for millionaires and cut more rules for corporations.
Instead of coming together like past generations did to build a better country for our children and grandchildren, their argument is that we should let insurance companies go back to denying care for folks who are sick, or let credit card companies go back to raising rates without any reason. Instead of setting our sights higher, they’re asking us to settle for a status quo of stagnant growth and eroding competitiveness and a shrinking middle class.
Cleveland, that is not the America I know. That is not the America we believe in. (Applause.)
A lot has changed since I came here in those final days of the last election, but what hasn’t is the choice facing this country. It’s still fear versus hope; the past versus the future. It’s still a choice between sliding backward and moving forward. That’s what this election is about. That’s the choice you will face in November. (Applause.)
Now, we have a different vision for the future. See, I’ve never believed that government has all the answers to our problems. I’ve never believed that government’s role is to create jobs or prosperity. I believe it’s the drive and the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs, our small businesses; the skill and dedication of our workers -- (applause) -- that’s made us the wealthiest nation on Earth. (Applause.) I believe it’s the private sector that must be the main engine for our recovery.
I believe government should be lean; government should be efficient. I believe government should leave people free to make the choices they think are best for themselves and their families, so long as those choices don’t hurt others. (Applause.)
But in the words of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, I also believe that government should do for the people what they cannot do better for themselves. (Applause.) And that means making the long-term investments in this country’s future that individuals and corporations can't make on their own: investments in education and clean energy, in basic research and technology and infrastructure. (Applause.)
That means making sure corporations live up to their responsibilities to treat consumers fairly and play by the same rules as everyone else. (Applause.) Their responsibility is to look out for their workers, as well as their shareholders, and create jobs here at home.
And that means providing a hand-up for middle-class families –- so that if they work hard and meet their responsibilities, they can afford to raise their children, and send them to college, see a doctor when they get sick, retire with dignity and respect. (Applause.)
That’s what we Democrats believe in -– a vibrant free market, but one that works for everybody. (Applause.) That’s our vision. That's our vision for a stronger economy and a growing middle class. And that’s the difference between what we and Republicans in Congress are offering the American people right now.
Let me give you a few specific examples of our different approaches. This week, I proposed some additional steps to grow the economy and help businesses spur hiring. One of the keys to job creation is to encourage companies to invest more in the United States. But for years, our tax code has actually given billions of dollars in tax breaks that encourage companies to create jobs and profits in other countries.
I want to change that. (Applause.) I want to change that. Instead of tax loopholes that incentivize investment in overseas jobs, I’m proposing a more generous, permanent extension of the tax credit that goes to companies for all the research and innovation they do right here in Ohio, right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
And I’m proposing that all American businesses should be allowed to write off all the investment they do in 2011. And this will help small businesses upgrade their plants and equipment, and will encourage large corporations to get off the sidelines and start putting their profits to work in places like Cleveland and Toledo and Dayton. (Applause.)
Now, to most of you, I'll bet this just seems like common sense. (Laughter.) But not to Mr. Boehner and his allies. For years, Republicans have fought to keep these corporate loopholes open. In fact, when Mr. Boehner was here in Cleveland he attacked us for closing a few of these loopholes -– and using the money to help states like Ohio keep hundreds of thousands of teachers and cops and firefighters on the job. (Applause.)
Mr. Boehner dismissed these jobs we saved –- teaching our kids, patrolling our streets, rushing into burning buildings -– as “government jobs” -– jobs I guess he thought just weren’t worth saving.
And I couldn’t disagree more. I think teachers and police officers and firefighters are part of what keeps America strong. (Applause.) And, Ohio, I think if we’re going to give tax breaks to companies, they should go to companies that create jobs in America -– not that create jobs overseas. (Applause.) That’s one difference between the Republican vision and the Democratic vision. That’s what this election is all about. (Applause.)
Let me give you another example. We want to put more Americans back to work rebuilding America -– our roads, our railways, our runways. When the housing sector collapsed and the recession hit, one in every four jobs lost were in the construction industry. That’s partly why our economic plan has invested in badly needed infrastructure projects over the last 19 months –- not just roads and bridges, but high-speed railroads and expanded broadband access. Altogether, these projects have led to thousands of good, private sector jobs, especially for those in the trades.
Mr. Boehner and the Republicans in Congress said no to these projects. Fought them tooth and nail. Though I should say it didn’t stop a lot of them from showing up at the ribbon-cuttings -- (laughter) -- trying to take credit. That’s always a sight to see. (Laughter.)
Now, there are still thousands of miles of railroads and railways and runways left to repair and improve. And engineers, economists, governors, mayors of every political stripe believe that if we want to compete in this global economy, we need to rebuild this vital infrastructure. There is no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains or the most modern airports -– we want to put people to work building them right here in America. (Applause.)
So this week, I’ve proposed a six-year infrastructure plan that would start putting Americans to work right away. But despite the fact that this has traditionally been an issue with bipartisan support, Mr. Boehner has so far said no to infrastructure. That’s bad for America -– and that, too, is what this election is all about.
I’ll give you one final example of the differences between us and the Republicans, and that’s on the issue of tax cuts. Under the tax plan passed by the last administration, taxes are scheduled to go up substantially next year -- for everybody. By the way, this was by design. When they passed these tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, they didn’t want everybody to know what it would do to our deficit, so they pretended like they were going to end, even though now they say they don't.
Now, I believe we ought to make the tax cuts for the middle class permanent. (Applause.) For the middle class, permanent. These families are the ones who saw their wages and incomes flat-line over the last decade -– you deserve a break. (Applause.) You deserve some help. And because folks in the middle class are more likely to spend their tax cut on basic necessities, that strengthens the economy as a whole.
But the Republican leader of the House doesn’t want to stop there. Make no mistake: He and his party believe we should also give a permanent tax cut to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.
THE PRESIDENT: With all the other budgetary pressures we have -– with all the Republicans’ talk about wanting to shrink the deficit -- they would have us borrow $700 billion over the next 10 years to give a tax cut of about $100,000 each to folks who are already millionaires. And keep in mind wealthy Americans are just about the only folks who saw their incomes rise when Republicans were in charge. And these are the folks who are less likely to spend the money -- which is why economists don’t think tax breaks for the wealthy would do much to boost the economy.
So let me be clear to Mr. Boehner and everybody else: We should not hold middle-class tax cuts hostage any longer. (Applause.) We are ready, this week, if they want, to give tax cuts to every American making $250,000 or less. (Applause.) That's 98-97 percent of Americans. Now, for any income over this amount, the tax rates would just go back to what they were under President Clinton.
This isn’t to punish folks who are better off –- God bless them. It’s because we can’t afford the $700 billion price tag. (Applause.) And for those who claim that our approach would somehow be bad for growth and bad for small businesses, let me remind you that with those tax rates in place, under President Clinton, this country created 22 million jobs and raised incomes and had the largest surplus in our history. (Applause.)
In fact, if the Republican leadership in Congress really wants to help small businesses, they’ll stop using legislative maneuvers to block an up or down vote on a small business jobs bill that’s before the Senate right now. Right now. (Applause.) This is a bill that would do two things. It would cut taxes for small businesses and make loans more available for small businesses. (Applause.) It is fully paid for, won't add to the deficit. And it was written by Democrats and Republicans. And yet, the other party continues to block this jobs bill -– a delay that small business owners have said is actually leading them to put off hiring.
Look, I recognize that most of the Republicans in Congress have said no to just about every policy I’ve proposed since taking office. I realize in some cases that there are genuine philosophical differences. But on issues like this one -- a tax cut for small businesses supported by the Chamber of Commerce -- the only reason they’re holding this up is politics, pure and simple. (Applause.) They’re making the same calculation they made just before my inauguration: If I fail, they win. Well, they might think that this will get them to where they want to go in November, but it won’t get our country going where it needs to go in the long run. (Applause.) It won’t get us there. (Applause.) It won’t get us there. (Applause.) It won't get us there. (Applause.)
So that’s the choice, Ohio. Do we return to the same failed policies that ran our economy into a ditch, or do we keep moving forward with policies that are slowly pulling us out? (Applause.) Do we settle for a slow decline, or do we reach for an America with a growing economy and a thriving middle class? (Applause.) That’s the America that I see. We may not be there yet, but we know where this country needs to go.
We see a future where we invest in American innovation and American ingenuity; where we export more goods so we create more jobs here at home; where we make it easier to start a business or patent an invention; where we build a homegrown, clean energy industry -- because I don’t want to see new solar panels or electric cars or advanced batteries manufactured in Europe or Asia. (Applause.) I want to see them made right here in the U.S. of A by American workers. (Applause.)
We see an America where every citizen has the skills and training to compete with any worker in the world. That’s why we’ve set a goal to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. (Applause.) That’s why we’re revitalizing community colleges like this one. (Applause.) That’s why we’re reforming our education system based on what works for our children, not what perpetuates the status quo. (Applause.)
We see an America where a growing middle class is the beating heart of a growing economy. That’s why I kept my campaign promise and gave a middle-class tax cut to 95 percent of working Americans. (Applause.) That’s why we passed health insurance reform that stops insurance companies from jacking up your premiums at will or denying coverage because you get sick. (Applause.) That’s why we passed financial reform that will end taxpayer-funded bailouts; reform that will stop credit card companies and mortgage lenders from taking advantage of taxpayers and consumers. (Applause.)
That’s why we’re trying to make it easier for workers to save for retirement and fighting the efforts of some in the other party to privatize Social Security -- because as long as I’m President, no one is going to take the retirement savings of a generation of Americans and hand it over to Wall Street. Not on my watch. (Applause.)
That’s why we’re fighting to extend the child tax credit and make permanent our new college tax credit, because if we do, it will mean $10,000 in tuition relief for each child going to four years of college. (Applause.) And I don’t want any parent not to be sending their kids, in good time or bad, to college because they can’t afford it.
And finally, we see an America where we refuse to pass on the debt we inherited to the next generation.
Now, let me spend just a minute on this issue, because we’ve heard a lot of moralizing on the other side about this -- government spending and debt. Along with the tax cuts for the wealthy, the other party’s main economic proposal is that they’ll stop government spending.
Now, it’s right to be concerned about the long-term deficit. If we don’t get a handle on it soon, it can endanger our future. And at a time when folks are tightening their belts at home, I understand why a lot of Americans feel it’s time for government to show some discipline, too. But let’s look at the facts. When these same Republicans -- including Mr. Boehner -- were in charge, the number of earmarks and pet projects went up, not down.
These same Republicans turned a record surplus into a record deficit. When I walked in, wrapped in a nice bow was a $1.3 trillion deficit sitting right there on my doorstep. (Laughter.) A welcoming present.
Just this year, these same Republicans voted against a bipartisan fiscal commission that they themselves had proposed. Once I decided I was for it, they were against it. (Laughter.) And when you ask them what programs they’d actually cut they don’t have an answer.
That’s not fiscal responsibility. That’s not a serious plan to govern.
Now, I’ll be honest -– I refuse to cut back on those investments that will grow our economy in the future -– investments in areas like education and clean energy and technology. (Applause.) I don't want to cut those things. And that’s because economic growth is the single best way to bring down the deficit –- and we need these investments to grow.
But I am absolutely committed to fiscal responsibility, which is why I’ve already proposed freezing all discretionary spending unrelated to national security for the next three years. (Applause.)
And once the bipartisan fiscal commission finishes its work, I’ll spend the next year making the tough choices necessary to further reduce our deficit and lower our debt -- whether I get help from the other side or not. (Applause.)
Of course, reducing the deficit won’t be easy. Making up for the 8 million lost jobs caused by this recession won’t happen overnight. Not everything we’ve done over the last two years has worked as quickly as we had hoped, and I am keenly aware that not all of our policies have been popular.
So, no, our job is not easy. But you didn’t elect me to do what was easy. (Applause.) You didn’t elect me to just read the polls and figure how to keep myself in office. You didn’t elect me to avoid big problems. You elected me to do what was right. And as long as I’m President, that’s exactly what I intend to do. (Applause.)
This country is emerging from an incredibly difficult period in its history -– an era of irresponsibility that stretched from Wall Street to Washington, and had a devastating effect on a lot of people. We have started turning the corner on that era. But part of moving forward is returning to the time-honored values that built this country: hard work and self-reliance; responsibility for ourselves, but also responsibility for one another. It’s about moving from an attitude that said “What’s in it for me?” to one that asks, “What’s best for America? What’s best for all our workers? What’s best for all of our businesses? What’s best for all of our children?” (Applause.)
These values are not Democratic or Republican. They are not conservative or liberal values. They are American values. As Democrats, we take pride in what our party has accomplished over the last century: Social Security and the minimum wage; the GI Bill and Medicare; civil rights and worker’s rights and women’s rights. (Applause.) But we also recognize that throughout our history, there has been a noble Republican vision as well, of what this country can be. It was the vision of Abraham Lincoln, who set up the first land grant colleges and launched the transcontinental railroad; the vision of Teddy Roosevelt, who used the power of government to break up monopolies; the vision of Dwight Eisenhower, who helped build the Interstate Highway System. And, yes, the vision of Ronald Reagan, who despite his aversion to government, was willing to help save Social Security for future generations -- working with Democrats. (Applause.)
These were serious leaders for serious times. They were great politicians, but they didn’t spend all their time playing games or scoring points. They didn’t always prey on people’s fears and anxieties. They made mistakes, but they did what they thought was in the best interests of their country and its people.
And that’s what the American people expect of us today -– Democrats, independents, and Republicans. (Applause.) That’s the debate they deserve. That’s the leadership we owe them.
I know that folks are worried about the future. I know there’s still a lot of hurt out here. And when times are tough, I know it can be tempting to give in to cynicism and fear and doubt and division -– and just settle our sights a little bit lower, settle for something a little bit less. But that’s not who we are, Ohio. Those are not the values that built this country.
We are here today because in the worst of times, the people who came before us brought out the best in America. Because our parents and our grandparents and our great-grandparents were willing to work and sacrifice for us. They were willing to take great risks, and face great hardship, and reach for a future that would give us the chance at a better life. They knew that this country is greater than the sum of its parts -– that America is not about the ambitions of any one individual, but the aspirations of an entire people, an entire nation. (Applause.)
That’s who we are. That is our legacy. And I’m convinced that if we’re willing to summon those values today, and if we’re willing to choose hope over fear, and choose the future over the past, and come together once more around the great project of national renewal, then we will restore our economy and rebuild our middle class and reclaim the American Dream for the next generation. (Applause.)
Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
2:53 P.M. EDT
CHARTER 08 10DEZ08
I. FOREWORDA hundred years have passed since the writing of China's first constitution. 2008 also marks the sixtieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the thirtieth anniversary of the appearance of the Democracy Wall in Beijing, and the tenth of China's signing of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre of pro-democracy student protesters. The Chinese people, who have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles across these same years, now include many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.
By departing from these values, the Chinese government's approach to "modernization" has proven disastrous. It has stripped people of their rights, destroyed their dignity, and corrupted normal human intercourse. So we ask: Where is China headed in the twenty-first century? Will it continue with "modernization" under authoritarian rule, or will it embrace universal human values, join the mainstream of civilized nations, and build a democratic system? There can be no avoiding these questions.
The shock of the Western impact upon China in the nineteenth century laid bare a decadent authoritarian system and marked the beginning of what is often called "the greatest changes in thousands of years" for China. A "self-strengthening movement" followed, but this aimed simply at appropriating the technology to build gunboats and other Western material objects. China's humiliating naval defeat at the hands of Japan in 1895 only confirmed the obsolescence of China's system of government. The first attempts at modern political change came with the ill-fated summer of reforms in 1898, but these were cruelly crushed by ultraconservatives at China's imperial court. With the revolution of 1911, which inaugurated Asia's first republic, the authoritarian imperial system that had lasted for centuries was finally supposed to have been laid to rest. But social conflict inside our country and external pressures were to prevent it; China fell into a patchwork of warlord fiefdoms and the new republic became a fleeting dream.
The failure of both "self-strengthening" and political renovation caused many of our forebears to reflect deeply on whether a "cultural illness" was afflicting our country. This mood gave rise, during the May Fourth Movement of the late 1910s, to the championing of "science and democracy." Yet that effort, too, foundered as warlord chaos persisted and the Japanese invasion [beginning in Manchuria in 1931] brought national crisis.
Victory over Japan in 1945 offered one more chance for China to move toward modern government, but the Communist defeat of the Nationalists in the civil war thrust the nation into the abyss of totalitarianism. The "new China" that emerged in 1949 proclaimed that "the people are sovereign" but in fact set up a system in which "the Party is all-powerful." The Communist Party of China seized control of all organs of the state and all political, economic, and social resources, and, using these, has produced a long trail of human rights disasters, including, among many others, the Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957), the Great Leap Forward (1958–1960), the Cultural Revolution (1966–1969), the June Fourth [Tiananmen Square] Massacre (1989), and the current repression of all unauthorized religions and the suppression of the weiquan rights movement [a movement that aims to defend citizens' rights promulgated in the Chinese Constitution and to fight for human rights recognized by international conventions that the Chinese government has signed]. During all this, the Chinese people have paid a gargantuan price. Tens of millions have lost their lives, and several generations have seen their freedom, their happiness, and their human dignity cruelly trampled.
During the last two decades of the twentieth century the government policy of "Reform and Opening" gave the Chinese people relief from the pervasive poverty and totalitarianism of the Mao Zedong era, and brought substantial increases in the wealth and living standards of many Chinese as well as a partial restoration of economic freedom and economic rights. Civil society began to grow, and popular calls for more rights and more political freedom have grown apace. As the ruling elite itself moved toward private ownership and the market economy, it began to shift from an outright rejection of "rights" to a partial acknowledgment of them.
In 1998 the Chinese government signed two important international human rights conventions; in 2004 it amended its constitution to include the phrase "respect and protect human rights"; and this year, 2008, it has promised to promote a "national human rights action plan." Unfortunately most of this political progress has extended no further than the paper on which it is written. The political reality, which is plain for anyone to see, is that China has many laws but no rule of law; it has a constitution but no constitutional government. The ruling elite continues to cling to its authoritarian power and fights off any move toward political change.
The stultifying results are endemic official corruption, an undermining of the rule of law, weak human rights, decay in public ethics, crony capitalism, growing inequality between the wealthy and the poor, pillage of the natural environment as well as of the human and historical environments, and the exacerbation of a long list of social conflicts, especially, in recent times, a sharpening animosity between officials and ordinary people.
As these conflicts and crises grow ever more intense, and as the ruling elite continues with impunity to crush and to strip away the rights of citizens to freedom, to property, and to the pursuit of happiness, we see the powerless in our society—the vulnerable groups, the people who have been suppressed and monitored, who have suffered cruelty and even torture, and who have had no adequate avenues for their protests, no courts to hear their pleas—becoming more militant and raising the possibility of a violent conflict of disastrous proportions. The decline of the current system has reached the point where change is no longer optional.
 II. OUR FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLESThis is a historic moment for China, and our future hangs in the balance. In reviewing the political modernization process of the past hundred years or more, we reiterate and endorse basic universal values as follows:
Freedom. Freedom is at the core of universal human values. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom in where to live, and the freedoms to strike, to demonstrate, and to protest, among others, are the forms that freedom takes. Without freedom, China will always remain far from civilized ideals.
Human rights. Human rights are not bestowed by a state. Every person is born with inherent rights to dignity and freedom. The government exists for the protection of the human rights of its citizens. The exercise of state power must be authorized by the people. The succession of political disasters in China's recent history is a direct consequence of the ruling regime's disregard for human rights.
Equality. The integrity, dignity, and freedom of every person—regardless of social station, occupation, sex, economic condition, ethnicity, skin color, religion, or political belief—are the same as those of any other. Principles of equality before the law and equality of social, economic, cultural, civil, and political rights must be upheld.
Republicanism. Republicanism, which holds that power should be balanced among different branches of government and competing interests should be served, resembles the traditional Chinese political ideal of "fairness in all under heaven." It allows different interest groups and social assemblies, and people with a variety of cultures and beliefs, to exercise democratic self-government and to deliberate in order to reach peaceful resolution of public questions on a basis of equal access to government and free and fair competition.
Democracy. The most fundamental principles of democracy are that the people are sovereign and the people select their government. Democracy has these characteristics: (1) Political power begins with the people and the legitimacy of a regime derives from the people. (2) Political power is exercised through choices that the people make. (3) The holders of major official posts in government at all levels are determined through periodic competitive elections. (4) While honoring the will of the majority, the fundamental dignity, freedom, and human rights of minorities are protected. In short, democracy is a modern means for achieving government truly "of the people, by the people, and for the people."
Constitutional rule. Constitutional rule is rule through a legal system and legal regulations to implement principles that are spelled out in a constitution. It means protecting the freedom and the rights of citizens, limiting and defining the scope of legitimate government power, and providing the administrative apparatus necessary to serve these ends.
 III. WHAT WE ADVOCATEAuthoritarianism is in general decline throughout the world; in China, too, the era of emperors and overlords is on the way out. The time is arriving everywhere for citizens to be masters of states. For China the path that leads out of our current predicament is to divest ourselves of the authoritarian notion of reliance on an "enlightened overlord" or an "honest official" and to turn instead toward a system of liberties, democracy, and the rule of law, and toward fostering the consciousness of modern citizens who see rights as fundamental and participation as a duty. Accordingly, and in a spirit of this duty as responsible and constructive citizens, we offer the following recommendations on national governance, citizens' rights, and social development:
1. A New Constitution. We should recast our present constitution, rescinding its provisions that contradict the principle that sovereignty resides with the people and turning it into a document that genuinely guarantees human rights, authorizes the exercise of public power, and serves as the legal underpinning of China's democratization. The constitution must be the highest law in the land, beyond violation by any individual, group, or political party.
2. Separation of Powers. We should construct a modern government in which the separation of legislative, judicial, and executive power is guaranteed. We need an Administrative Law that defines the scope of government responsibility and prevents abuse of administrative power. Government should be responsible to taxpayers. Division of power between provincial governments and the central government should adhere to the principle that central powers are only those specifically granted by the constitution and all other powers belong to the local governments.
3. Legislative Democracy. Members of legislative bodies at all levels should be chosen by direct election, and legislative democracy should observe just and impartial principles.
4. An Independent Judiciary. The rule of law must be above the interests of any particular political party and judges must be independent. We need to establish a constitutional supreme court and institute procedures for constitutional review. As soon as possible, we should abolish all of the Committees on Political and Legal Affairs that now allow Communist Party officials at every level to decide politically sensitive cases in advance and out of court. We should strictly forbid the use of public offices for private purposes.
5. Public Control of Public Servants. The military should be made answerable to the national government, not to a political party, and should be made more professional. Military personnel should swear allegiance to the constitution and remain nonpartisan. Political party organizations must be prohibited in the military. All public officials including police should serve as nonpartisans, and the current practice of favoring one political party in the hiring of public servants must end.
6. Guarantee of Human Rights. There must be strict guarantees of human rights and respect for human dignity. There should be a Human Rights Committee, responsible to the highest legislative body, that will prevent the government from abusing public power in violation of human rights. A democratic and constitutional China especially must guarantee the personal freedom of citizens. No one should suffer illegal arrest, detention, arraignment, interrogation, or punishment. The system of "Reeducation through Labor" must be abolished.
7. Election of Public Officials. There should be a comprehensive system of democratic elections based on "one person, one vote." The direct election of administrative heads at the levels of county, city, province, and nation should be systematically implemented. The rights to hold periodic free elections and to participate in them as a citizen are inalienable.
8. Rural–Urban Equality. The two-tier household registry system must be abolished. This system favors urban residents and harms rural residents. We should establish instead a system that gives every citizen the same constitutional rights and the same freedom to choose where to live.
9. Freedom to Form Groups. The right of citizens to form groups must be guaranteed. The current system for registering nongovernment groups, which requires a group to be "approved," should be replaced by a system in which a group simply registers itself. The formation of political parties should be governed by the constitution and the laws, which means that we must abolish the special privilege of one party to monopolize power and must guarantee principles of free and fair competition among political parties.
10. Freedom to Assemble. The constitution provides that peaceful assembly, demonstration, protest, and freedom of expression are fundamental rights of a citizen. The ruling party and the government must not be permitted to subject these to illegal interference or unconstitutional obstruction.
11. Freedom of Expression. We should make freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and academic freedom universal, thereby guaranteeing that citizens can be informed and can exercise their right of political supervision. These freedoms should be upheld by a Press Law that abolishes political restrictions on the press. The provision in the current Criminal Law that refers to "the crime of incitement to subvert state power" must be abolished. We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes.
12. Freedom of Religion. We must guarantee freedom of religion and belief, and institute a separation of religion and state. There must be no governmental interference in peaceful religious activities. We should abolish any laws, regulations, or local rules that limit or suppress the religious freedom of citizens. We should abolish the current system that requires religious groups (and their places of worship) to get official approval in advance and substitute for it a system in which registry is optional and, for those who choose to register, automatic.
13. Civic Education. In our schools we should abolish political curriculums and examinations that are designed to indoctrinate students in state ideology and to instill support for the rule of one party. We should replace them with civic education that advances universal values and citizens' rights, fosters civic consciousness, and promotes civic virtues that serve society.
14. Protection of Private Property. We should establish and protect the right to private property and promote an economic system of free and fair markets. We should do away with government monopolies in commerce and industry and guarantee the freedom to start new enterprises. We should establish a Committee on State-Owned Property, reporting to the national legislature, that will monitor the transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner. We should institute a land reform that promotes private ownership of land, guarantees the right to buy and sell land, and allows the true value of private property to be adequately reflected in the market.
15. Financial and Tax Reform. We should establish a democratically regulated and accountable system of public finance that ensures the protection of taxpayer rights and that operates through legal procedures. We need a system by which public revenues that belong to a certain level of government—central, provincial, county or local—are controlled at that level. We need major tax reform that will abolish any unfair taxes, simplify the tax system, and spread the tax burden fairly. Government officials should not be able to raise taxes, or institute new ones, without public deliberation and the approval of a democratic assembly. We should reform the ownership system in order to encourage competition among a wider variety of market participants.
16. Social Security. We should establish a fair and adequate social security system that covers all citizens and ensures basic access to education, health care, retirement security, and employment.
17. Protection of the Environment. We need to protect the natural environment and to promote development in a way that is sustainable and responsible to our descendants and to the rest of humanity. This means insisting that the state and its officials at all levels not only do what they must do to achieve these goals, but also accept the supervision and participation of nongovernmental organizations.
18. A Federated Republic. A democratic China should seek to act as a responsible major power contributing toward peace and development in the Asian Pacific region by approaching others in a spirit of equality and fairness. In Hong Kong and Macao, we should support the freedoms that already exist. With respect to Taiwan, we should declare our commitment to the principles of freedom and democracy and then, negotiating as equals and ready to compromise, seek a formula for peaceful unification. We should approach disputes in the national-minority areas of China with an open mind, seeking ways to find a workable framework within which all ethnic and religious groups can flourish. We should aim ultimately at a federation of democratic communities of China.
19. Truth in Reconciliation. We should restore the reputations of all people, including their family members, who suffered political stigma in the political campaigns of the past or who have been labeled as criminals because of their thought, speech, or faith. The state should pay reparations to these people. All political prisoners and prisoners of conscience must be released. There should be a Truth Investigation Commission charged with finding the facts about past injustices and atrocities, determining responsibility for them, upholding justice, and, on these bases, seeking social reconciliation.
China, as a major nation of the world, as one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and as a member of the UN Council on Human Rights, should be contributing to peace for humankind and progress toward human rights. Unfortunately, we stand today as the only country among the major nations that remains mired in authoritarian politics. Our political system continues to produce human rights disasters and social crises, thereby not only constricting China's own development but also limiting the progress of all of human civilization. This must change, truly it must. The democratization of Chinese politics can be put off no longer.
Accordingly, we dare to put civic spirit into practice by announcing Charter 08. We hope that our fellow citizens who feel a similar sense of crisis, responsibility, and mission, whether they are inside the government or not, and regardless of their social status, will set aside small differences to embrace the broad goals of this citizens' movement. Together we can work for major changes in Chinese society and for the rapid establishment of a free, democratic, and constitutional country. We can bring to reality the goals and ideals that our people have incessantly been seeking for more than a hundred years, and can bring a brilliant new chapter to Chinese civilization.
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- ↑ The mention of Tiananmen Square is not present in another English translation (http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/press?revision_id=89851&item_id=85717) or a widely circulated Chinese version - see w:Charter 08 article and discussion pages.
- ↑ See "Full Text: National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010)" at http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-04/13/content_11177126.htm