Wow - a Democratic President of the United States opens his State of the Union address by offering well-deserved praise to US troops and then urging the rest of our citizens to embrace their values:
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:
Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought -- and several thousand gave their lives.
We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. (Applause.) For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. (Applause.) For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. (Applause.) Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.
These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness and teamwork of America’s Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.
Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. (Applause.) Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.
Go, Sparta! The President closed with the same theme:
...Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn a thing or two from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian, Latino, Native American; conservative, liberal; rich, poor; gay, straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind.
One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that doesn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates -- a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary -- and Hillary Clinton -- a woman who ran against me for president.
All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job -- the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other -- because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s somebody behind you, watching your back.
So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
Pardon me, but the military unites behind the mission established by the Commander-in-Chief, as I hope Obama knows. Is this really how the President of the United States thinks a democracy ought to work? Is this the way to tell the world that the dictatorships of Cuba Korea and Iran have it wrong and we have it right?
And since Obama is basking in our exit from Iraq (no mention of "victory", but still...), does he consider himself to have had George Bush's back during the surge Bush launched in January 2007? Did Obama join with Bush in common purpose? Did he help to promote our common resolve?
I may be wrong, but my impression is that when back when Obama disagreed with a President it was a vital contribution to a robust democratic debate; today, people who disagree with our President lack fundamental American values such as teamwork and shared commitment. Whatever.
THE EDUCATION OF A PRESIDENT: Back in May 2008 Candidate Obama (pinch hitting for the ill Ted Kennedy) gave a rousing commencment speech at Wesleyan. His theme - the importance of public service. His mentions of the military? None.
And now that he is Commander-in-Chief he wants all of us to join the army. His army.
This is not the full speech, but an extended excerpt:
Now each of you will have the chance to make your own discovery in the years to come. And I say “chance” because, as president Roth indicated, you won’t have to take it. There’s no community service requirement in the outside world; no one forcing you to care. You can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and chase only after the big house and the nice suits and the other things that our money culture says you should buy. You can choose to narrow your concerns and live life in a way that tries to keep your story separate from America’s.
But I hope you don’t. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although I believe you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all those who helped you get to where you are today, although I do believe you have that debt to pay.
It’s because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. Because thinking only about yourself, fulfilling your immediate wants and needs, betrays a poverty of ambition. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential and discover the role that you’ll play in writing the next great chapter in the American story.
There are so many ways to serve and so much that needs to be done at this defining moment in our history. You don’t have to be a community organizer or do something crazy like run for President. Right here at Wesleyan, many of you have already volunteered at local schools and elementary schools, contributed to the United Way, and even started a program that brings fresh produce to needy families in the area. One hundred and sixty-four graduates of this school have joined the Peace Corps since 2001, and I confess a special pride that two of you are about to leave for my father’s homeland of Kenya to bring alternative sources of energy to impoverished areas. I ask you to seek these opportunities when you leave here, because the future of this country – your future, my future, my children’s future – depends on it.
At a time when our security and moral standing depend on winning hearts and minds in the forgotten corners of this world, we need more of you to serve abroad. As President, I intend to grow the Foreign Service, double the Peace Corps over the next few years, and engage young people of other nations in similar programs, so that we work side by side to take on the common challenges that confront all of humanity.
At a time when our ice caps are melting and our oceans are rising, we need you to help lead a green revolution. We still have time to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change if we get serious about investing in renewable sources of energy, and if we get a generation of volunteers to work on renewable energy projects, and if we teach people about conservation, and help clean up polluted areas; if we send talented engineers and scientists abroad to help developing countries promote clean energy in a way that’s compatible with economic growth.
At a time when a child in Boston must compete with children in Beijing and Bangalore, we need an army of you to become teachers and principals in schools that this nation cannot afford to give up on. I will pay our educators what they deserve, and give them more support, but I will also ask more of them to be mentors to other teachers, and serve in high-need schools and high-need subject areas like math and science. We will need you.
At a time when there are children in the city of New Orleans who still spend each night in a lonely trailer, we need more of you to take a weekend or a week off from work, and head down South, and help rebuild. If you can’t get the time, volunteer at the local homeless shelter or soup kitchen in your own community, because there is more than enough work to go around. Find an organization that’s fighting poverty, or a candidate who promotes policies you believe in, and find a way to help them. We need you.
At a time of war, we need you to work for peace. At a time of inequality, we need you to work for opportunity. At a time of so much cynicism and so much doubt, we need you to make us believe again. That’s your task, class of 2008.
The closest he comes to the military that I can find is "At a time of war, we need you to work for peace".