With this one speech, Sen. Barack Obama did much to begin to repair America’s relationship with the rest of the world and start the hard task of beginning to restore America’s historical role as a moral leader in the world.
We were once a beacon of hope in the world, until George Bush became president and suspended the Geneva Conventions and America began torturing detainees.
People once fled torture and come to our shores for sanctuary. Then we showed the world a different face at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq where we had exported methods that we perfected at our own gulag in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; all of a sudden we “black sites” around the world where we “waterboard,” among other abominations, the torture that we are not outsourcing to reginems that we used to condemn for their barbarism.
Obama’s Berlin speech was a herald to the world that electing him president would bring an end to all that.
Bush told the world that “you’re either with us, or against us” and Donald Rumsfeld called Germany and other allies who would not toe the line “Old Europe.” Under this regime, belligerence was our posture, umbrage and insolence our foreign policy.
This was the backdrop against which Sen. Obama spoke yesterday.
And, if he had said nothing, if he had simply showed up and soaked in the audience applause and gone back to his hotel room, his job would have been done. He is a reasonable man who believes in the “art of the possible” and, inately, other people feel that about him.
But speak he did. And what a speech.
The speech was grand without being grandiloquent. It was a relatively short, tough speech that was, nevertheless, heartfelt and full of grace notes. A tone poem was exactly what it was not. The speech had a lot of nuance but with clear policy indications of what to expect in a Barack Obama presidency.
He let it be known, for instance, that, all the love aside, he would ask more of the Europeans and our allies in confronting some of the issues facing the world. What the speech showed is that the Europeans’ answers to these requests and expectations from an Obama administration could very well be different from the ones George W. Bush got.
It all could very well depend on how you ask.
Was it a great speech? I don’t know.
I think it was a great day for America. It was a great day for our allies all over the world. It showed the promise of investing our hopes for a better world in this one man. In his capacity, as a private citizen of the United States, a U.S. Senator and an American politician running for the presidency, and a visitor to Germany, it was what was needed, nothing more, nothing less.
Barack Obama once said, in his quest, that we could “heal the world.” Yesterday, he started on the path to doing just that.