LATE LAST YEAR, President Obama made a pilgrimage of sorts to the sleepy town of Osawatomie, Kansas, to talk about the economy. He went there because it’s where, in 1910, Teddy Roosevelt gave one of his most famous speeches, called “The New Nationalism,” which was, in part, an attempt to unite his party around a common vision of a well-managed economy.
Obama’s mission was similar, although more focused on philosophically framing up the 2012 elections. The White House communications staff had built up expectations about the speech, and the president delivered, movingly describing how America can better encourage innovation, shore up the middle class, and expand opportunity. For the most part, the media were aglow.
A few minutes in, he quoted from Roosevelt’s speech: “‘Our country,’” Obama said, “‘means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy ... of an economic system under which each [person] shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him [or her].’”
But, notice those ellipses. What he omitted was an important phrase from the original quote: “the triumph of popular government.” Five words may not seem like much. Perhaps the president felt as if “real democracy” said enough, or perhaps his speechwriters felt as if it wouldn’t be politically prudent for him to speak so highly of government. But the omission also points to a larger exclusion, not just in Obama’s speech, but in his presidency and, most significantly, in our country’s priorities.
Read the Full Article
You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
In a speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, President Obama urged Israeli leaders to refrain from "loose talk of war" related to escalating tensions with Iran. Quoting his predecessor President Theodore Roosevelt, Obama said when it comes to the Iran situation, both the United States and Israel would do well to, "Speak softly... and carry a big stick."
Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu today at the White House. Netanyahu, who is scheduled to speak to the AIPAC conference this evening, issued a short statement repsonding to Obama's speech Sunday, saying in part, "I appreciated the fact that he said that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat."