What Obama’s Speech Lacked

You may call me an unrecondite, sandal-wearing, Jesus-bearded peacenik hippie for saying so, but just once —- once! —- I would like an American president to draw a causal connection between this part of his speech:

And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad. They have met every test that they faced. Now, it is our turn. Now, it is our responsibility to honor them by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for –the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it and reach for it.

And this part:

Of course, the soldiers left much behind. Some were teenagers when the war began. Many have served multiple tours of duty, far from their families who bore a heroic burden of their own, enduring the absence of a husband’s embrace or a mother’s kiss. Most painfully, since the war began fifty-five members of the Fourth Stryker Brigade made the ultimate sacrifice –part of over 4,400 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq. As one staff sergeant said, “I know that to my brothers in arms who fought and died, this day would probably mean a lot.”

Those Americans gave their lives for the values that have lived in the hearts of our people for over two centuries. Along with nearly 1.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq, they fought in a faraway place for people they never knew.

I’d like to see him or her draw that connection, without accepting it as foreordained. It’s not. The attempt to secure our prosperity reflects and provokes the anxiety that drives us to global strategic fabulism and down the road to death on the express train. If we could only accept our abundance as a gift, not as a birthright to be clutched at desperately, we wouldn’t have to send our young men and women to fight and die for people they don’t know. No president could tell that truth and hope to stay in office. But I’d just like to see one try for once. Once.

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