Thursday, 26 May 2011
The Obamas' Speeches
Barack Obama's speech to both Houses of Parliament is well worth taking the time to read. Here is a transcript alongside commentary from BBC correspondents. What is particularly interesting is the way he draws together shared values between the UK and the USA, many of which come directly from British history.
"What began on this island would inspire millions throughout the continent of Europe and across the world," he said.
"But perhaps no-one drew greater inspiration from these notions of freedom than your rabble-rousing colonists on the other side of the Atlantic. As Winston Churchill said, the "…Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence."
"For both of our nations, living up to the ideals enshrined in these founding documents has sometimes been difficult, has always been a work in progress. The path has never been perfect. But through the struggles of slaves and immigrants; women and ethnic minorities; former colonies and persecuted religions, we have learned better than most that the longing for freedom and human dignity is not English or American or Western - it is universal, and it beats in every heart."
He goes on to look at how these values have fared in the 20th and 21st Century, coping with military, political and economic challenges, and his central point is that they are still relevant and have much to offer in the global community.
The BBC's Mark Mardell was slightly underwhelmed, believing that Obama had taken on too many challenges to resolve successfully in one speech, but that the central argument was one worthy of further debate. Perhaps we will hear more on this as the cavalcade moves on to Normandy today for the G8 conference.
Meanwhile we should not ignore the other great speech of the day, when Michelle Obama told a group of South London schoolgirls (who she had previously met two years earlier) to "aim high" and "not be afraid to fail". She emphasized the point by taking them to Christ Church College, Oxford, which has produced 13 Prime Ministers. She was asked what had attracted her to Barack in the first place, and answered that he was "funny and smart" and a "voracious reader"! So now you know how to spot potential presidents...