We must listen to witnesses on the ground who are seeing abuse, duplicity, and the dereliction of duty firsthand. Our lives depend on their voices being heard. The op-ed by Sean Thomas, International Director of Investigations at Animal Equality.
Barack Obama’s last speech as President
Il presidente degli Stati Uniti Barack Obama ha tenuto il suo ultimo discorso, lo speech di addio in cui ha promesso di continuare il lavoro da leader di speranza.
“Together we will begin the next great chapter in the American story, with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea: Yes, we can”. This is what Obama said to his supporters before being elected President of the United States in 2008, when Hillary Clinton defeated him in the state of New Hampshire during the primary elections. Now, more than 8 years later, those three words still resound and shake the heart and soul of millions of people inside and outside the United States. The same has happened in occasion of Barack Obama’s final speech as president on 10 January, in the city that saw him grow up as a politician and celebrate his most important victories, Chicago. From the stage of the McCormick Place Obama addressed 20,000 people, including his family, vice President Joe Biden’s family, and all those who contributed to the success of his two electoral campaigns and to the “ordinary” work at the White House.
Let’s set our sights high
“If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history. If I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9-11. If I had told you that we would win marriage equality and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens. If I had told you all that, you might have said our sights were set a little too high”. Barack Obama doesn’t forget, leaves nothing to chance and uses his words wisely, the right moment and the right way. It’s no coincidence that he quoted what he said when it was clear he could run as Democratic candidate after beating Hillary Clinton in Iowa on 3 January 2008 (“They said our sights were set too high”).
“But that’s what we did. That’s what you did. You were the change. The answer to people’s hopes and, because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started,” Obama continued his passionate speech.
His speech explains how his presidency was driven by good sense as a fundamental basis of democracy. The same good sense that should lead his successor and any other president to take acton starting from facts: “Without a willingness to admit new information and concede that your opponent might be making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, then we’re going to keep talking past each other. And we’ll make common ground and compromise impossible”.
The fight against climate change is emblematic
The issue linked to global warming fills the bill. “Take the challenge of climate change. In just eight years we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, we’ve doubled our renewable energy, we’ve led the world to an agreement that (at) the promise to save this planet. But without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change. They’ll be busy dealing with its effects. More environmental disasters, more economic disruptions, waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary. Now we can and should argue about the best approach to solve the problem. But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations, it betrays the essential spirit of this country”.
This is a clear message to President-elect Donald Trump, who will take office on January 10. Yet, Obama never mentioned him or any other potential opponents. Instead, he spent most of his 50-minute speech greeting and thanking who helped and supported him before and during his lead of one of the world’s most powerful countries. He thanked his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha. That’s when his words made way to emotions.
“Michelle LaVaughn Robinson of the South Side, for the past 25 years you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend. You took on a role you didn’t ask for. And you made it your own with grace and with grit and with style, and good humour. You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You have made me proud, and you have made the country proud”.
Then the moment to take out a tissue inevitably arrives.
He also thanked vice President Joe Biden, defining him as the first decision he made as a nominee. “And it was the best. Not just because you have been a great vice president, but because in the bargain I gained a brother”. Obama promised he’ll not step aside, but he will continue fighting for what he believes in, for human rights. He promised he’ll not leave his people alone but he will continue help them as a political leader, which is the best way he could. His – most important – job is continuing to spread and give hope. For this, he ended his speech by asking Americans to believe in their ability to bring about change. Because if they managed to do it over the past 8 years, they will be certainly able to do it in the future. “Yes we can”.
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