In his Inaugural speech the 44th President of the United States will frame his presidency. Will he be the President of the United States of America or only of the Democratic Party and its constituents? Will he be the guardian of American values or of consensus “international” values? Mr. Obama must unite Americans around common values and reassure us that he will vigorously defend our interests abroad.
Mr. Obama said on the campaign trail he wants to foster national unity, bipartisanship, and racial and social harmony. In the 2004 keynote address to the Democratic convention, he called for national unity - a theme he has repeated continuously to roaring crowds as he rose to national prominence and to the presidency. “E pluribus unum. Out of many, one … there is not a liberal America and a conservative America - there is the United States of America,” Mr. Obama waxed. “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America - there’s the United States of America.” This call for unity is most welcome and strikes a chord with the vast majority of Americans. Yet, ironically, Mr. Obama belongs to a party that has championed a multicultural agenda that balkanizes us into ethnic and racial groups and sows the seeds of discord. So which point of view will he uphold while he is president?
At his Inauguration, Mr. Obama must also address whether he will defend America’s national interests first and foremost or will dilute our national identity in favor of a globalist, international agenda. Then-candidate Obama declared in a July 24 speech in Berlin that he is a “fellow citizen of the world.” This is a noble sentiment, indeed, but one that raises concerns about whether he views the interests of other nations as equal to those of the United States. “The greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another. The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down,” he said. He was widely criticized for not appearing to recognize that an American president pledges his fidelity to the nation’s Constitution - not to the United Nations.
Even more alarming in the Berlin speech, Mr. Obama appeared to disparage the United States: “I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.” He seemed to be fanning the flames of anti-Americanism.
On January 20 Mr. Obama would be wise to cast his presidency according to the wishes of the American people. The Bradley Project on American National Identity, in a report issued in June, found that the majority of those surveyed say we are in the midst of an identity crisis.
The overwhelming majority of whites, blacks and Hispanics surveyed said that America is too divided along ethnic and cultural lines, as we explained in our June 8 editorial, “America’s identity crisis.” This is all the more worrisome when we consider that most of the respondents under age 35 said that America has no national identity. As the lead column on the facing page today notes, this is a crucial year in which we must move away from the danger of becoming “From One, Many” instead of the reverse. It is therefore vital that we find common ground and ways to transmit America’s heritage from one generation to the next.
In tandem with this, the overwhelming majority - 89 percent - of Americans say they want new immigrants to be Americanized, including learning to speak English. New arrivals must be taught American history and culture and given the tools to become integrated. Many such immigrants, who over time find they belong neither to the land they left nor to the land in which they now live, will welcome being educated in the principles of American democracy. The Statue of Liberty has beckoned them to this nation; they are already drawn to our heritage. Let us provide them with a civic education that will stir in them a greater patriotism and a deeper appreciation for our laws and government. If we do not vigorously uphold our culture, then who will?
For all Americans, Mr. Obama’s Inauguration will mark the continued fulfillment of this country along the glorious vision of equal freedom and opportunity for all established by our Founding Fathers. They charted a bold and revolutionary path that is gradually coming to fruition, through the efforts of many people of all stripes. Mr. Obama’s triumph belongs to us all: It encompasses past efforts that paved the way, present efforts that sustain him, and future generations who will benefit from the barriers he has removed.
America has been good to Mr. Obama; he should return the favor.
Mr. Obama: Unite us, defend us and renew our unique trajectory in the history of the world.