Today, nine years into a new century, Americans know that our nation and our world face great perils: from ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the continuing threat posed by terrorist extremists, to the spread of weapons of mass destruction; pandemic disease; from financial meltdown to worldwide poverty.
The seventy days since the presidential election offer fresh evidence of the urgency of these challenges. New conflict in Gaza; terrorist attacks in Mumbai; mass killings and rapes in the Congo; cholera in Zimbabwe; reports of record high greenhouse gasses and rapidly melting glaciers; and even an ancient form of terror – piracy – asserting itself in modern form off the Horn of Africa.
We should also use the United Nations and other international institutions whenever appropriate and possible. Both Democratic and Republican presidents have understood for decades that these institutions, when they work well, enhance our influence.
And when they don’t work well – as in the cases of Darfur and the farce of Sudan’s election to the former UN Commission on Human Rights, for example – we should work with likeminded friends to make sure that these institutions reflect the values that motivated their creation in the first place.
As we focus on Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, we must also actively pursue a strategy of smart power in the Middle East that addresses the security needs of Israel and the legitimate political and economic aspirations of the Palestinians; that effectively challenges Iran to end its nuclear weapons program and sponsorship of terror, and persuades both Iran and Syria to abandon their dangerous behavior and become constructive regional actors; that strengthens our relationships with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, other Arab states, with Turkey, and with our partners in the Gulf to involve them in securing a lasting peace in the region.
Terrorism remains a serious threat and we must have a comprehensive strategy, leveraging intelligence, diplomacy, and military assets to defeat al- Qaeda and like-minded terrorists by rooting out their networks and drying up support for their violent and nihilistic extremism.
Our foreign policy must reflect our deep commitment to the cause of making human rights a reality for millions of oppressed people around the world. Of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls, who comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unschooled, unfed, and unpaid.
If half of the world’s population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal, and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity will remain in serious jeopardy. We still have a long way to go and the United States must remain an unambiguous and unequivocal voice in support of women’s rights in every country, every region, on every continent.
In recent years, as other nations have risen to compete for military, economic, and political influence, some have argued that we have reached the end of the “American moment” in world history.
Yes, the conventional paradigms have shifted. But America’s success has never been solely a function of our power; it has always been inspired by our values.
With so many troubles here at home and across the world, millions of peopleare still trying to come to our country -- legally and illegally.
Why? Because we are guided by unchanging truths: that all people are created equal; that each person has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And in these truths we will find, as we have for more than two centuries, the courage, the discipline, and the creativity to meet the challenges of this everchanging world.
No matter how daunting our challenges may be, I have a steadfast faith in our country and our people, and I am proud to be an American at the dawning of this new American moment.