Obama Citizenship Discourse Watch (Second Inaugural Edition)

by Peter Spiro

It was a liberal speech, but also a nationalist one. Obama returned to the citizenship theme of his DNC acceptance speech:

My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride. They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time, not only with the votes we cast, but the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideas.

This speech was inward-looking, situated in the task of a particular state, defining responsibilities and rights in a nationally bounded fashion. There was no “global citizen” vibe in the way of candidate Obama’s Berlin speech in July 2008. More “We the People,” as in the people of the United States. Equality, yes, but in a national frame.

The domestic editorial response will be positive, in a measured way. I wonder if international opinion will be more tepid (even with the big shout-out to climate change initiatives). This wasn’t a speech that had much for an international audience. That’s probably too bad, since I’m sure there was a big one.


2 Responses

  1. I guess I am testing the limits of that discourse in the national security field by observing the 9/11 military comissions, calling again for prosecution of torturers in our intelligence and military institutions, and for prosecution of Bush for lying us into the Wae in Iraq.

  2. Thanks Peter for the thoughtful post, though I don’t agree that the speech did not offer global observers something to consider.  The President’s statement that security and peace do not require perpetual war adds to a growing number of voices talking about a critical issue.  It is a statement that is consistent with wind down of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it remains to be seen how this will play out vis a vis conflicts in Northern Africa, in “Arab Spring” nations, and in the use of drone and other technology that takes US soldiers off the battlefield but leaves others on it.

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