3 February 2008, UCLA, Los Angeles, California, USA
7 September 2018, Urbana-Champaign, Illonois, USA
Hello, Illinois! I.L.L.! I.L.L.! Okay, okay. Just checking to see if you’re awake. Please have a seat, everybody. It is good to be home. It’s good to see corn, beans. I was trying to explain to somebody as we were flying in, that’s corn. That’s beans. They were very impressed at my agricultural knowledge. Please give it up for Amari, once again, for that outstanding introduction.
I have a bunch of good friends here today, including somebody who I served with who is one of the finest senators in the country, and we’re lucky to have your senator, Dick Durbin, is here. I also noticed, by the way, former governor Edgar here, who I haven’t seen in a long time, and somehow he has not aged and it was great to see him.
I want to thank everybody at the U of I system for making it possible for me to be here today. I am deeply honored at the Paul Douglas award that is being given to me.
He is somebody who set the path for so much outstanding public service here in Illinois. Now, I want to start by addressing the elephant in the room. I know people are still wondering why I didn’t speak at the 2017 commencement. The student body president sent a very thoughtful invitation. Students made a spiffy video, and when I declined, I hear there was speculation that I was boycotting campus until Antonio’s pizza reopened. So I want to be clear. I did not take sides in that late-night food debate.
The truth is, after eight years in the white house, I needed to spend some time one on one with Michelle if I wanted to stay married. And she says hello, by the way. I also wanted to spend some quality time with my daughters, who were suddenly young women on their way out the door. And I should add, by the way, now that I have a daughter in college, I can tell all the students here, your parents, they cry privately. It is brutal. So please call. Send a text. We need to hear from you. Just a little something.
Truth was, I was also intent on following a wise American tradition of ex-presidents gracefully exiting the political stage and making room for new voices and new ideas.
Truth was, I was also intent on following a wise American tradition of ex-presidents gracefully exiting the political stage and making room for new voices and new ideas.
We have our first president, George Washington, to thank for setting that example. After he led the colonies to victory as General Washington, there were no constraints on him, really. He was practically a god to those who had followed him into battle. There was no constitution. There were no democratic norms that guided what he should or could do. And he could have made himself all-powerful, could have made himself potentially president for life.
Instead, he resigned as commander in chief and moved back to his country estate. Six years later, he was elected president. But after two terms, he resigned again and rode off into the sunset.
The point Washington made, the point that is essential to American democracy, is that in a government of and by and for the people, there should be no permanent ruling class. There are only citizens, who through their elected and temporary representatives, determine our course and determine our character.
I’m here today because this is one of those pivotal moments when every one of us as citizens of the United States need to determine just who it is that we are. Just what it is that we stand for. And as a fellow citizen — not as an ex-president, but as a fellow citizen — I’m here to deliver a simple message, and that is that you need to vote because our democracy depends on it.
Now, some of you may think I’m exaggerating when I say this November’s elections are more important than any I can remember in my lifetime. I know politicians say that all the time. I have been guilty of saying it a few times, particularly when I was on the ballot. But just a glance at recent headlines should tell you that this moment really is different. The stakes really are higher. The consequences of any of us sitting on the sidelines are more dire.
And it’s not as if we haven’t had big elections before or big choices to make in our history. Fact is, democracy has never been easy, and our founding fathers argued about everything. We waged a civil war. We overcame depression. We’ve lurched from eras of great progressive change to periods of still, most Americans alive today, certainly the students who are here, have operated under some common assumptions about who we are and what we stand for.
Out of the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution and the Great Depression, America adapted a new economy, a 20th century economy, guiding our free market with regulations to protect health and safety and fair competition, empowering workers with union movements, investing in science and infrastructure and educational institutions like U of I, strengthening our system of primary and secondary education, and stitching together a social safety net. All of this led to unrivaled prosperity and the rise of a broad and deep middle class and the sense that if you worked hard, you could climb the ladder of success.
Not everyone was included in this prosperity. There was a lot more work to do. And so in response to the stain of slavery and segregation and the reality of racial discrimination, the civil rights movement not only opened new doors for African-Americans but also opened up the floodgates of opportunity for women and Americans with disabilities and LGBT Americans and others to make their own claims to full and equal citizenship.
And although discrimination remained a pernicious force in our society and continues to this day, and although there are controversies about how to best ensure genuine equality of opportunity, there’s been at least rough agreement among the overwhelming majority of Americans that our country is strongest when everybody’s treated fairly, when people are judged on the merits and the content of their character and not the color of their skin or the way in which they worship God or their last names. And that consensus then extended beyond our borders.
And from the wreckage of world War II, we built a post-war architecture, system of alliances and institutions to underwrite freedom and oppose Soviet totalitarianism and to help poorer countries develop. American leadership across the globe wasn’t perfect. We made mistakes. At times we lost sight of our ideals. We had fierce arguments about Vietnam and we had fierce arguments about Iraq. But thanks to our leadership, a bipartisan leadership, and the efforts of diplomats and peace corps volunteers, and most of all thanks to the constant sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, we not only reduced the prospects of war between the world’s great powers, we not only won the Cold War, we helped spread a commitment to certain values and principles like the rule of law and human rights and democracy and the notion of the inherent dignity and worth of every individual.
And even those countries that didn’t abide by those principles were still subject to shame and still had to at least give lip service to the idea, and that provided a lever to continually improve the prospects for people around the world. That’s the story of America. A story of progress, fitful progress, incomplete progress, but progress. And that progress wasn’t achieved by just a handful of famous leaders making speeches. It was won because of countless acts of quiet heroism and dedication by citizens, by ordinary people, many of them not much older than you. It was won because rather than be bystanders to history, ordinary people fought and marched and mobilized and built, and yes, voted to make history.
Of course, there’s always been another darker aspect to America’s story. Progress doesn’t just move in a straight line. There’s a reason why progress hasn’t been easy and why throughout our history every two steps forward seems to sometimes produce one step back. Each time we painstakingly pull ourselves closer to our founding ideals, that all of us are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, the ideals that say every child should have opportunity and every man and woman in this country who’s willing to work hard should be able to find a job and support a family and pursue their small peace of the American dream, ideals that say we have a collective responsibility to care for the sick and the and we have a responsibility to conserve the amazing bounty, the natural resources of this country and of this planet for future generations — each time we’ve gotten closer to those ideals, somebody somewhere has pushed back.
The status quo pushes back. Sometimes the backlash comes from people who are genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change. More often it’s manufactured by the powerful and the privileged who want to keep us divided and keep us angry and keep us cynical because it helps them maintain the status quo and keep their power and keep their privilege. And you happen to be coming of age during one of those moments.
It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years, a fear and anger that’s rooted in our past but it’s also born out of the enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes.
By the way, it is brief. When I heard Amari was 11 when I got elected and now he’s like started a company — that was yesterday!
But think about it. You’ve come of age in a smaller, more connected world where demographic shifts and the wind of change have scrambled not only traditional economic arrangements but our social arrangements and our religious commitments and our civic institutions. Most of you don’t remember a time before 9/11, when you didn’t have to take off your shoes at an airport. Most of you don’t remember a time when America wasn’t at war or when money and images and information could travel instantly around the globe. Or when the climate wasn’t changing faster than our efforts to address it.
This change has happened fast, faster than any time in human history. And it created a new economy that has unleashed incredible prosperity, but it’s also upended people’s lives in profound ways. For those with unique skills or access to technology and capital, a global market has meant unprecedented wealth. For those not so lucky, for the factory worker, for the office worker, or even middle managers, those same forces may have wiped out your job or at least put you in no position to ask for a raise, and as wages slowed and inequality accelerated, those at the top of the economic pyramid have been able to influence government to skew things even more in their direction.
Cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans, unwinding regulations and weakening worker protections, shrinking the safety net. So you have come of age during a time of growing inequality, a fracturing of economic opportunity. And that growing economic divide compounded other divisions in our country. Regional, racial, religious, cultural. And made it harder to build consensus on issues. It made politicians less willing to compromise, which increased gridlock, which made people even more cynical about politics. And then the reckless behavior of financial elites triggered a massive financial crisis.
Ten years ago this week a crisis that resulted in the worst recession in any of our lifetimes and caused years of hardship for the American people. For many of your parents, for many of your families. Most of you weren’t old enough to fully focus on what was going on at the time, but when I came into office in 2009, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. 800,000. Millions of people were losing their homes. Many were worried we were entering into a second great depression.
So we worked hard to end that crisis but also to break some of these longer term trends. The actions we took during that crisis returned the economy to healthy growth and initiated the longest streak of job creation on record. And we covered another 20 million Americans with health insurance and cut our deficits by more than half, partly by making sure that people like me who have been given such amazing opportunities by this country pay our fair share of taxes to help folks coming up behind me.
And by the time I left office, household income was near its all-time high, and the uninsured rate hit an all-time low, poverty rates were falling. I mention this just so when you hear how great the economy is doing right now, let’s just remember when this recovery started. I’m glad it’s continued, but when you hear about this economic miracle that’s been going on, when the job numbers come out, monthly job numbers and suddenly Republicans are saying it’s a miracle, I have to kind of remind them, actually, those job numbers are the same as they were in 2015 and 2016 and -- anyway. I digress.
So we made progress, but -- and this is the truth -- my administration couldn’t reverse 40-year trends in only eight especially once Republicans took over the house of representatives in 2010 and decided to block everything we did. Even things they used to support.
So we pulled the economy out of crisis, but to this day, too many people who once felt solidly middle class still feel very real and very personal economic insecurity. Even though we took out bin Laden and wound down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, got Iran to halt its nuclear program, the world’s still full of threats and disorder that come streaming through people’s televisions every single day. And these challenges get people worried and it frays our civic trust and it makes a lot of people feel like the fix is in and the game is rigged and nobody’s looking out for them.
Especially those communities outside our big urban centers. And even though your generation is the most diverse in history with a greater acceptance and celebration of our differences than ever before, those are the kinds of conditions that are ripe for exploitation by politicians who have no compunction and no shame about tapping into America’s dark history of racial and ethnic and religious division. Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, telling people that order and security will be restored if it weren’t for those who don’t look like us or don’t sound like us or don’t pray like we do, that’s an old playbook. It’s as old as time.
And in a healthy democracy, it doesn’t work. Our antibodies kick in, and people of goodwill from across the political spectrum call out the bigots and the fear mongers and work to compromise and get things done and promote the better angels of our nature.
But when there’s a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, when we take our basic rights and freedoms for granted, when we turn away and stop paying attention and stop engaging and stop believing and look for the newest diversion, the electronic versions of bread and circuses, then other voices fill the void.
A politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment takes hold and demagogues promise simple fixes to complex problems. No promise to fight for the little guy, even as they cater to the wealthiest and most powerful. No promise to clean up corruption and then plunder away. They start undermining norms that ensure accountability and try to change the rules to entrench their power further. They appeal to racial nationalism that’s barely veiled, if veiled at all. Sound familiar?
I understand this is not just a matter of Democrats versus Republicans or liberals versus conservatives. At various times in our history, this kind of politics has infected both parties. Southern Democrats were the bigger defenders of slavery. It took a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, to end it. Although it was a Democratic president and a majority Democrat Congress spurred on by young marchers and protesters that got the civil rights act and the voting rights act over the finish line, those historic laws also got passed because of the leadership of Republicans like Illinois’s own Everett Dirksen. So neither party has had a monopoly on wisdom.
Neither party has been exclusively responsible for us going backwards instead of forwards. But I have to say this because sometimes we hear a plague on both your houses. Over the past few decades, it wasn’t true when Jim Edgar was governor here in Illinois.
But over the past few decades, the politics of division and resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican party. This Congress has championed the unwinding of campaign finance laws to give billionaires outside influence over our politics. Systematically attacked voting rights to make it harder for young people and minorities and the poor to vote. Handed out tax cuts without regard to deficits. Slashed the safety net wherever it could, cast dozens of votes to take away health insurance from ordinary Americans, embraced wild conspiracy theories like those surrounding Benghazi or my birth certificate, rejected science, rejected facts on things like climate change, embraced a rising absolutism from a willingness to default on America’s debt by not paying our bills to a refusal to even meet much less consider a qualified nominee for the supreme court because he happened to be nominated by a Democratic president.
None of this is conservative. I don’t mean to pretend I’m channelling Abraham Lincoln now, but that’s not what he had in mind, I think, when he helped form the Republican party. It’s not conservative. It sure isn’t normal. It’s radical. It’s a vision that says the protection of our power and those who back us is all that matters even when it hurts the country. It’s a vision that says the few who can afford high-price lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions set the agenda, and over the past two years, this vision is now nearing its logical conclusion.
So with Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, without any checks or balances whatsoever, they’ve provided another $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to people like me who I promise don’t need it and don’t even pretend to pay for them. It’s supposed to be the party supposedly of fiscal conservatism. Suddenly deficits do not matter. Even though just two years ago when the deficit was lower, they said I couldn’t afford to help working families or seniors on medicare because the deficit was in existential crisis. What changed? What changed?
They’re subsidizing corporate polluters with taxpayer dollars, allowing dishonest lenders to take advantage of veterans and consumers and students again. They’ve made it so that the only nation on Earth to pull out of the global climate agreement, it’s not North Korea, it’s not Syria, it’s not Russia or Saudi Arabia, it’s us. The only country. There are a lot of countries in the world. We’re the only ones.
They’re undermining our alliances, cozying up to Russia. What happened to the Republican party? Its central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism, and now they’re cozying up to the former head of the KGB.
Actively blocking legislation that would defend our elections from Russian attack. What happened? Their sabotage of the affordable care act has already cost more than 3 million Americans their health insurance, and if they’re still in power next fall, you better believe they’re coming at it again. They’ve said so. In a healthy democracy, there’s some checks and balances on this kind of behavior, this kind of inconsistency, but right now there’s nothing. Republicans who know better in Congress, and they’re there, they’re quoted saying, yeah, we know this is kind of crazy, are still bending over backwards to shield this behavior from scrutiny or accountability or consequence, seem utterly unwilling to find the backbone to safeguard the institutions that make our democracy work.
And by the way, the claim that everything will turn out okay because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren’t following the president’s orders, that is not a check. I’m being serious here. That’s not how our democracy’s supposed to work. These people aren’t elected. They’re not accountable. They’re not doing us a service by actively promoting 90% of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of this white house, and then saying, don’t worry, we’re preventing the other 10%.
That’s not how things are supposed to work. This is not normal. These are extraordinary times. And they’re dangerous times.
But here’s the good news. In two months we have the chance, not the certainty, but the chance to restore some semblance of sanity to our politics. Because there is actually only one real check on bad policy and abuse of power. That’s you. You and your vote. Look, Americans will always have disagreements on policy. This is a big country. It is a raucous country.
I happen to be a Democrat. I believe our policies are better and we have a bigger, bolder vision of equality and justice and inclusive democracy. We know there are a lot of jobs young people aren’t getting a chance to occupy or aren’t getting paid enough or aren’t getting benefits like insurance. It’s harder for young people to save for a rainy day let alone retirement.
So Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like a higher minimum wage, they’re running on good new ideas like medicare for all, giving workers seats on corporate boards, reversing the most egregious corporate tax cuts to make sure college students graduate.
We know that people are tired of toxic corruption and that democracy depends on transparency and accountability, so Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns, but on good new ideas like barring lobbyists from getting paid by foreign governments.
We know that climate change isn’t just coming. It’s here. So Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like increasing gas mileage in our cars, which I did and which Republicans are trying to reverse, but on good new ideas like putting a price on carbon pollution.
We know in a smaller, more connected world, we can’t just put technology back in a box. We can’t just put walls up all around America. Walls don’t keep out threats like terrorism or disease. And that’s why we propose leading our alliances and helping other countries develop and pushing back against tyrants.
Democrats talk about reforming our immigration system so, yes, it is orderly and it is fair and it is legal, but it continues to welcome strivers and dreamers from all around the world. That’s why I’m a Democrat. That’s a set of ideas that I believe in. But I am here to tell you that even if you don’t agree with me or Democrats on policy, even if you believe in more libertarian economic theories, even if you are an evangelical and our position on certain social issues is a bridge too far, even if you think my assessment of immigration is mistaken and the Democrats aren’t serious enough about immigration enforcement, I’m here to tell you that you should still be concerned with our current course and should still want to see a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government.
It should not be Democratic or Republican. It should not be a partisan issue to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the criminal justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents. Or to explicitly call on the attorney general to protect members of our own party from prosecution because an election happens to be coming up. I’m not making that up. That’s not hypothetical.
It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say that we don’t threaten the freedom of the press because they say things or publish stories we don’t like. I complained plenty about Fox News, but you never heard me threaten to shut them down or call them enemies of the people. It shouldn’t be democratic or Republican to say we don’t target certain groups of people based on what they look like or how they pray.
We are Americans. We’re supposed to stand up to bullies. Not follow them. We’re supposed to stand up to discrimination, and we’re sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers. How hard can that be? Saying that Nazis are bad.
I’ll be honest, sometimes I get into arguments with progressive friends about what the current political movement requires. There are well-meaning folks passionate about social justice who think things have gotten so bad, the lines have been so starkly drawn, that we have to fight fire with fire. We have to do the same things to the Republicans that they do to adopt their tactics. Say whatever works. Make up stuff about the other.
I don’t agree with that. It’s not because I’m soft. It’s not because I’m interested in promoting an empty bipartisanship. I don’t agree with it because eroding our civic institutions and our civic trust and making people angrier and yelling at each other and making people cynical about government, that always works better for those who don’t believe in the power of collective action.
You don’t need an effective government or a robust press or reasoned debate to work when all you’re concerned about is maintaining power. In fact, the more cynical people are about government, the angrier and more dispirited they are about the prospects for change, the more likely the powerful are able to maintain their power.
But we believe that in order to move this country forward, to actually solve problems and make people’s lives better, we need a well-functioning government. We need our civic institutions to work. We need cooperation among people of different political persuasions. And to make that work, we have to restore our faith in democracy. We have to bring people together, not tear them apart. We need majorities in Congress and state legislatures who are serious about governing and want to bring about real change and improvements in people’s lives. And we won’t win people over by calling them names or dismissing entire chunks of the country as racist or sexist or homophobic.
When I say bring people together, I mean all of our people.
This whole notion that has sprung up recently about Democrats needing to choose between trying to appeal to white working class voters or voters of color and women and LGBT Americans, that’s nonsense. I don’t buy that. I got votes from every demographic. We won by reaching out to everybody and competing everywhere and by fighting for every vote. And that’s what we’ve got to do in this election and every election after that. And we can’t do that if we immediately disregard what others have to say from the start because they’re not like us, because they’re white or they’re black or they’re man or a woman or they’re gay or they’re straight.
If we think that somehow there’s no way they can understand how I’m feeling and therefore don’t have any standing to speak on certain matters because we’re only defined by certain characteristics, that doesn’t work if you want a healthy we can’t do that if we traffic in absolute when it comes to make democracy work, we have to be able to get inside the reality of people who are different, have different experiences, come from different backgrounds. We have to engage them even when it is frustrating. We have to listen to them, even when we don’t like what they have to say.
We have to hope that we can change their minds, and we have to remain open to them changing ours. And that doesn’t mean, by the way, abandoning our principles or caving to bad policy in the interests of maintaining some phony version of civility. That seems to be, by the way, the definition of civility offered by too many congressional Republicans right now. We will be polite so long as we get 100% of what we want and you don’t call us out on the various ways we’re sticking it to people. And we’ll click our tongues and issue vague statements of disappointment when the president does something outrageous, but we won’t actually do anything about it. That’s not civility. That’s abdicating your responsibilities. But again, I digress. Making democracy work means holding on to our principles,
having clarity about our principles, and then having the confidence to get in the arena and have a serious debate. It also means appreciating progress does not happen all at once but when you put your shoulder to the wheel, if you’re willing to fight for it, things do get better. And let me tell you something, particularly young people here.
Better is good. I used to have to tell my young staff this all the time in the white house. Better is good. That’s the history of progress in this country. Not perfect, better. The civil rights act didn’t end racism, but it made things better. Social security didn’t eliminate all poverty for seniors, but it made things better for millions of people. Do not let people tell you the fight’s not worth it because you won’t get everything that you want. The idea that, well, you know, there’s racism in America, so I’m not going to bother voting, no point, that makes no sense. You can make it better. Better is always worth fighting for. That’s how our founders expected this system of self-government to work. Through the testing of ideas and the application of reason and evidence and proof, we could sort through our differences, and nobody would get exactly what they wanted, but it would be possible to find a basis for common ground. And that common ground exists.
Maybe it’s not fashionable to say that right now. It’s hard to see it with all the nonsense in Washington. It’s hard to hear it with all the noise. But common ground exists. I have seen it. I have lived it. I know there are white people who care deeply about black people being treated unfairly. I have talked to them and loved them, and I know there are black people who care deeply about the struggles of white rural I’m one of them. And I have a track record to prove it. I know there are evangelicals who are deeply committed to doing something about climate change. I’ve seen them do the work.
I know there are conservatives who think there’s nothing compassionate about separating immigrant children from their mothers. I know there are Republicans who believe government should only perform a few minimal functions but that one of those functions should be making sure nearly 3,000 Americans don’t die in a hurricane and its aftermath.
Common ground is out there. I see it every day. It’s just how people interact, how people treat each other. You see it on the ball field. You see it at work. You see it in places of worship. But to say that common ground exists doesn’t mean it will inevitably win out.
History shows the power of fear and the closer that we get to Election Day, the more those invested in the politics of fear and division will work -- will do anything to hang on to their recent gains. Fortunately, I am hopeful because out of this political darkness, I am seeing a great awakening of citizenship all across the country. I cannot tell you how encouraged I’ve been by watching so many people get involved for the first time or the first time in a long time. They’re marching and they’re organizing and they’re registering people to vote and they’re running for office themselves.
Look at this crop of Democratic candidates running for Congress and governor, running for the state legislature, running for district attorney, running for school board. It is a movement of citizens who happen to be younger and more diverse and more female than ever before, and that’s really useful. We need more women in charge. But we have first-time candidates. We have veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Record numbers of women. Americans who have previously maybe didn’t have an interest in politics as a career but laced up their shoes and rolled up their sleeves and grabbed a clipboard because they, too, believe this time’s different. This moment’s too important to sit out.
And if you listen to what these candidates are talking about in individual races across the country, you’ll find they’re not just running against something, they’re running for something. They’re running to expand opportunity and running to restore the honor to public service. And speaking as a Democrat, that’s when the Democratic party has always made the biggest difference in the lives of the American people. When we led with conviction and principle and bold new ideas. The antidote to a government controlled by a powerful few, a government that divides is a government by the organized, energized, inclusive many. That’s what this moment’s about. That has to be the answer.
You cannot sit back and wait for a savior. You can’t opt out because you don’t feel sufficiently inspired by this or that particular candidate. This is not a rock concert. This is not Coachella. We don’t need a messiah. All we need are decent, honest, hard-working people who are accountable and who have America’s best interests at heart. And they’ll step up and they’ll join our government, and they will make things better if they have support.
One election will not fix everything that needs to be fixed. But it will be a start. And you have to start it. What’s going to fix our democracy is you.
People ask me, what are you going to do for the election? No, the question is what are you going to do? You’re the antidote. Your participation and your spirit and your determination, not just in this election, but in every subsequent election and in the days between elections. Because in the end, the threat to our democracy doesn’t just come from Donald Trump or the current batch of Republicans in Congress or the Koch brothers and their lobbyists or too much compromise from Democrats or Russian hacking. The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference. The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism.
Cynicism led too many people to turn away from politics and stay home on Election Day. To all the young people who are here today, there are now more eligible voters in your generation than in any other, which means your generation now has more power than anybody to change things. If you want it, you can make sure America gets out of its current funk. If you actually care about it, you have the power to make sure what we see is a brighter future. But to exercise that clout, to exercise that power, you have to show up. In the last midterm elections in 2014, fewer than one in five young people voted.
One in five. Not two in five or three. One in five. Is it any wonder this Congress doesn’t reflect your values and your priorities? Are you surprised by that? This whole project of self-government only works if everybody’s doing their part. Don’t tell me your vote doesn’t matter. I’ve won states in the presidential election because of 5, 10, 20 votes per precinct. And if you thought elections don’t matter, I hope these last two years have corrected that impression.
So if you don’t like what’s going on right now, and you shouldn’t, do not complain, don’t hashtag, don’t get anxious, don’t retreat, don’t binge on whatever it is you’re bingeing on, don’t lose yourself in ironic detachment, don’t put your head in the sand, don’t boo. Vote. Vote. If you are really concerned about how the criminal justice system treats African-Americans, the best way to protest is to vote. Not just for senators and representatives but for mayors and sheriffs and state legislators.
Do what they just did in Philadelphia and Boston and elect states attorneys and district attorneys who are looking at issues in a new light, who realize that the vast majority of law enforcement do the right thing in a really hard job, and we just need to make sure all of them do. If you’re tired of politicians who offer nothing but thoughts and prayers after a mass shooting, you’ve got to do what the parkland kids are doing. Some of them aren’t even eligible to vote yet. They’re out there working to change minds and registering people. And they’re not giving up until we have a Congress that sees your lives as more important than a campaign check from the you’ve got to vote.
If you support the #metoo movement, you’re outraged by stories of sexual harassment and assault, inspired by the women who have shared them, you’ve got to do more than retweet a hashtag. You’ve got to vote. Part of the reason women are more vulnerable in the workplace is because not enough women are bosses in the workplace. Which is why we need to strengthen and enforce laws that protect women in the workplace, not just from harassment, but from discrimination in hiring and promotion and not getting paid the same amount for doing the same work. That requires laws, laws get passed by legislators.
You’ve got to vote. When you vote, you’ve got the power to make it easier to afford college and harder to shoot up a school. When you vote, you’ve got the power to make sure a family keeps its health insurance. You could save somebody’s life. When you vote, you’ve got the
power to make sure white nationalists don’t feel emboldened to March with their hoods off or their hoods on in Charlottesville in the middle of the day. 30 minutes. 30 minutes of your time. Is democracy worth that?
We have been through much darker times than these. And somehow each generation of Americans carried us through to the other side. Not by sitting around and waiting for something to happen, not by leaving it to others to do something, but by leading that movement for change themselves. And if you do that, if you get involved and you get engaged and you knock on some doors and you talk with your friends and you argue with your family members and you change some minds and you vote, something powerful happens. Change happens. Hope happens. Not perfection, not every bit of cruelty and sadness and poverty and disease suddenly stricken from the Earth. There will still be problems, but with each new candidate that surprises you with a victory that you supported, a spark of hope happens.
With each new law that helps a kid read or helps a homeless family find shelter or helps a veteran get the support he or she has earned, each time that happens hope happens. With each new step we take in the direction of fairness and justice and equality and opportunity, hope spreads. And that can be the legacy of your generation.
You can be the generation that at a critical moment stood up and reminded us just how precious this experiment in democracy really is, just how powerful it can be when we fight for it, when we believe in it. I believe in you. I believe you will help lead us in the right direction, and I will be right there with you every step of the way. Thank you, Illinois. God bless you. God bless this country we love.
2 September 1945, Ba Dinh Square, Hanoi, Vietnam
All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live and to be happy and free.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, made at the time of the French Revolution, in 1791, also states: “All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights.”
Those are undeniable truths.
Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow-citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice.
Politically, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty.
They have enforced inhuman laws; they have set up three distinct political regimes in the North, the Centre and the South of Viet Nam in order to wreck our country’s oneness and prevent our people from being united.
They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly massacred our patriots. They have drowned our uprisings in seas of blood.
They have fettered public opinion and practised obscurantism.
The have weakened our race with opium and alcohol.
In the field of economics, they have sucked us dry, driven our people to destitution and devastated our land.
They have robbed us of our ricefields, our mines, our forests and our raw materials. They have monopolised the issuing of banknotes and the import and export trade.
They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to extreme poverty.
They have made it impossible for our national bourgeoisie to prosper; they have mercilessly exploited our workers.
In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese fascists invaded Indochina to establish new bases against the Allies, the French colonialists went down on their bended knees and opened the doors of our country to welcome the Japanese in.
Thus, from that date, our people were subjected to the double yoke of the French and the Japanese. Their sufferings and miseries increased. The result was that towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year, from Quang Tri province to the North of Vietnam, more than two million of our fellow-citizens died from starvation.
On the 9th of March this year, the French troops were disarmed by the Japanese. The French colonialists either fled or surrendered, showing that not only were they incapable of “protecting” us, but that, in a period of five years, they had twice sold our country to the Japanese.
Before the 9th of March, how often the Viet Minh had urged the French to ally themselves with it against the Japanese! But instead of agreeing to this proposal, the French colonialists only intensified their terrorist activities against the Viet Minh. After their defeat and before fleeing, they massacred the political prisoners detained at Yen Bai and Cao Bang.
In spite of all this, our fellow-citizens have always manifested a lenient and humane attitude towards the French. After the Japanese putsch of March 9, 1945, the Viet Minh helped many Frenchmen to cross the frontier, rescued others from Japanese jails, and protected French lives and property. In fact, since the autumn of 1940, our country had ceased to be a French colony and had become a Japanese possession.
When the Japanese surrendered to the Allies, our entire people rose to gain power and founded the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese, not from the French.
The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which have fettered them for nearly a century and have won independence for Viet Nam. At the same time they have overthrown the centuries-old monarchic regime and established a democratic republican regime.
We, the Provisional Government of the new Viet Nam, representing the entire Vietnamese people, hereby declare that from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; cancel all treaties signed by France on Viet Nam, and abolish all privileges held by France in our country.
The entire Vietnamese people are of one mind in their determination to oppose all wicked schemes by the French colonialists.
We are convinced that the Allies, which at the Teheran and San Francisco Conferences upheld the principle of equality among the nations, cannot fail to recognize the right of the Vietnamese people to independence.
A people who have courageously opposed French enslavement for more than eight years, a people who have resolutely sided with the Allies against the fascists during these last years, such a people must be free, such a people must be independent.
For these reasons, we, the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam, solemnly make this declaration to the world:
Viet Nam has the right to enjoy freedom and independence and in fact has become a free and independent country. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their freedom and independence.
3 June 1875, Oxford Union, Oxford, UK
Three and half years ago, when they were urging us to go in, oh what a campaign it was!
You’ve got to get in to get on” was the slogan of that day. Five or six pounds a week better off for Britain if we can only get in to the Common Market. All the goodies were spread out, and Donald Stokes of Leyland buying one page advertisements saying, “all we need is a great domestic market of 250 million and we will sweep Europe!”
And do you know what has happened? And this is the one significance of the trade figure – I’m not arguing – who cares about the actual details of the size of it – that doesn’t matter. It’s the trend! The trend!
Three years ago, four years ago, we were almost in balance with the Common Market in this country.
What’s happened since? 500 million down in 72′. 1000 million in 73′. 2000 million in 74′. Running now at the rate of 2400 million this year! Don’t you see what that’s going to do to the prosperity of this country! You can’t go on borrowing that.
When you add to that the burdens I mentioned a moment ago, and we under grave threat! We’re in peril at the present time, and the country must know.
Therefore, now what do they say? What is the message that comes now? No longer to tell the British people about the goodies that lie there. No longer that. That won’t wash – will it? Because the evidence will no longer support it.
So the message, the message that comes out is fear, fear, fear.
Fear because you won’t have any food.
Fear of unemployment.
Fear that we’ve somehow been so reduced as a country that we can no longer, as it were, totter about in the world independent as a nation.
And a constant attrition of our moral.
A constant attempt to tell us that what we have and what we had as not only our own achievements, but what generations of Englishman has helped us to achieve, is not worth a damn.
The kind of laughter that greeted the early references that I made that what was involved was the transfer of the whole of our democratic system. Not a damn!
Well, I tell you what we now have to face in Britain, what the whole argument is about. Now that the fraud and the promise has been exposed.
What it’s about is basically about the moral and the self-confidence of our people. We can shape our future. We are 55 million people. If you look around the world today, and you listen to Gough Whitlam and his 14 million Australians. He trades heavily with Japan – and I’m very fond of the Australians – but do you think that he’s going to enter into a relationship with Japan, which gives Japan the right to make the laws in Australia?
Do you think Canada, 22 million of them, and to the south a great and friendly nation – yes, they are – but do you think Canada is going to allow its laws to be written by the 200 million people in some union in America? No, no – of course not.
The whole thing is an absurdity! And therefore I urge you, I urge you to reject it. I urge you to say ‘No’ to this motion! And I urge the whole British country to say ‘No’ on Thursday in the referendum!
Here is the full debate
I am very fortunate to be called this early. I apologise to my right hon. Friend—my old friend—but 93 other Members are still waiting to be called, so if he will forgive me, I will not give way.
The Conservative Governments in which I served made very positive contributions to the development of the European Union. There were two areas in which we were the leading contender and made a big difference. The first was when the Thatcher Government led the way in the creation of the single market. The customs union—the so-called common market—had served its purpose, but regulatory barriers matter more than tariffs in the modern world. But for the Thatcher Government, the others would not have been induced to remove those barriers, and I think that the British benefited more from the single market than any other member state. It has contributed to our comparative economic success today.
We were always the leading Government after the fall of the Soviet Union in the process of enlargement to eastern Europe, taking in the former Soviet states. That was an extremely important political contribution. After the surprising collapse of the Soviet Union, eastern and central Europe could have collapsed into its traditional anarchy, nationalist rivalry and military regimes that preceded the second world war. We pressed the urgency of bringing in these new independent nations, giving them the goal of the European Union, which meant liberal democracy, free market trade and so forth. We made Europe a much more stable place.
That has been our role in the European Union, and I believe that it is a very bad move, particularly for our children and grandchildren, that we are all sitting here now saying that we are embarking on a new unknown future. I shall touch on that in a moment, because I think the position is simply baffling to every friend of the British and of the United Kingdom throughout the world. That is why I shall vote against the Bill.
Let me deal with the arguments that I should not vote in that way, that I am being undemocratic, that I am quite wrong, and that, as an elected Member of Parliament, I am under a duty to vote contrary to the views I have just given. I am told that this is because we held a referendum. First, I am in the happy situation that my opposition to referendums as an instrument of government is quite well known and has been frequently repeated throughout my political career. I have made no commitment to accept a referendum, and particularly this referendum, when such an enormous question, with hundreds of complex issues wrapped up within it, was to be decided by a simple yes/no answer on one day. That was particularly unsuitable for a plebiscite of that kind, and that point was reinforced by the nature of the debate.
Constitutionally, when the Government tried to stop the House from having a vote, they did not go to the Supreme Court arguing that a referendum bound the House and that that was why we should not have a vote. The referendum had always been described as advisory in everything that the Government put out. There is no constitutional standing for referendums in this country. No sensible country has referendums—the United States and Germany do not have them in their political systems. The Government went to the Supreme Court arguing for the archaic constitutional principle of the royal prerogative—that the Executive somehow had absolute power when it came to dealing with treaties. Not surprisingly, they lost.
What about the position of Members of Parliament? There is no doubt that by an adequate but narrow majority, leave won the referendum campaign. I will not comment on the nature of the campaign. Those arguments that got publicity in the national media on both sides were, on the whole, fairly pathetic. I have agreed in conversation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union that he and I can both tell ourselves that neither of us used the dafter arguments that were put forward by the people we were allied with. It was not a very serious debate on the subject. I do not recall the view that £350 million a week would be available for the health service coming from the Brexit Secretary, and I did not say that we going to have a Budget to put up income tax and all that kind of thing. It was all quite pathetic.
Let me provide an analogy—a loose one but, I think, not totally loose—explaining the position of Members of Parliament after this referendum. I have fought Lord knows how many elections over the past 50 years, and I have always advocated voting Conservative. The British public, in their wisdom, have occasionally failed to take my advice and have by a majority voted Labour. I have thus found myself here facing a Labour Government, but I do not recall an occasion when I was told that it was my democratic duty to support Labour policies and the Labour Government on the other side of the House. That proposition, if put to Mr Skinner in opposition or myself, would have been treated with ridicule and scorn. Apparently, I am now being told that despite voting as I did in the referendum, I am somehow an enemy of the people for ignoring my instructions and for sticking to the opinions that I expressed rather strongly, at least in my meetings, when I urged people to vote the other way.
I have no intention of changing my opinion on the ground. Indeed, I am personally convinced that the hard-core Eurosceptics in my party, with whom I have enjoyed debating this issue for decades, would not have felt bound in the slightest by the outcome of the referendum to abandon their arguments—[Interruption.] I do not say that as criticism; I am actually on good terms with the hard-line Eurosceptics because I respect their sincerity and the passionate nature of their beliefs. If I ever live to see my hon. Friend Sir William Cash turn up here and vote in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union, I will retract what I say, but hot tongs would not make him vote for membership of the EU.
I must move on, but I am told that I should vote for my party as we are on a three-line Whip. I am a Conservative; I have been a decently loyal Conservative over the years. The last time I kicked over the traces was on the Lisbon treaty, when for some peculiar reason my party got itself on the wrong side of the argument, but we will pass over that. I would point out to those who say that I am somehow being disloyal to my party by not voting in favour of this Bill that I am merely propounding the official policy of the Conservative party for 50 years until 23 June 2016. I admire my colleagues who can suddenly become enthusiastic Brexiteers, having seen a light on the road to Damascus on the day that the vote was cast, but I am afraid that that light has been denied me.
I feel the spirit of my former colleague, Enoch Powell—I rather respected him, aside from one or two of his extreme views—who was probably the best speaker for the Eurosceptic cause I ever heard in this House of Commons. If he were here, he would probably find it amazing that his party had become Eurosceptic and rather mildly anti-immigrant, in a very strange way, in 2016. Well, I am afraid that, on that issue, I have not followed it, and I do not intend to do so.
There are very serious issues that were not addressed in the referendum: the single market and the customs union. They must be properly debated. It is absurd to say that every elector knew the difference between the customs union and the single market, and that they took a careful and studied view of the basis for our future trading relations with Europe.
The fact is that I admire the Prime Minister and her colleagues for their constant propounding of the principles of free trade. My party has not changed on that. We are believers in free trade and see it as a win-win situation. We were the leading advocate of liberal economic policies among the European powers for many years, so we are free traders. It seems to me unarguable that if we put between us and the biggest free market in the world new tariffs, new regulatory barriers, new customs procedures, certificates of origin and so on, we are bound to be weakening the economic position from what it would otherwise have been, other things being equal, in future. That is why it is important that this issue is addressed in particular.
I am told that that view is pessimistic, and that we are combining withdrawal from the single market and the customs union with a great new globalised future that offers tremendous opportunities for us. Apparently, when we follow the rabbit down the hole, we will emerge in a wonderland where, suddenly, countries throughout the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages and access to their markets that we were never able to achieve as part of the European Union. Nice men like President Trump and President Erdogan are impatient to abandon their normal protectionism and give us access. Let me not be too cynical; I hope that that is right. I do want the best outcome for the United Kingdom from this process. No doubt somewhere a hatter is holding a tea party with a dormouse in the teapot.
We need success in these trade negotiations to recoup at least some of the losses that we will incur as a result of leaving the single market. If all is lost on the main principle, that is the big principle that the House must get control of and address seriously, in proper debates and votes, from now on.
I hope that I have adequately explained that my views on this issue have not been shaken very much over the decades—they have actually strengthened somewhat. Most Members, I trust, are familiar with Burke’s address to the electors of Bristol. I have always firmly believed that every MP should vote on an issue of this importance according to their view of the best national interest. I never quote Burke, but I shall paraphrase him. He said to his constituents, “If I no longer give you the benefit of my judgment and simply follow your orders, I am not serving you; I am betraying you.” I personally shall be voting with my conscience content, and when we see what unfolds hereafter as we leave the European Union, I hope that the consciences of other Members of Parliament will remain equally content.
16 September 2018, Senate chamber, Canberra, Australia
In seeking to extend terms of royal commission into people abused and neglected in aged care, to include people with disabilities, Jordon Steele-John used parliamentary privilege to name Australians with disabilities who have died in institutional care.
23 August 2018, Texas, USA (via NowThis)
Questioner: I kind of wanted to know how you personally felt about how disrespectful it is, like, you have the NFL players kneeling during the national anthems. I wanted to know if you found that disrespectful to our country, to our veterans and anybody relaed to that?"
O’Rourke: On a really tough issue that, if we don't talk about, is not going to get better," O'Rourke responds, going on to thank service members. "My short answer is no, I don't think it's disrespectful."
And reasonable people can disagree on this issue, let's begin there. And it makes them no less American to come down on a different conclusion on this issue, right? You can feel as the young man does, you can feel as I do, you're every bit as American, all the same. But I'm reminded, somebody mentioned reading the Taylor Branch book, 'Parting the Waters: [America] in the King Years.' And when you read that book and find out what Dr. King and this non-violent, peaceful movement to secure better -- 'cause they didn't get full civil rights for their fellow Americans, the challenges that they face, those who died in Philadelphia, Mississippi, for the crime of trying to be a man, trying to be a woman in this country, the young girls who died in the church bombing, those who were beaten within an inch of their life crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, with John Lewis, those who were punched in the face, spat upon, dragged out by their collar at the Woolworth lunch counter for sitting with white people at that same lunch counter, in the same country where their fathers may have bled the same blood on the battlefields of Omaha Beach or Okinawa, or anywhere that anyone ever served this country. The freedoms that we have were purchased not just by those in uniform, and they definitely were, but also by those who took their lives into their hands riding those Greyhound buses, the Freedom Riders in the Deep South in the 1960s who knew full well that they would be arrested, and they were, serving time in the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Rosa Parks getting from the back of the bus to the front of the bus. Peaceful, non-violent protests, including taking a knee at a football to point out that black men, unarmed, black teenagers, unarmed, and black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement, without accountability and without justice. And this problem, as grave as it is, is not gonna fix itself. And they're frustrated, frankly, with people like me and those in positions of public trust and power who have been unable to resolve this or bring justice for what has been done and to stop it from continuing to happen in this country. And so non-violently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it. That is why they're doing it and I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights anytime, anywhere, any place.
November 1962, White House, Washington DC, USA
This was deliverered a few days after the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved on 28 OIctober 1962.
In these difficult days in the life of our country, I know every American is going to ask what he can do for his country.
Not everyone can serve in our armed forces, or in our national government, but there is one thing that we all can do.
And that is to demonstrate our faith in democracy and our strong belief in freedom.
Next Tuesday, November 6th is Election Day.
I hope every American will vote. Will vote for the candidate and party of his choice, but vote!
In that way we can indicate to our country, to people our around the world who look to us, how strongly we value our freedom, how strongly we believe in democracy, how much we desire to indicate our faith in our country.
Tuesday November 6th. I hope all Americans will participate in the great process of democracy by voting.
In these difficult days in the life of our country, I know every American is going to ask what he can do for his country.
Not everyone can serve in our armed forces, or in our national government, but there is one thing that we all can do.
And that is to demonstrate our faith in democracy and our strong belief in freedom.
Next Tuesday, November 6th is Election Day.
I hope every American will vote. Will vote for the candidate and party of his choice, but vote!
In that way we can indicate to our country, to people our around the world who look to us, how strongly we value our freedom, how strongly we believe in democracy, how much we desire to indicate our faith in our country.
Tuesday November 6th. I hope all Americans will participate in the great process of democracy by voting.
7 December 1991, USS Arizona Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii. USA
Thank you, Captain Ross. Thank you, sir. To our Secretary of Defense and our Chairman of our Joint Chiefs; members of our Cabinet; distinguished Governors here; and so many Members of the United States Congress; Admiral Larson; members of our Armed Forces, then and now; family and friends of the Arizona and Utah; fellow veterans. Thank you very much for that introduction, Don, and thank you all for that welcome.
It was a bright Sunday morning. Thousands of troops slept soundly in their bunks. Some who were awake looked out and savored the still and tranquil harbor.
And on the stern of the U.S.S. Nevada, a brass band prepared to play "The Star Spangled Banner." On other ships, sailors readied for the 8 a.m. flag raising. Ray Emory, who was on the Honolulu, read the morning newspaper. Aboard California, yeoman Durell Connor wrapped Christmas presents. On the West Virginia, a machinist's mate looked at the photos just received from his wife. And they were of his 8-month-old son whom he had never seen.
On the mainland, people listened to the football games on the radio, turned to songs like the "Chattanooga Choo-Choo," comics like "Terry and the Pirates," movies like "Sergeant York." In New York, families went window-shopping. Out West, it was late morning, many families still at church.
At first, to the American sailors at Pearl, the hum of engines sounded routine, and why not? To them, the idea of war seemed palpable but remote. And then, in one horrible instant, they froze in disbelief. The abstract threat was suddenly real.
But these men did not panic. They raced to their stations, and some strapped pistols over pajamas, and fought and died. And what lived was the shock wave that soon swept across America, forever immortalizing December 7th, 1941. Ask anyone who endured that awful Sunday. Each felt like the writer who observed: "Life is never again as it was before anyone you love has died; never so innocent, never so gentle, never so pliant to your will."
Today we honor those who gave their lives at this place, half a century ago. Their names were Bertie and Gomez and Dougherty and Granger. And they came from Idaho and Mississippi, the sweeping farmland of Ohio. And they were of all races and colors, native-born and foreign-born. And most of all, of course, they were Americans.
Think of how it was for these heroes of the Harbor, men who were also husbands, fathers, brothers, sons. Imagine the chaos of guns and smoke, flaming water, and ghastly carnage. Two thousand, four hundred and three Americans gave their lives. But in this haunting place, they live forever in our memory, reminding us gently, selflessly, like chimes in the distant night.
Every 15 seconds a drop of oil still rises from the Arizona and drifts to the surface. As it spreads across the water, we recall the ancient poet: "In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair against our will comes wisdom through the awful grace of God." With each drop, it is as though God Himself were crying. He cries, as we do, for the living and the dead: men like Commander Duncan Curry, firing a .45 at an attacking plane as tears streamed down his face.
We remember machinist's mate Robert Scott, who ran the air compressors powering the guns aboard California. And when the compartment flooded, the crew evacuated; Scott refused. "This is my station," he said, "I'm going to stay as long as the guns are going." And nearby, aboard New Orleans, the cruiser, Chaplain Forgy assured his troops it was all right to miss church that day. His words became legend: "You can praise the Lord and pass the ammunition."
Captain Ross, right here, then a warrant officer or was it a chief, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism aboard Nevada that day. I salute him, the other Congressional Medal winners with us today, wherever they may be also.
For the defenders of Pearl, heroism came as naturally as breath. They reacted instinctively by rushing to their posts. They knew as well that our Nation would be sustained by the nobility of its cause.
So did Americans of Japanese ancestry who came by the hundreds to give wounded Americans blood, and the thousands of their kinsmen all across America who took up arms for their country. Every American believed in the cause.
The men I speak of would be embarrassed to be called heroes. Instead, they would tell you, probably with defiance: "Foes can sink American ships, but not the American spirit. They may kill us, but never the ideals that made us proud to serve."
Talk to those who survived to fight another day. They would repeat the Navy hymn that Barbara and I sing every Sunday in the lovely little chapel up at Camp David: "Eternal Father, strong to save, Whose arm hath bound the restless wave . . . O hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea."
Back in 1942, June of '42, I remember how Henry Stimson, the Secretary of War, defined the American soldier, and how that soldier should be, and I quote: "Brave without being brutal, self-confident without boasting, being part of an irresistible might without losing faith in individual liberty."
The heroes of the Harbor engraved that passage on every heart and soul. They fought for a world of peace, not war, where children's dreams speak more loudly than the brashest tyrant's guns. Because of them, this memorial lives to pass its lessons from one generation to the next, lessons as clear as this Pacific sky.
One of Pearl Harbor's lessons is that together we could "summon lightness against the dark"; that was Dwight Eisenhower. Another, that when it comes to national defense, finishing second means finishing last.
World War II also taught us that isolationism is a bankrupt notion. The world does not stop at our water's edge. And perhaps above all, that real peace, real peace, the peace that lasts, means the triumph of freedom, not merely the absence of war.
And as we look down at -- Barbara and I just did -- at Arizona's sunken hull, tomb to more than 1,000 Americans, the beguiling calm comforts us, reminds us of the might of ideals that inspire boys to die as men. Everyone who aches at their sacrifice knows America must be forever vigilant. And Americans must always remember the brave and the innocent who gave their lives to keep us free.
Each Memorial Day, not far from this spot, the heroes of Pearl Harbor are honored. Two leis are placed upon each grave by Hawaiian Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. We must never forget that it is for them, the future, that we must apply the lessons of the past.
In Pearl Harbor's wake, we won the war and, thus, the peace. In the cold war that followed, Americans also shed their blood, but we used other means as well. For nearly half a century, patience, foresight, personal diplomacy helped America stand fast and firm for democracy.
But we've never stood alone. Beside us stood nations committed to democracy and free markets and free expression and freedom of worship, nations that include our former enemies, Germany, Italy, and Japan. This year these same nations stood with us against aggression in the Persian Gulf.
You know, the war in the Gulf was so different: different enemy, different circumstances, the outcome never in doubt. It was short; thank God our casualties mercifully few. But I ask you veterans of Pearl Harbor and all Americans who remember the unity of purpose that followed that momentous December day 50 years ago: Didn't we see that same strength of national spirit when we launched Desert Storm?
The answer is a resounding "yes." Once the war for Kuwait began, we pulled together. We were united, determined, and we were confident. And when it was over, we rejoiced in exactly the same way that we did in 1945 -- heads high, proud, and grateful. And what a feeling. Fifty years had passed, but, let me tell you, the American spirit is as young and fresh as ever.
This unity of purpose continues to inspire us in the cause of peace among nations. In their own way, amidst the bedlam and the anguish of that awful day, the men of Pearl Harbor served that noble cause, honored it. They knew the things worth living for but also worth dying for: Principle, decency, fidelity, honor.
And so, look behind you at battleship row -- behind me, the gun turret still visible, and the flag flying proudly from a truly blessed shrine.
Look into your hearts and minds: You will see boys who this day became men and men who became heroes.
Look at the water here, clear and quiet, bidding us to sum up and remember. One day, in what now seems another lifetime, it wrapped its arms around the finest sons any nation could ever have, and it carried them to a better world.
May God bless them. And may God bless America, the most wondrous land on Earth.
A few seconds of Mr Hawke weeping through the speech, courtesy of ABC.. We have not sourced embeddable version of whole speech.
9 June 1989, Canberra, Australia
For more than a month now, the eyes of the world have been on China.
We witnessed a massive rallying of people in Beijing and Shanghai and heard the powerful expression of their will in the cause of democratic reform.
We were inspired by the idealism and courage of youth the peaceful determination of students to create a better future, and the support that rallied around their cause from throughout Chinese society.
Our spirits were buoyed by the optimism of their vision and, no matter how far we were from the events in Tian'anmen Square, our hearts were with them.
Then last weekend, our optimism was shattered as we watched in horror the unyielding forces of repression brutally killing the vision of youth.
Unarmed young men and women were sprayed with bullets and crushed by tanks. Innocent people were shot and beaten in the streets and in their homes.
incredibly despite the horror and the risks, we have witnessed acts of indescribable bravery on our television screens: A lone man standing in front of a row of tanks, the strength of his will stalling the might of armour as it rolled down a Beijing street.
Young people confronting lines of armed troops, not in anger, but in disbelief that an army could unleash force on its own people with such cruelty.
Thousands have been killed and injured, victims of a leadership that seems determined to hang on to the reins of power at any cost -at awful human cost.
We meet here to mourn this tragedy and to share the grief of those who have lost members of their families, their loved ones and their friends, and to express our profound sympathy to the Chinese-Australian community that has expressed its outrage at the massacre in Beijing.
We meet here to show our support for the Chinese people and to reaffirm our commitment to the ideals of democracy and freedom of expression that they have so eloquently espoused.
And we meet here reflecting on the very future of China, which in recent years had built up so much goodwill in the international community of nations, which had already come to play such a welcome and constructive role in our region, and which promised to do so much more.
It is my sincere hope and, indeed, my resolute conviction, that the values and aspirations of those who have been so brutally repressed over the past week will eventually triumph, that the death and suffering will not have been in vain, that the path of reform and modernisation will be renewed.
We all pray that moderation will eventually prevail, so that a new and better China can rise from this carnage, a China that befits the courage and determination of its people.
I call on the Chinese Government to withdraw its troops from deployment against unarmed civilians, and to respect the will of its people. To crush the spirit and body of youth is to crush the very future of China itself.
Prime Minister Hawke offered more than 20,000 humanitarian visas to Chinese students studying in Australia. Their families were also invited to Australia. Cabinet papers reveal that Mr Hawke made this decision without consulting Cabinet.
25 August 1988, Parliament House, Canberra, Australia
In 1988 on the election trail, Opposition Leader John Howard said that it was possible historian Geoffrey Blainey was right, that it was quite legitimate to suggest Australia was being 'Asianizated' and to limit Asian immigration. Howard failed to retract this stance until he saw just how unpopular it was. Prime Minister Hawke responded in the House.
Resolution: That this House-
(1) acknowledges the historic action of the Holt Government, with bipartisan support from the Australian Labor Party, in initiating the dismantling of the White Australia Policy;
(2) recognises that since 1973, successive Labor and Liberal/National Party Governments have, with bipartisan support, pursued a racially non-discriminatory immigration policy to the overwhelming national, and international, benefit of Australia; and
(3) gives its unambiguous and unqualified commitment to the principle that, whatever criteria are applied by Australian Governments in exercising their sovereign right to determine the composition of the immigration intake, race or ethnic origin shall never, explicitly or implicitly, be among them.
Prime Minister Hawke's speech
One of the great and rare distinctions of Australian political leadership in the last generation has been its bipartisan rejection of race as a factor in immigration policy. This has been a triumph of compassion over prejudice, of reason over fear, and of statesmanship over politics. Twenty-two years ago my Party, the Australian Labor Party, disowned its own historic white Australia policy, and the Government led by Harold Holt, to its everlasting credit and honour, abolished the white Australia policy and began to dismantle the administrative machinery of discrimination.
This motion is before this House today because that great and rare distinction has been put in jeopardy by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard)-the inheritor of the role, but not the mantle, of Holt, Gorton, McMahon and Malcolm Fraser. I say this most sincerely to the Leader of the Opposition: this motion has not been brought forward in any attempt to drive him into the ground. It is not, because if he would retract his position then, as far as this side of the House is concerned, what has happened would be regarded as an aberration and would be forgotten. We would be pleased and proud to re-embrace once again an unqualified bipartisanship on this important issue.
Let us look at the statements of the Leader of the Opposition. On 1 August, in regard to Asian immigration, he said:
I do believe that if in the eyes of some in the community it - Asian immigration - is too great, it would be in our immediate term interest and supportive of social cohesion if it were slowed down a little, so that the capacity of the community to absorb was greater.
On 12 August the Leader of the National Party of Australia (Mr Sinclair) said that the figures showed that there were too many Asians coming into the country. On 9 August Senator Stone said:
Asian immigration has to be slowed. It is no use dancing around the bushes.
On 15 August, he also said that it will require a reduction in the excessively high proportion of immigrants from Asia. Those statements remain unretracted. The position of the Leader of the Opposition on 17 August was as follows:
I do not intend to alter one inch the stand that I have taken . . . I do not intend to alter my position on this issue.
The paragraph shuffling in the Party meeting last Monday has not changed anything. If, according to the Leader of the Opposition, in the eyes of some in the community Asian immigration is too great, he believes it would be in our immediate term interest and supportive of social cohesion if it were slowed down a little. The Leader of the Opposition maintains that position and, as I say, the paragraph shuffling of last Monday enables him to maintain that position. That has broken the tradition. It has broken the practice of the past and the Leader of the Opposition knows it, his colleagues know it, every commentator in the community knows it and, significantly, every Asian leader knows it.
He has not only broken the traditions of his predecessors but also unfortunately he has broken his own strongly asserted position in this House. Almost four years ago to this very day, on 23 August 1984, the Leader of the Opposition spoke on this issue and he pleaded eloquently for bipartisanship. On 23 August 1984 he advised that just two weeks previously he had successfully moved, with an overwhelming majority of the New South Wales convention of the Liberal Party, a motion on this issue. The Hansard shows that, speaking of that motion, he said:
It recalled amongst other things, that past coalition government policies were built upon a non-discriminatory approach to immigration and a level of intake and a pace of change. During that debate, which was reported fairly extensively by the media, I expressly rejected the proposition that the Liberal Party should take a stand against Asian immigration. I supported the policies of the former coalition Government which were humanitarian and liberal in the true sense of the word. We were prepared to take, with the Labor Party's generous support, people from war-torn parts of South East Asia.
Importantly he said:
We were prepared to persuade people around Australia to accept that policy.
In the course of his contribution-an eloquent contribution-he referred properly to the need to avoid any suggestion of racism. Those were eloquent words of the Leader of the Opposition in his then capacity in this House nearly four years ago to this day. He said that he and those around him were prepared to persuade the people of Australia. Implicitly in his statement he recognised the unfortunate truth; that is, that there is prejudice in this country on this issue. No sensible person can deny that. But he said then that the task of leadership was to persuade the people of Australia. But now, rather than leading, rather than-in his own words-persuading people around Australia to accept the principled and the unqualified position of his predecessors against any suggestion or possibility of discrimination, and instead of accepting that responsibility of leadership, he has unfortunately become the follower of the lowest common denominator.
Let me make it clear-and I want the Leader of the Opposition to know this-I do not accuse him of racism or of being a racist. In a sense, sadly, I make the more serious charge, I make the more damning indictment, of cynical opportunism, in a cynical grab for votes. His polling shows that there is this prejudice in the community and he has unleashed within his coalition and within the wider community the most malevolent, the most hurtful, the most damaging and the most uncohesive forces. Far from `one Australia' he has guaranteed a divided Australia. Far from guaranteeing one Australia, he has guaranteed a divided Australia; a hurtfully divided Australia.
One of the most disquieting aspects of the Liberals' new confected policy on immigration is their slipshod and deceptive use of the English language. When the Liberals initiated the breach of bipartisanship, their language, for all its ugliness, was clear cut. No-one could doubt that the Leader of the Opposition meant what he said when he explicitly called for a slowdown in Asian immigration. Nobody could doubt the meaning of the Leader of the National Party of Australia when he said that there were too many Asians coming into Australia. Senator Stone was clearly understood when he said that the excessively high proportion of immigrants from Asia should be reduced. But now the Opposition is operating under what I referred to as the policy by code word. Now the Opposition refers to changes in the composition of the immigration flow `to protect social cohesion'. Let me make it crystal clear that we in the Government repudiate the Opposition's position. We repudiate it on moral grounds and we repudiate it on grounds of this nation's economic self-interest. This is one of those occasions when moral and economic interest coincide.
Let me deal briefly with the moral issue. I can do it in terms of some of the recent language that has come from the Leader of the Opposition and others. Honourable members will recall that honourable members opposite in talking recently about a great Australian referred to the fact that he was an atheist. Presumably, they were implying for themselves, as they are properly and legitimately entitled to do, that they embraced the virtues of the Christian position. If there is one fundamental aspect of the Christian position, it is the belief and faith in the fatherhood of God. There is one thing which follows as a matter of logic and faith from that position; that is the belief in the brotherhood of man. Any suggestion of antagonism or discrimination on the grounds of race repudiates and is repugnant to that fundamental position. Let me say, for those who do not in any formal sense embrace the Christian position but who are driven by the compulsion of compassionate humanism, that belief in the brotherhood of man is just as fundamental.
To make the point of the morality of the issue, let me ask every member of this House to think of those 350,000 Asian born Australians together with their Australian born sons and daughters. I just ask honourable members to think of them. I have been in close contact in the last three weeks with representatives of community organisations. I am saddened beyond measure by the acute anguish and fear that has been engendered in the community following the statements of the Leader of the Opposition. Today we heard my colleague the Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Holding) give further evidence, eloquently, of that. If the Leader of the Opposition doubts that his remarks have had any adverse impact on these people I say to him: talk to these kids in their schools; talk to those who have received hate letters in the mail over the last three weeks; talk to the people whose homes and cars have been attacked; talk to those who have been forced to read disgusting graffiti about themselves; and talk to those proud Asian Australians who have been here for many generations and who now feel they are seen as some sort of threat to the social cohesion of the country of which they are proud.
Like all members of this House, today I received a communication from the Uniting Church in Australia. I will read it. I knew nothing about its preparation. The letter stated:
The national Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia is strongly opposed to the use of race or country of origin as a criterion in the selection of migrants to Australia. We believe it is ethically unacceptable to use such criteria.
The offence and pain caused to Australians of Asian origin by the debate of the past month is very serious.
On behalf of the Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia, I urge you to take a strongly moral and principled stand on the issue and to support the motion to be introduced today by Mr Hawke in support of an absolutely non-racial policy.
That letter is signed by John P. Brown, Acting General Secretary of the Uniting Church in Australia.
I turn quickly to the economic implications of what has happened. Honourable members will know that, following the period when we were in economic recession at the beginning of the 1980s, we have turned increasingly to seek enmeshment of the Australian economy in that of the world's most dynamic and economically fastest growing region. It is clear that to do anything to turn our backs on or to prejudice our relations with that region would be against the economic interests of this country.
It is critical that we keep in mind the extent of Australia's economic ties with Asia. Five out of the top ten export markets of this country are in Asia. Half of our national annual exports are now sold to Asian countries. Some $17 billion per year-the national income equivalent of $1,000 for every Australian man, woman and child-goes in exports to Asia. India, China and Hong Kong have been the three fastest growing of our major export markets over the last five years. Japan is our largest export market. Our exports to China and Hong Kong have leaped by over 300 per cent in the last years. In the area of foreign investment, which we know is critical to this country, Asian investment in the Australian economy is worth around $35 billion. It is now similar to that from the United Kingdom and twice that from the rest of the European Economic Community. Asia is critical to the future of our fastest growing industry, tourism. One in four of our international tourists now comes from Asia.
Let me refer to some of the early signs that already make apparent the damage that has been done by what has been initiated by the Leader of the Opposition. Professor Helen Hughes, a regional economic specialist and a member of the Fitzgerald Committee to Advise on Australia's Immigration Policies, has suggested that Australia could already have lost billions of dollars in contracts in South East Asia. We are aware of the comments of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. This is confirmed by a cable received only yesterday from our High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur which suggests that the money we could lose as a result of the debate could run into billions of dollars. Our important business migration program is being put at risk because three out of four business migrants in 1987-88 came from Asia, bringing three-quarters of a billion dollars into this country with them. The cable from Kuala Lumpur emphasised that if it is believed that racism is resurgent in Australia, intending migrants will take themselves and their money elsewhere. I will quote from the cable. It stated:
They don't read the fine print in political statements but act on the basis of an impression of the overall situation.
Those are the clear signs of the damage that has already been wreaked upon this country by the statements of the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the National Party and Senator Stone. The Leader of the Opposition and those supporting him have underrated, indeed insulted, the decency and intelligence of the Australian people. The Leader of the Opposition has repudiated one of the proud traditions of the Australian Liberal Party. In the process, I believe that he is rending the fabric of the Liberal Party. That is a matter for the Liberal Party, but the Leader of the Opposition is not going to rend the fabric of this great Australian society. That is a matter for me and for the Australian Parliament.
The remarks by the Leader of the Opposition and of his colleagues remain unretracted and publicly unrepudiated. This motion provides the opportunity for repudiation and retraction. The motion asserts that this Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, speaking on behalf of the people of Australia, repudiates explicitly, and by any implicit process of paragraph shuffling, the concept or suggestion that discrimination against any race has or will have any place in the immigration policies or the domestic policies of this great Australian nation.
15 August 2018, Wellington, New Zealand
And welcome to your place.
You know I wasn’t scheduled to be here. But I was sitting up in that office in a meeting, and I could see you streaming towards parliament, and I thought, I cannot not be here.
Because the thought that I had as a I watched you coming onto the forecourt, I didn’t have this sense of them and us, I just had this sense of us.
You know, you’re all here because you’re passionate about kids. And you know, as we know, that the education system has the power to overcome so many of the issues and challenges that we face as a country.
I mean you’re at the front line of that.
And we know that too.
There’s a reason that I put myself into the portfolio of Minister of Child Poverty Reduction, because I believe and I know that my main motivation in politics is kids.
Just like your motivation in what you do is kids.
There is no you and us, there is only us.
And if there is only us, that means we have to take on board every challenge that you have raised.
Now there are very few signs out there that I don’t agree with. I’m looking out there and I’m thinking, ‘yes, there is so much more work to do’
The last speaker said we need radical change. Yes! The only point we would make is that unfortunately sometimes radical change takes time.
So I’m here today to ask you to work with us as we try and move forward.
Yes when we came into office we tried to move as quickly as we could on the things that we knew that you’d been asking for for along time.
National standards, we got rid of that. Not for political ideology, but because teachers at the front line said this is not good for kids.
And we listened to you. And we believed it too.
And it’s not just about a framework, we know it was also putting a huge pressure on your workload.
And so one of the things that sometimes doesn’t get through in these debates and in these public discussions, is that yes, it’s about value, and when we value people we often equate that with money.
But it’s also about the time we give you with kids.
It’s about the professional development, it’s about that non contact time and it’s about the workload that you experience, it’s about all of that.
So I’m here with the Minister and the rest of my colleagues behind that to say we know that there’s a lot to do. And we want to work with you as we do it.
Thank you for the work that you do. Thank you for joining with us, and pursuing lifting kids and #, you’re at the front of that, and there is a good reason why when I was sworn into parliament, it was my social studies teacher who was there with me.
And when I was made Prime Minister, it was my social studies teacher who stood with me when I signed that warrant of responsibility.
I know teachers how each and every one of us get to where we are today, this is about respecting your profession. We hear that. We will keep working with you. But in the meantime, thank you for what you for all of us.
20 October 1973, Washington DC, USA
Archibald Cox was the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate break-and subsequent cover up. He obtained a court order for the Nixon White House tapes, with which Nixon refused to comply with. Instead, Nixon offered the 'Stennis Compromise', a summary of the tapes made by an independent (and apparently hard of hearing!) Senator Stennis. The Saturday Night Massacre followed, as the Attorney General and Deputy AG refused to fire Cox. The third AG in line did fire Cox The Saturday Night Massacre and this brilliantly worded press conference arguably changed public opinion on Watergate, and set the trajectory towards impeachment.
I'm not looking for a confrontation. I've worried a good deal through my life about problems of imposing too much strain upon our constitutional institutions, and I'm certainly not out to get the President of the United States.
As you all know, there has been and is evidence—not proof, perhaps, in some instances, but clearly primafacie evidence—of serious wrongdoing on the part of high Government officials, wrongdoing involving an effort to cover up other wrongdoing.
It appeared that the papers, documents and recordings of conversations in the White House, including the tapes, would be relevant to getting the truth about these incidents.
I'm referring not only to the Watergate incident itself, but to other things involving electronic surveillance, breakins at a doctor's office and the like.
Last night we were told that the court order would not be obeyed, that the papers, memoranda and documents of that kind would not be provided at all. And that, instead of the tapes, a summary of what they showed would be provided.
I think it is my duty as the special prosecutor, as an officer of the court and as the representative of the grand jury, to bring to the court's attention what seems to me to be noncompliance with the court's order.
You will say, “Well, so far as the tapes are concerned, forget legalisms. Isn't this a pretty good practical arrangement?” I find four, to my way of thinking, insuperable difficulties with it.
Compromise Not Enough
First, when criminal wrongdoing is the subject of investigation, and when one of those subjects is obstruction of justice in the form of a cover‐up, then it seems to me it is simply not enough to make a compromise in which the real evidence is available only to two or three men operating in secrecy, all but one of them the aides to the President and men who have been associated with those who are, the subject of the investigation.
It's not a question of Senator Stennis's integrity. I have no doubt at all of Senator Stennis's personal integrity. But it seems to me that it's the kind of question where it is terribly important to adhere to the established institutions and not to accommedate it by some private arrangement involving as I say,, submitting the dence ultimately to any one man.
My second difficulty is that I will not know, and no one else will know, what stand, ards have been applied in deciding what to exclude from the summary.
For example, when I give you the various written proposals and comments that were exchanged, you will find that it is contemplated that there will be omitted references to matters related to the national defense or foreign policy whose disclosure would do real harm.
I'm very troubled by the lack of precision on those standards. We all know from matters that have been published that the Ellsberg‐Fielding break‐in was described as matters affecting the national defense, and that the tapping of William Safire's and John Sears' telephones was apparently treated as a national security matter.
Those certainly raise very serious questions as to whether criminal wrongdoing was not involved, Also, I must emphasize that I do not prejudge it; I just say they raise serious questions.
Doubt as to Evidence
My third reason for thinking that, as a practical matter, I, as charged with prosecuting violations, could not regard the arrangement as satisfactory is that it's most unlikely—I don't go beyond that — most unlikely that a summary of the tapes would be admissible in evidence.
It would be satisfactory for the purposes of a grand jury, I think, but I'm thinking of the actual conduct of a trial. And if that was all that was available—and I was given to understand that the tapes would never be available under any circumstances—then I would be left without the evidence with which to prosecute people whom I had used the summaries, perhaps, to indict.
Similarly, you have all read of cases in which those who have been charged with wrongdoing have said that they need the tapes in order to make their defenses. Again, it seems to most unlikely that a summary would be accepted by the defendants or that a court would regard it as sufficient. And that could very well mean that those prosecutions would have to be dropped.
The other main part of the President's statement last night said that. I would be instructed not to use the judicial process in order to obtain tapes, documents, memoranda relating to other Presidential, conversations. This instructs me not to pursue what, would be the normal course of, a prosecutor's duty in conducting this kind of investigation.
And think the instructions are inconsistent with pledges that were made to the United States Senate and through the Senate to the American people before I was appointed and before Attorney General Richardson's nomination was confirmed.
If you go through the hearings you will find repeated pledges by both of us that I should have complete independence to decide how, to conduct these irivestigations and prosecutions and particularly to plead independence in determining what evidende to see.
There were also specific references to executive privilege and pledges by me and by the Attorney General that I not only would, in his view, be free to contest, but on my promise, to the, Senate that I would contest claims of executive privilege where I thought the evidence was material.
Guidelines Are Cited
This was finally summarized in the so‐called guidelines and the departmental order put out by the Attorney General. It reads:
“The Attorney General will not countermand or interfere with the speeial prosecutor's decisions or actions.
“The special prosecutor will determine whether and to what extent he will inform or consult with the Attorney General about the conduct of his duties and responsibilities.
“The special prosecutor will not be removed from his duties [except] for extraordinary improprieties on his part.”
The incidents of last night: need to be viewed against two things: One is, the whole problem of obtaining information for this investigation; and the other is the immediate discussions that took place between me and various representatives of the President.
It's my characterization, but all I can say is that my efforts to get information, beginning in May, have been the subject of repeated frustration.
This is a very special investigation in some ways. The problem is unique because nearly all the evidence bearing not only on the Watergate incident and the alleged cover‐up, but on the activities of the “plumbers” and other things of that kind, is in the White House papers and files. And unless you have access to those, you're not able to get the normal kind of information that a prosecutor must seek.
You will recall that the papers of many White House aides—Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Krogh, Young, Dean and others—were taken into custody and they're in a special room.
Taken Out of Files
And many of their papers were taken out of the usual files and put in something special called Presidential files.
Back in June, early June if my memory is right, I asked that an inventory be made of those papers.
I've never gotten it. I was told orally over the telephone a short time ago—I don't mean in connection with the current incidents but a few weeks ago—that the inventory would not be furnished.
There have been other papers that we've sought to get and while I must say I've been told I would receive them, the delays have been extraordinary.
For example, I asked for all kinds of logs of many principal names in these incidents and I was promised them back in June. I still haven't got the logs of meetings of the President with such people as Chapin, Colson, Gray, Hunt, Kleindienst, Krogh, Larue, Liddy, Strachan or Young. I hope our records are accurate.
There are many pending letter requests. And I can't help reading the instruction not to seek subpoenas against that background, even though the instruction as it's written refers only to things referring to Presidential conversations. And I think I'm entitled to suggest that the thing should be judged against that background.
You will remember that the Court of Appeals, after oral, argument and before it rendered its decision, suggested that there be an effort to reach a mutually satisfactory accommodation in which the President or his representative and I would agree what part of the tapes should be made available to the grand jury and what parts should not be.
I did submit a fairly carefully drafted six ‐ or seven‐page proposed, procedure for resolving these questions.
The end of last week the Attorney General and I were in touch with each other. We had several candid, frank and very friendly conversations.
The conversations ended in a document headed “A Proposal.” It set forth a plan, somewhat like what was announced yesterday and last night, except that it was in more contingent form and I think it was meant to leave room for discussion.
I wrote him on Oct. 10 in a paper called “Comments on a Proposal.”
‘Charlie’ on the Phone
Thursday night, if my memory is correct, I received word that I was to call Marshall Wright at the White House in General Haig's office. Marshall Wright turned out to be Charlie when he came on the phone, and he quickly acknowledged that he was Charlie. And he referred to my comments, said that there were four stipulations that he must make that would be essential to any agreement.
And, as I understood him, he said, “You won't agree to these.” Indeed, the impression I got — and I want to make it clear that it was my impression; maybe there are tapes that would verify my impression or maybe my impression is wrong — but it was my impression that I was being confronted with things that were drawn in such a way that I could not accept them.
I then went on and suggested, “Why don't you dictate what the four points are and I can look at them tomorrow morning and then give you a reply.” And we will give you his letter, which I received, my response, and then one final letter which suggested that I had misunderstood the scope of some of the things he said. That came at 23 minutes past 5 yesterday. My letter was delivered to him about 10 o'clock. There was ample time to explain if I had misunderstood anything of critical importance.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q. Mr. Cox you would seem to be in what we call a nonviable position now. Are you going to wait for the President to dismiss you? A. I'm going to go about my duties on the terms on which I assumed them.
Q. What do you consider to be the state of the case now and if you will go into court, what court and what will you say?
A. It is my intention, with reference to the order of the Court of Appeals and the district court, to call to the attention of one or the other, and I'm not sure yet which is correct, the fact that the papers, documents and other things subpoenaed are being refused and that the order to deliver the tapes is subject to some particular reservations, is certainly not being satisfied. Also, I would also add that a summary is being offered and would express the opinion that that was not adequate.
One form of procedure would be to seek an order to show cause why the respondent should not be adjudicated guilty of contempt. I think it may also be possible and perhaps might be preferable to seek a further order clarifying any possible doubt resulting from the President's statement last night.
Q. Senator Cox, is not your intention in direct conflict with the President's orders to you, and if it is and you're fired by the end of this news conference, what happens then?
A. Well, I— there are a number of other technical questions, I was appointed by the Attorney General Under the statutes the Attorney General and those to whom he delegates authority are in charge of all litigation, including the obtaining of evidence.
I think there is a question whether anyone other than the Attorney General can give me any instructions that I have any legal obligation to obey.
Dealt With Buzhardt
Second, under the Constitution, and the statutes, there are instances in which not the President but departmental heads make appointments.
And I would think that was a proper inference that where departmental heads are authorized by statute to make appointments that the same departmental heads are the only ones who can make dismissals.
Q. I believe you said you were told orally that you would not be receiving the logs that you asked for or at least the inventory of the papers that you requested. Just to clear that up, who told you orally that you would not?
A. I've been dealing Fred Buzhardt, and I may say, too, that he has behaved in dealing with me in an entirely honorable way, except he's too damn slow.
Q. Mr. Cox, I think, you believe that Attorney General Richardson will not fire you.
A. He may. You know, I'm not saying that no one can fire me. Of course, eventually, there are ways of firing me. I don't know what Attorney Richardson will do.
Now, eventually, a President can always work his will. You remember when Andrew Jackson wanted to take the deposits from the Bank of the United States and his Secretary of the Treasury wouldn't do it. He fired him and then he appointed a new Secretary of the Treasury and he wouldn't do it, and he fired him. And finally he got a third who would. That's one way of proceeding.
Q. Mr. Cox, could you just specify for us what the memoranda, papers and documents are that you're not going to get—characterize them in some way to indicate what they are.
Memorandum by Nixon
A. Well, the ones that I am most aware of are notes that would have been made by John Ehrlichman on every conversation in which he participated. Now this would be important in case any part of the tapes was inaudible or garbled in some way. Or if it was ambiguous. It's quite possible that those notes not only set forth his understanding of what was agreed upon, what was to be done, but would give some background of the knowledge which he had against which they were to be read.
Another example Is—I don't know, and that's why you issue subpoenas—but I have reason to believe that, in addition to the conversation with John Dean on April 15, there is a memorandum of that conversation dictated by the President himself. That would give his understanding in the event that any part of it should be inaudible or ambiguous or something of that kind.
Q. Mr. Cox, when do you expect to go to court, whatever court it is you go to?
A. Well, promptly. I mean, as fast as we can be sure that we're right.
Q. Would this coming week be a fair guess? A. It's certainly a fair guess. Certainly I would hope to.
Q. How could you expect to succeed in this job? How could you expect to succeed? A. Well, I thought it was worth a try. I thought it was important. If it mild be done, I thought it would help the country. And if I lost, what the hell!
Q. Mr. Cox, there was a lot of talk this week by Republicans on the Hill that, if the President defies a Supreme Court order to give up the tapes, that then he would likely be impeached, or an impeachment action would begin. Do you regard him as of this moment in defiance of an appeals court order—a definitive appeals court order?
Determination for Court
A. In my view, the President has stated that he would not comply with the appeals court order. That is my view. I think it so likely that he is not in compliance that it is my duty to present the question to the court. It would then be for the court to make the determination. I'm not the last word, thank God!
Q. Mr. Cox, should you he removed from office, would Judge Sirica or the appeals court have the authority to move on their own in an attempt to force the President to release the tapes?
A. I think that the answer is a “Very probably, yes.” It is even possible that I could be appointed counsel to the grand jury or he court for that purpose!
But don't carry that too far. The thought went through my mind, And then I also concluded that—no, I think that would be of very doubtful propriety because it would then turn what ought to be a question of principle into something that somebody would look on as a personal fight—and I don't think this is a question of personalities.
Q. Mr. Cox, have you been in touch with anyone, directly or indirectly, who might be a representative for the White House, within the past, say, 12 hours, concerning your future tenure in your present job?
A. I talked to the Attorney General on the phone five seconds before I came into the room. It had nothing to do with my future tenure; it was, again, a purely friendly conversation.
At the end of the press conference, reporter Helen Thomas stood up and called out, '"You're a great American Mr. Cox."
Listen to the Watergate podcast Slow Burn, by Slate Plus - it's incredible.
1924 (speculation), Harlem, New York, USA
There is no future for a people who deny their past. My Foreparents, My Grandparents, My Mother, My Father did not suffer and die to give me an education to slight, oppress or discourage my people. Whatsoever education I acquired out of their sacrifice of over 300 years, I shall use for the salvation of the 400 million Black people of the world. And the DAY when I forsake my people; may GOD Almighty say, “there shall be no more life for you”.
I unequivocally rejected the racist assumption of much white American Christianity. Namely that God had created the black man inferior. And that he intended Negroes to be a Servant class, heavers of wood and drawers of water. Well I predicated my view of man on the doctrine of E Margo de E “all men regardless of color are created in the image of GOD”. From this premise come the equality of all men and brotherhood of all men. The Biblical injunction of Acts 17:26 reminds us that He created of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth and is most interested in brotherhood than with ones own race. Because if Negroes are created in God’s image, and Negroes are Black then God must IN SOME SENSE be Black.
If the White man has the Idea of a white God let him worship his God as he desires. We have found a new ideal. Because God has No color, and yet it is HUMAN to see everything through ones own spectacles, and since the white people have seen their god thru their white spectacles, we have only now started to see our God thru our own Spectacles.
But we believe in the God of Ethiopia, the everlasting God; God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy One, the one God of all the Ages; that is the God of whom we believe but we shall worship HIM thru the spectacles of Ethiopia.
For two hundred and fifty years we have struggled under the burden and rigors of slavery. We were maimed, we were brutalized, we were ravaged in every way. We are men, we have hopes, we have passions, we have feelings, we have desires just like any other race. The cry of race all over the world, of Canada for the Canadians, of America for the Americans, Of England for the English, of France for the French or Germany for the Germans; do they think it unreasonable that we the Blacks of the world should raise our cry Africa for the Africans?
The Negro is a MAN; we represent the New Negro. His back is not yet against the wall, we do not want his back against the wall because that would be a peculiar and desperate position. We do not want him there. It is because of this we are asking for a fair compromise. Well the Belgians have control over the Belgian Congo, which they cannot use. They have not the resources to develop, nor the intelligence. The French have more territory than they can develop, there’s certain parts of Africa in which they cannot live at all. So it is for YOU to come together and give us a United States of Africa. We are not going to be a race without a country. God never intended it and we are not going to disappoint God’s confidence in us as Men. We are Men, human beings, capable of the same acts as any other race. Possessing under fair circumstances the same INTELLIGENCE as any other race. Now Africa’s been sleeping. Not dead, only sleeping. Today Africa is walking around not only on our feet but on our brains. You can enslave us for some 300 years, the bodies of men, you can shackle the hands of men, you can shackle the feet of men, you can imprison the bodies of men, BUT YOU CANNOT SHACKLE OR IMPRISON THE MINDS OF MEN.
Rise up Black Men, and take your stand. Reach up black men and women and pull all nature’s knowledge to you. Turn ye around and make a conquest of everything North and South, East and West. And then we you have wrought well, you will have merited God’s blessing, you will become God’s chosen people and naturally you’ll become leaders of the world. And as you bow down to the white man today, so will others bow down to you and call you a race of masters because of the intelligence of your mind and your achievements. No race has the last word on culture and civilization. They do not know what we’re capable of; they do not know what we’re thinking. They’re thinking in terms of dreadnaughts, battleships, airplanes and submarines. You know what we’re thinking about? That is our own private business.
So give us credit for being able to use our minds. And once people are in concept of themselves; determined to use their minds you do not know to what extent they can go. Liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men.
Let up the white race, not for social fellowship but for the common good of God and tell him he should live. What satisfaction can anyone get in being happy and see his brother wallowing in filth, death and disease? How can you be happy living in luxury and your brother is living in disease? Then when you try to help the one out of the disease, there are talks of a disloyalty.
Black men of Carthage, Black men of Ethiopia, of Timbuktu to Alexandria gave the likes of civilization to this world. Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God and princes shall come out of Egypt. Those classes, nations, races have been quite quiet for over four centuries. Who have merely bore the view in self humiliation, whose forbearance can only be compared to the prophet Job as likewise lifted his bowed head and raised it up at God’s cries, and cried out “I am a man and demand a man’s chance and a man’s treatment in this world.”
As I shall teach the black man, I shall teach the black man to see beauty in his own kind and stop bleaching his skin and otherwise looking like what he’s not. Back in the days of slavery, Race mixture, Race miscegenation all occurred BECAUSE THE AFRICAN WOMAN HAD NO PROTECTION FROM THE SLAVEMASTER. Therefore there is no need today for black people themselves to freely continue a PRACTICE that SMACKS so much of slavery.
Our leaders say the race problem will be solved thru higher education. Thru better education, black and white will come together, that day will never happen until Africa is redeemed. Cause if those who like W.E.B Dubois believe that the race problem will be solved in America thru higher education, they will work between now and eternity and never see the problem solved.
God made man lord of his creation; gave him possession and ownership of the world. And you have been so darned lazy that you’ve allowed the other brother to run away with the whole world. Now he’s bluffing you and telling you that the world belongs to him and that you have no part in it. I don’t have to apologize to anybody for being Black, because God Almighty knew exactly what he was doing when he made me Black. If black people knew their glorious past then they would be MORE inclined to respect themselves. Yes, you’ve heard of Johnny walker red, and black, well he had his adversities but he’s still going strong.
Well I intend with your help and God’s grace to continue, cause my work has only just begun. Future generations shall have in their hands the guide by which they shall know the sins of the 20th century. I know, and I know you to believe in time, but we shall wait patiently for 200 years if need be, to face our enemies for our prosperity. When mine enemies are satisfied, in life I shall come back or in death even to serve you as I served before. In life I shall be the same, in death I SHALL BE A TERROR to foes of African liberty.
If death hath power then conquer me to be the real Marcus Garvey I would like to be. If I may come in an earthquake, or a plague, or a pestilence, or if God would have me, then be assured that I shall never desert you and make your enemies triumph over you. Will I not go to hell a million times for you? If I die, my work will only just then begin. For I shall live in a physical or spiritual to see the day of Africa’s Glory.
When I am dead, wrap the mantle of the Red, the Black and the Green around me for in a New Life I shall RISE UP with God’s grace and blessings to lead the millions to the heights of triumph, that you well know. Look for me in the whirlwind or a storm, look for me all around you, for with God’s grace I shall come back with countless millions of Black men and women who have died in America, those who have died in the West Indies and those who have died in Africa to aid You in fight for liberty, freedom and life.
Any leadership that teaches you to depend upon another race is a leadership that will enslave you. Any leadership that teaches you to depend upon another race is a leadership that will enslave you! They gave leadership to our Foreparents and that leadership made them slaves. But we have decided to find a leadership of our own, to make ourselves free men. Our great scholars have advanced thru the colleges, and universities have thrown away the blacken record. Babylon did it. Assyria did it. France under Napoleon did it. Germany under Prince Jon Bismarck did it. England did it. America under George Washington did it.
Africa with 400 million Black People can do it. If you cannot do it, if you are not prepared to do it then you will DIE. You race of cowards, you race of imbeciles, you race of good for-nothings, if you cannot do what other men have done, what other nations have done, what other races have done, THEN YOU HAD BETTER DIE.
Can we do it? We can do it? We shall do it. We’ve prayed to God for vision and for leadership and he has given us a Universal vision. A vision that will not limit our possibilities to America, a vision that will not limit our possibilities to the West Indies but a vision that says that there must be a free and redeemed Africa.
Christ the crucified, Christ the despised, we appeal to you to help, for leadership. When you endeavored to carry your burden up the heights of Calvary, when white men spurned you, when white men scorned you, when white men spat upon you, when white men pierced your side and blood and water gushed forth, it was BLACK MAN in the name of Simon the Syrian who took your cross and bore it up the heights of Calvary. Now we are bearing our cross and the burden has been so heavy. Oh yes, the Cause is Grand, the Cause is Glory, surely we shall not turn back. Oh, Sail on! Sail on! Sail on! Oh Mighty Shepherd says Sail on! Sail on, until the Flag of the Red, the Black and the Green is perched upon the hilltops of Africa.
Because the time has come for the Black man to forget his hero worship of other races, and to create and emulate Heroes of his own. We must canonize our own Saints, create our own Martyrs, and elevate to positions of fame and honor black men and women who have made their distinct contributions to our racial history. Sojourner Truth is worthy of the place of Sainthood alongside Joan of Arc; Crispus Attucks and George William Gordon are entitled to the Halo of martyrdom with no less glory than that of the Martyrs of any other race. Toussaint L’Ouverture’s brilliancy as a soldier or a statesman outshine that of any other people: hence, He is entitled to the Highest place as a hero among men.
Africa has created millions, countless millions of black men and women in war and in peace, whose luster and bravery outshine that of any other people. Then why not see good and perfection in ourselves? We must inspire a literature and promulgate a doctrine of our own without any apologies to the powers that be. That right is Ours and God’s. Let sentiments and cross opinions go to the winds. We are entitled to our own opinion and are not obligated to or bound by the opinions of others.
If others laugh at you, return the laughter to them; if they mimic you, return the compliment with equal force. They have no more right to dishonor, discredit you in Manhood than you have in dealing with them. Honor them when they honor you; disrespect and disregard them when they vilely treat you. Their arrogance is but skin deep, an assumption that has no foundation in morals or in law.
They have sprung from the same family tree of obscurity as we have. Their history is as rude in its primitiveness as ours; their ancestors were running wild and living in trees of branches like monkeys as ours; they made human sacrifices, ate the flesh of their own dead and wild meat from beasts for centuries even as they have accused us of doing; their cannibalism is more prolonged than ours. When we were embracing the banks of the Nile, they were still drinking blood out of the skulls of their conquered dead. After our civilization had reached the noonday of progress they were still living in holes with bats, rats and other insects and animals. After we had already unfathomed the mystery of the stars and reduced the heavenly constellations to minute and regular calculus they were still backwoodsmen, living in ignorance and in blatant darkness.
The world is indebted to us for the benefits of civilization. They stole our arts and sciences from Africa. Then why should we be ashamed of ourselves? Their modern improvements are but duplicates of a grander civilization that we reflected thousands of years ago, without the advantage of what is buried and still hidden, to be reflected and resurrected by our generation and our posterity. Why should we be discouraged if somebody laughs at us today? Who is to tell what tomorrow will bring forth? Did they not laugh at Christ, Moses, Muhammad? Was there not a Carthage, Greece and Rome? So we see and have changes every day. So pray, work, be steadfast and be not dismayed.
As the Jew is held together by his religion, the white racist by the assumption and the unwritten law of superiority, the Mongolian by the precious tie of blood, likewise the Black Man must unite in one grand racial hierarchy. Our union must know no clime, no nationality. But let us all hold together in every country and every clime, making a Racial Empire upon which “the sun shall never set.”
Let no voice but your own speak to you from the depths. Let no influence but your own rouse you in time of peace and time of war. Hear all, but attend only to that which concerns you. Your allegiance shall be to your God, your race, your country. Remember that the Jew in his political and economic urges is always first a Jew; the white man is first a white man under ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. So you can do no less, BE BLACK; BUY BLACK; THINK BLACK AND ALL ELSE WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSELF.
Let NO ONE inoculate you with evil doctrines to suit his own conveniences. “Charity begins at home.” So first to thyself be true and “thou canst not then be false to no man.”
God and Nature first made us first what we are, and out of our own creative Genius we make ourselves what we want to be. Follow always that great law. Let God and the sky be our limit, and eternity our measurement.
There is no height to which you cannot climb without the active intelligence of your own mind. Mind creates, and as much as we desire in nature we can have through the creation of our own minds. And today being scientifically the weaker race, you shall treat others only as they treat you; but in your homes and everywhere possible, you must teach the higher development of science to your children; and make sure; and make sure that we have a race of scientists par excellence. For in religion and science lies our only hope to withstand the evil designs of modern materialism.
Never forget your God. Remember, that we live, work, and pray for a binding racial hierarchy, whose only natural, spiritual and political limits shall be God and “Africa, at home and abroad.” With God’s dearest blessings, I leave you for a while… ONE LOVE
I think it’s very very important that all of us in this country today, regardless of our particular sex, realise that we’ve got to come together, in order to make the republic work for everyone, regardless of race, creed or colour.
St Paul said a long time ago, ‘let the woman learn in silence’ Aeschylus, the great Greek philosopher said ‘woman it is thy place to keep quiet, and stay within doors’.
And just one hundred years ago, Nietzsche, the German philosopher said, ‘when a woman is inclined to learning, there is something wrong with her sexual apparatus’.
Though of course all of these pronouncements were made by gentlemen, so we can understand, but I want to say to you very seriously, that the time has come in America when we must try to overcome the traditional feelings and attitudes towards the sexes in this country.
Because we have been prescribed roles for a very long time in our country. And we now know today, very sincerely and forthrightly that our nation needs the utilisation of its best brain power, whether said brain power can be found in men and /or women.
There is no psychological test as yet that indicates that man has a superior brain to woman, or vice versa.
The fact of the matter is that realistically, the talents that we have, are talents that have been given to us, if you will, by God, and that it is our responsibility to utilise these talents for the ameliorisation of humanity in a creative and constructive manner.
And I find in the United States of America and I’ve done quite a bit of travelling, that there are so many hang ups on sex. Sex, physically, educationally, psychologically and emotionally – that is a preoccupation, instead of utilising the full energies, in terms of seeing what it is that women and men together today in America can do to straighten out our republic, because our republic is in deep trouble.
22 May 1972, UCLA, Los Angeles, California, USA
22 March 1959, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria
Patrice Lumumba was an independence leader and the first PM of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was assassinated after less than 7 months in office. The plot was supported by the governments of USA and Belgium. This was a pre independence speech of great importance, and closed the 1959 conference in Nigeria.
I thank the Congress for Freedom and Culture and the University of Ibadan for the kind invitation they extended me to attend this international conference, where the fate of our beloved Africa being discussed. It has been most gratifying to me to meet here a number of African ministers, men of letters, labor union leaders, journalists, and international figures interested in the problems of Africa.
It is through these person-to-person contacts, through meetings of this sort, that African leaders can get to know each other and draw closer together in order to create that union that is indispensable for the consolidation of African unity. In fact, the African unity so ardently desired by all those who are concerned about the future of this continent will be possible and will be attained only if those engaged in politics and the leaders of our respective countries demonstrate a spirit of solidarity, concord, and fraternal collaboration in the pursuit of the common good of our peoples.
That is why the union of all patriots is indispensable, especially during this period of struggle and liberation. The aspirations of colonized and enslaved peoples are everywhere the same; their lot too is the same. Moreover, the aims pursued by nationalist movements in any African territory are also the same.
The common goal is the liberation of Africa from the colonialist yoke. Since our objectives are the same, we will attain them more easily and more rapidly through union than through division. These divisions, which the colonial powers have always exploited the better to dominate us, have played an important role — and are still playing that role — in the suicide of Africa.
How can we extricate ourselves from this impasse? In my view, there is only one way: bringing all Africans together in popular movements or unified parties. All tendencies can coexist within these parties bringing all nationals together, and each will have its say, both in the discussion of problems facing the country and in the conduct of public affairs.
A genuine democracy will be at work within these parties and each will have the satisfaction of expressing its opinions freely. The more closely united we are, the better we will resist oppression, corruption, and those divisive maneuvers which experts in the policy of “divide and rule” are resorting to.
This wish to have unified parties or movements in our young country must not be interpreted as a tendency toward political monopoly or a certain brand of dictatorship. We ourselves are against despotism and dictatorship. I wish to draw everyone’s attention to the fact that it is the height of wisdom to thwart from the very outset any possible maneuvers on the part of those who would like to profit from our apparent political rivals in order to set us against each other and thus delay our freeing ourselves from the colonialist regime.
Experience proves that in our African territories the opposition that certain people create in the name of democracy is often not inspired by a concern for the common welfare; a thirst for glory and the furthering of personal interests are the principal if not the only, motives for this.It is only when we have won the independence of our countries and when our democratic institutions are stabilized that the existence of a pluralist political system will be justified. The existence of an intelligent, dynamic and constructive opposition is indispensable in order to counterbalance the political and administrative action of the government in power. But this moment does not appear to have arrived yet, and dividing our efforts today would he to render our country a disservice.
All our compatriots must be persuaded that they will not serve the general interest of the country if they are divided or if they foster such divisions, any more than they would serve it by balkanizing our country and partitioning it into weak little states. Once the territory was balkanized, it would be difficult to achieve national unity again. Calling for African unity arid then destroying its very foundations is hardly proof of a genuine desire for such unity. In the struggle that we are peacefully waging today to win our independence, we do not intend to drive Europeans out of this continent or seize their possessions or persecute them.
We are not pirates. On the contrary, we respect individuals and the rights of others to well-being. The one thing we are determined to do — and we would like others to understand us is to root out colonialism and imperialism from Africa. We have long suffered and today we want to breathe the air of freedom. The Creator has given us this share of the earth that goes by the name of the African continent; it belongs to us and we are its only masters.It is our right to make this continent a continent of justice, law, and peace.
All of Africa is irrevocably engaged in a merciless struggle against colonialism and imperialism. We wish to bid farewell to the rule of slavery and bastardization that has so severely wronged us. Any people that oppresses another people is neither civilized nor Christian.
The West must free Africa as soon as possible. The West must examine its conscience today and recognize the right of each colonized territory to freedom and dignity. If the colonialist governments promptly understand our aspirations, we will negotiate with them, but if they stubbornly insist on considering Africa their possession, we will be obliged to consider the colonizers the enemies of our emancipation. Under these circumstances, we will regretfully cease to be friends with them.
I hereby publicly take it upon myself to thank all those Europeans who have spared no effort to help our peoples improve their lot. All humanity will be grateful to them for the magnificent mission of humanization and emancipation they are carrying out in certain parts of Africa. We do not want to cut ourselves off from the West, for we are quite aware that no people in the world can be self-sufficient.
We are altogether in favor of friendship between races, but the West must respond to our appeal. Westerners must understand that friendship is not possible when the relationship between us is one of subjugation and subordination. The disturbances that are occurring at present in certain African territories will continue to occur if the administrative powers do not put an end to the colonial regime.
This is the only possible path to genuine peace and friendship between African and European peoples. We have an imperative need for financial, technical, and scientific aid from the West aimed at rapid economic development and the stabilization of our societies. But the capital our countries need must be invested in the form of mutual aid between nations. National governments will give this foreign capital every sort of guarantee it wishes. The Western technicians to whom we make an urgent appeal will come to Africa not to dominate us but to serve and aid our countries.
Europeans must recognize and come to accept the idea that the liberation movement that we are engaged in throughout Africa is not directed against them, nor against their possessions nor against their persons, but purely and simply against the regime of exploitation and enslavement that we are no longer willing to tolerate.
If the agree to put an immediate end to this regime instituted by their predecessors we will live in friendship and brotherhood with them. A twofold effort must be made to hasten the industrialization of our various regions and the economic development of the country.
To this end, we address an appeal to friendly countries to send us an abundance of capital and many technicians. The lot of black workers must be appreciably improved. The wages they earn at present are clearly insufficient. The dire poverty of the working classes is the source of many of the social conflicts that exist at present in our countries. Labor unions have a great role to play in this regard, the role of protectors and educators.
It is not enough merely to demand a raise in wages; there is also a great need to educate workers in order that they may become conscious of their professional, civic, and social obligations, and also acquire a clear conception of their rights. On the cultural plane, the new African states must make a serious effort to further African culture. We have a culture all our own, unparalleled moral and artistic values, an art of living and patterns of life that are ours alone. All these African splendors must be jealously preserved and developed.
‘We will borrow from Western civilization what is good and beautiful and reject what is not suitable for us. This amalgam of African and European civilization will give Africa a civilization of a new type, an authentic civilization corresponding to African realities. Efforts must also be made to free our peoples psychologically. A certain conformism is noticeable on the part of many intellectuals, and its origins are well known. This conformism stems from the moral pressures and the reprisals to which black intellectuals have often been subjected. The minute they have told the truth, they have been called dangerous revolutionaries, xenophobes, provocateurs, elements that must he closely watched, and so on.
These moves to intimidate us and corrupt our morals must cease. We need genuine literature and a free press that brings the opinion of the people to light, rather than more propaganda leaflets and a muzzled press. I hope that the Congress for Freedom and Culture will aid us along these lines.
We hold out a fraternal hand to the West. Let it today give proof of the principle of equality and friendship between races that its sons have always taught us as we sat at our desks in school, a principle written in capital letters in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man.
Africans must be just as free as other citizens of the human family to enjoy the fundamental liberties set forth in this declaration and the rights proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. The period of racial monopolies is now at an end. African solidarity must take concrete form in facts and acts.
We must form a bloc in order to demonstrate our brotherhood to the world. In order to do so, I suggest that governments that have already won their independence give every possible aid and support to countries that are not yet independent. In order to further cultural exchanges and the rapprochement of French-speaking and English-speaking countries, the teaching of both French and English should be made compulsory in all African schools. A knowledge of both these languages will put an end to the difficulties of communication that French-speaking and English- speaking Africans encounter when they meet.
This is an important factor for their interaction. Territorial barriers must also be done away with so that Africans may travel freely between the various African states. Scholarships should also be set up for students in the dependent territories. I want to take advantage of the opportunity here offered me to pay honor publicly to Dr. Kwame N’Krumah and Mr. Sekou Touré for having succeeded in liberating our brothers in Ghana and Guinea.
Africa will not be truly free and independent as long as any part of this continent remains under foreign domination.
I conclude my remarks with this passionate appeal: Africans, let us rise up! Africans, let us unite! Africans, let us walk hand in hand with those who want to help us make this beautiful continent a continent of freedom and justice!
11 January 1976, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
This speech was a response to a letter from President Gerald Ford opposing the Soviet backed M.P.L.A. which had assumed power in Angola. The South Africans were fighting with the opposition factions to M.P.LA. General Murtala objected to Ford siding with the South Africans, and against African self determination. Concluding part of speech:
Mr. Chairman, when I contemplate the evils of apartheid, my heart bleeds and I am sure the heart of every true blooded African bleeds. . . Rather than join hands with the forces fighting for self-determination and against racism and apartheid, the United States policy makers clearly decided that it was in the best interests of their country to maintain white supremacy and minority regimes in Africa. . .
Africa has come of age. It’s no longer under the orbit of any extra continental power.
It should no longer take orders from any country, however powerful. The fortunes of Africa are in our hands to make or to mar. For too long have we been kicked around: for too long have we been treated like adolescents who cannot discern their interests and act accordingly.
For too long has it been presumed that the African needs outside ‘experts’ to tell him who are his friends and who are his enemies. The time has come when we should make it clear that we can decide for ourselves; that we know our own interests and how to protect those interests; that we are capable of resolving African problems without presumptuous lessons in ideological dangers which, more often than not, have no relevance for us, nor for the problem at hand.
Murtala Ramat Mohammed was killed 34 days after making this speech, OBJ became Supreme Military Head of State after his death.
17 July 2018, Johannesburg, South Africa
Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you so much. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!
Thank you. To Mama Graça Machel, members of the Mandela family, the Machel family, to President Ramaphosa who you can see is inspiring new hope in this great country – (cheers and applause) – professor, doctor, distinguished guests, to Mama Sisulu and the Sisulu family, to the people of South Africa – (cheers and applause) – it is a singular honor for me to be here with all of you as we gather to celebrate the birth and life of one of history’s true giants.
Let me begin by a correction – (laughter) – and a few confessions. The correction is that I am a very good dancer. (Laughter.) I just want to be clear about that. Michelle is a little better.
The confessions. Number one, I was not exactly invited to be here. I was ordered in a very nice way to be here by Graça Machel. (Cheers.)
Confession number two: I forgot my geography and the fact that right now it’s winter in South Africa. (Laughter.) I didn’t bring a coat, and this morning I had to send somebody out to the mall because I am wearing long johns. (Laughter.) I was born in Hawaii.
Confession number three: When my staff told me that I was to deliver a lecture, I thought back to the stuffy old professors in bow ties and tweed, and I wondered if this was one more sign of the stage of life that I’m entering, along with grey hair and slightly failing eyesight. I thought about the fact that my daughters think anything I tell them is a lecture. (Laughter.) I thought about the American press and how they often got frustrated at my long-winded answers at press conferences, when my responses didn’t conform to two-minute sound bites. But given the strange and uncertain times that we are in – and they are strange, and they are uncertain – with each day’s news cycles bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines, I thought maybe it would be useful to step back for a moment and try to get some perspective. So I hope you’ll indulge me, despite the slight chill, as I spend much of this lecture reflecting on where we’ve been, and how we arrived at this present moment, in the hope that it will offer us a roadmap for where we need to go next.
One hundred years ago, Madiba was born in the village of M – oh, see there, I always get that – (laughter) – I got to get my Ms right when I’m in South Africa. Mvezo – I got it. (Cheers and applause.) Truthfully, it’s because it’s so cold my lips stuck. (Laughter.) So in his autobiography he describes a happy childhood; he’s looking after cattle, he’s playing with the other boys, eventually attends a school where his teacher gave him the English name Nelson. And as many of you know, he’s quoted saying, “Why she bestowed this particular name upon me, I have no idea.”
There was no reason to believe that a young black boy at this time, in this place, could in any way alter history. After all, South Africa was then less than a decade removed from full British control. Already, laws were being codified to implement racial segregation and subjugation, the network of laws that would be known as apartheid. Most of Africa, including my father’s homeland, was under colonial rule. The dominant European powers, having ended a horrific world war just a few months after Madiba’s birth, viewed this continent and its people primarily as spoils in a contest for territory and abundant natural resources and cheap labor. And the inferiority of the black race, an indifference towards black culture and interests and aspirations, was a given.
And such a view of the world – that certain races, certain nations, certain groups were inherently superior, and that violence and coercion is the primary basis for governance, that the strong necessarily exploit the weak, that wealth is determined primarily by conquest – that view of the world was hardly confined to relations between Europe and Africa, or relations between whites and blacks. Whites were happy to exploit other whites when they could. And by the way, blacks were often willing to exploit other blacks. And around the globe, the majority of people lived at subsistence levels, without a say in the politics or economic forces that determined their lives. Often they were subject to the whims and cruelties of distant leaders. The average person saw no possibility of advancing from the circumstances of their birth. Women were almost uniformly subordinate to men. Privilege and status was rigidly bound by caste and colour and ethnicity and religion. And even in my own country, even in democracies like the United States, founded on a declaration that all men are created equal, racial segregation and systemic discrimination was the law in almost half the country and the norm throughout the rest of the country.
That was the world just 100 years ago. There are people alive today who were alive in that world. It is hard, then, to overstate the remarkable transformations that have taken place since that time. A second World War, even more terrible than the first, along with a cascade of liberation movements from Africa to Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, would finally bring an end to colonial rule. More and more peoples, having witnessed the horrors of totalitarianism, the repeated mass slaughters of the 20th century, began to embrace a new vision for humanity, a new idea, one based not only on the principle of national self-determination, but also on the principles of democracy and rule of law and civil rights and the inherent dignity of every single individual.
In those nations with market-based economies, suddenly union movements developed; and health and safety and commercial regulations were instituted; and access to public education was expanded; and social welfare systems emerged, all with the aim of constraining the excesses of capitalism and enhancing its ability to provide opportunity not just to some but to all people. And the result was unmatched economic growth and a growth of the middle class. And in my own country, the moral force of the civil rights movement not only overthrew Jim Crow laws but it opened up the floodgates for women and historically marginalized groups to reimagine themselves, to find their own voices, to make their own claims to full citizenship.
It was in service of this long walk towards freedom and justice and equal opportunity that Nelson Mandela devoted his life. At the outset, his struggle was particular to this place, to his homeland – a fight to end apartheid, a fight to ensure lasting political and social and economic equality for its disenfranchised non-white citizens. But through his sacrifice and unwavering leadership and, perhaps most of all, through his moral example, Mandela and the movement he led would come to signify something larger. He came to embody the universal aspirations of dispossessed people all around the world, their hopes for a better life, the possibility of a moral transformation in the conduct of human affairs.
Madiba’s light shone so brightly, even from that narrow Robben Island cell, that in the late ’70s he could inspire a young college student on the other side of the world to reexamine his own priorities, could make me consider the small role I might play in bending the arc of the world towards justice. And when later, as a law student, I witnessed Madiba emerge from prison, just a few months, you’ll recall, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I felt the same wave of hope that washed through hearts all around the world.
Do you remember that feeling? It seemed as if the forces of progress were on the march, that they were inexorable. Each step he took, you felt this is the moment when the old structures of violence and repression and ancient hatreds that had so long stunted people’s lives and confined the human spirit – that all that was crumbling before our eyes. And then as Madiba guided this nation through negotiation painstakingly, reconciliation, its first fair and free elections; as we all witnessed the grace and the generosity with which he embraced former enemies, the wisdom for him to step away from power once he felt his job was complete, we understood that – (applause) – we understood it was not just the subjugated, the oppressed who were being freed from the shackles of the past. The subjugator was being offered a gift, being given a chance to see in a new way, being given a chance to participate in the work of building a better world.
And during the last decades of the 20th century, the progressive, democratic vision that Nelson Mandela represented in many ways set the terms of international political debate. It doesn’t mean that vision was always victorious, but it set the terms, the parameters; it guided how we thought about the meaning of progress, and it continued to propel the world forward. Yes, there were still tragedies – bloody civil wars from the Balkans to the Congo. Despite the fact that ethnic and sectarian strife still flared up with heartbreaking regularity, despite all that as a consequence of the continuation of nuclear détente, and a peaceful and prosperous Japan, and a unified Europe anchored in NATO, and the entry of China into the world’s system of trade – all that greatly reduced the prospect of war between the world’s great powers. And from Europe to Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, dictatorships began to give way to democracies. The march was on. A respect for human rights and the rule of law, enumerated in a declaration by the United Nations, became the guiding norm for the majority of nations, even in places where the reality fell far short of the ideal. Even when those human rights were violated, those who violated human rights were on the defensive.
And with these geopolitical changes came sweeping economic changes. The introduction of market-based principles, in which previously closed economies along with the forces of global integration powered by new technologies, suddenly unleashed entrepreneurial talents to those that once had been relegated to the periphery of the world economy, who hadn’t counted. Suddenly they counted. They had some power; they had the possibilities of doing business. And then came scientific breakthroughs and new infrastructure and the reduction of armed conflicts. And suddenly a billion people were lifted out of poverty, and once-starving nations were able to feed themselves, and infant mortality rates plummeted. And meanwhile, the spread of the internet made it possible for people to connect across oceans, and cultures and continents instantly were brought together, and potentially, all the world’s knowledge could be in the hands of a small child in even the most remote village.
That’s what happened just over the course of a few decades. And all that progress is real. It has been broad, and it has been deep, and it all happened in what – by the standards of human history – was nothing more than a blink of an eye. And now an entire generation has grown up in a world that by most measures has gotten steadily freer and healthier and wealthier and less violent and more tolerant during the course of their lifetimes.
It should make us hopeful. But if we cannot deny the very real strides that our world has made since that moment when Madiba took those steps out of confinement, we also have to recognize all the ways that the international order has fallen short of its promise. In fact, it is in part because of the failures of governments and powerful elites to squarely address the shortcomings and contradictions of this international order that we now see much of the world threatening to return to an older, a more dangerous, a more brutal way of doing business.
So we have to start by admitting that whatever laws may have existed on the books, whatever wonderful pronouncements existed in constitutions, whatever nice words were spoken during these last several decades at international conferences or in the halls of the United Nations, the previous structures of privilege and power and injustice and exploitation never completely went away. They were never fully dislodged. (Applause.) Caste differences still impact the life chances of people on the Indian subcontinent. Ethnic and religious differences still determine who gets opportunity from the Central Europe to the Gulf. It is a plain fact that racial discrimination still exists in both the United States and South Africa. (Cheers and applause.) And it is also a fact that the accumulated disadvantages of years of institutionalized oppression have created yawning disparities in income, and in wealth, and in education, and in health, in personal safety, in access to credit. Women and girls around the world continue to be blocked from positions of power and authority. (Cheers and applause.) They continue to be prevented from getting a basic education. They are disproportionately victimized by violence and abuse. They’re still paid less than men for doing the same work. That’s still happening. (Cheers and applause.) Economic opportunity, for all the magnificence of the global economy, all the shining skyscrapers that have transformed the landscape around the world, entire neighborhoods, entire cities, entire regions, entire nations have been bypassed.
In other words, for far too many people, the more things have changed, the more things stayed the same. (Applause.)
And while globalisation and technology have opened up new opportunities, have driven remarkable economic growth in previously struggling parts of the world, globalization has also upended the agricultural and manufacturing sectors in many countries. It’s also greatly reduced the demand for certain workers, has helped weaken unions and labor’s bargaining power. It’s made it easier for capital to avoid tax laws and the regulations of nation-states – can just move billions, trillions of dollars with a tap of a computer key.
And the result of all these trends has been an explosion in economic inequality. It’s meant that a few dozen individuals control the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of humanity. (Applause.) That’s not an exaggeration, that’s a statistic. Think about that. In many middle-income and developing countries, new wealth has just tracked the old bad deal that people got because it reinforced or even compounded existing patterns of inequality, the only difference is it created even greater opportunities for corruption on an epic scale. And for once solidly middle-class families in advanced economies like the United States, these trends have meant greater economic insecurity, especially for those who don’t have specialized skills, people who were in manufacturing, people working in factories, people working on farms.
In every country just about, the disproportionate economic clout of those at the top has provided these individuals with wildly disproportionate influence on their countries’ political life and on its media; on what policies are pursued and whose interests end up being ignored. Now, it should be noted that this new international elite, the professional class that supports them, differs in important respects from the ruling aristocracies of old. It includes many who are self-made. It includes champions of meritocracy. And although still mostly white and male, as a group they reflect a diversity of nationalities and ethnicities that would have not existed a hundred years ago. A decent percentage consider themselves liberal in their politics, modern and cosmopolitan in their outlook. Unburdened by parochialism, or nationalism, or overt racial prejudice or strong religious sentiment, they are equally comfortable in New York or London or Shanghai or Nairobi or Buenos Aires, or Johannesburg. Many are sincere and effective in their philanthropy. Some of them count Nelson Mandela among their heroes. Some even supported Barack Obama for the presidency of the United States, and by virtue of my status as a former head of state, some of them consider me as an honorary member of the club. (Laughter.) And I get invited to these fancy things, you know? (Laughter.) They’ll fly me out.
But what’s nevertheless true is that in their business dealings, many titans of industry and finance are increasingly detached from any single locale or nation-state, and they live lives more and more insulated from the struggles of ordinary people in their countries of origin. (Applause.) And their decisions – their decisions to shut down a manufacturing plant, or to try to minimize their tax bill by shifting profits to a tax haven with the help of high-priced accountants or lawyers, or their decision to take advantage of lower-cost immigrant labor, or their decision to pay a bribe – are often done without malice; it’s just a rational response, they consider, to the demands of their balance sheets and their shareholders and competitive pressures.
But too often, these decisions are also made without reference to notions of human solidarity – or a ground-level understanding of the consequences that will be felt by particular people in particular communities by the decisions that are made. And from their board rooms or retreats, global decision-makers don’t get a chance to see sometimes the pain in the faces of laid-off workers. Their kids don’t suffer when cuts in public education and health care result as a consequence of a reduced tax base because of tax avoidance. They can’t hear the resentment of an older tradesman when he complains that a newcomer doesn’t speak his language on a job site where he once worked. They’re less subject to the discomfort and the displacement that some of their countrymen may feel as globalization scrambles not only existing economic arrangements, but traditional social and religious mores.
Which is why, at the end of the 20th century, while some Western commentators were declaring the end of history and the inevitable triumph of liberal democracy and the virtues of the global supply chain, so many missed signs of a brewing backlash – a backlash that arrived in so many forms. It announced itself most violently with 9/11 and the emergence of transnational terrorist networks, fueled by an ideology that perverted one of the world’s great religions and asserted a struggle not just between Islam and the West but between Islam and modernity, and an ill-advised U.S. invasion of Iraq didn’t help, accelerating a sectarian conflict. (Applause.) Russia, already humiliated by its reduced influence since the collapse of the Soviet Union, feeling threatened by democratic movements along its borders, suddenly started reasserting authoritarian control and in some cases meddling with its neighbors. China, emboldened by its economic success, started bristling against criticism of its human rights record; it framed the promotion of universal values as nothing more than foreign meddling, imperialism under a new name. Within the United States, within the European Union, challenges to globalization first came from the left but then came more forcefully from the right, as you started seeing populist movements – which, by the way, are often cynically funded by right-wing billionaires intent on reducing government constraints on their business interests – these movements tapped the unease that was felt by many people who lived outside of the urban cores; fears that economic security was slipping away, that their social status and privileges were eroding, that their cultural identities were being threatened by outsiders, somebody that didn’t look like them or sound like them or pray as they did.
And perhaps more than anything else, the devastating impact of the 2008 financial crisis, in which the reckless behavior of financial elites resulted in years of hardship for ordinary people all around the world, made all the previous assurances of experts ring hollow – all those assurances that somehow financial regulators knew what they were doing, that somebody was minding the store, that global economic integration was an unadulterated good. Because of the actions taken by governments during and after that crisis, including, I should add, by aggressive steps by my administration, the global economy has now returned to healthy growth. But the credibility of the international system, the faith in experts in places like Washington or Brussels, all that had taken a blow.
And a politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment began to appear, and that kind of politics is now on the move. It’s on the move at a pace that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago. I am not being alarmist, I am simply stating the facts. Look around. (Applause.) Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained – the form of it – but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning. (Applause.) In the West, you’ve got far-right parties that oftentimes are based not just on platforms of protectionism and closed borders, but also on barely hidden racial nationalism. Many developing countries now are looking at China’s model of authoritarian control combined with mercantilist capitalism as preferable to the messiness of democracy. Who needs free speech as long as the economy is going good? The free press is under attack. Censorship and state control of media is on the rise. Social media – once seen as a mechanism to promote knowledge and understanding and solidarity – has proved to be just as effective promoting hatred and paranoia and propaganda and conspiracy theories. (Applause.)
So on Madiba’s 100th birthday, we now stand at a crossroads – a moment in time at which two very different visions of humanity’s future compete for the hearts and the minds of citizens around the world. Two different stories, two different narratives about who we are and who we should be. How should we respond?
Should we see that wave of hope that we felt with Madiba’s release from prison, from the Berlin Wall coming down – should we see that hope that we had as naïve and misguided? Should we understand the last 25 years of global integration as nothing more than a detour from the previous inevitable cycle of history – where might makes right, and politics is a hostile competition between tribes and races and religions, and nations compete in a zero-sum game, constantly teetering on the edge of conflict until full-blown war breaks out? Is that what we think?
Let me tell you what I believe. I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision. I believe in a vision shared by Gandhi and King and Abraham Lincoln. I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy, built on the premise that all people are created equal, and they’re endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. (Cheers and applause.) And I believe that a world governed by such principles is possible and that it can achieve more peace and more cooperation in pursuit of a common good. That’s what I believe.
And I believe we have no choice but to move forward; that those of us who believe in democracy and civil rights and a common humanity have a better story to tell. And I believe this not just based on sentiment, I believe it based on hard evidence.
The fact that the world’s most prosperous and successful societies, the ones with the highest living standards and the highest levels of satisfaction among their people, happen to be those which have most closely approximated the liberal, progressive ideal that we talk about and have nurtured the talents and contributions of all their citizens.
The fact that authoritarian governments have been shown time and time again to breed corruption, because they’re not accountable; to repress their people; to lose touch eventually with reality; to engage in bigger and bigger lies that ultimately result in economic and political and cultural and scientific stagnation. Look at history. Look at the facts.
The fact that countries which rely on rabid nationalism and xenophobia and doctrines of tribal, racial or religious superiority as their main organizing principle, the thing that holds people together – eventually those countries find themselves consumed by civil war or external war. Check the history books.
The fact that technology cannot be put back in a bottle, so we’re stuck with the fact that we now live close together and populations are going to be moving, and environmental challenges are not going to go away on their own, so that the only way to effectively address problems like climate change or mass migration or pandemic disease will be to develop systems for more international cooperation, not less. (Applause.)
We have a better story to tell. But to say that our vision for the future is better is not to say that it will inevitably win. Because history also shows the power of fear. History shows the lasting hold of greed and the desire to dominate others in the minds of men. Especially men. (Laughter and applause.) History shows how easily people can be convinced to turn on those who look different, or worship God in a different way. So if we’re truly to continue Madiba’s long walk towards freedom, we’re going to have to work harder and we’re going to have to be smarter. We’re going to have to learn from the mistakes of the recent past. And so in the brief time remaining, let me just suggest a few guideposts for the road ahead, guideposts that draw from Madiba’s work, his words, the lessons of his life.
First, Madiba shows those of us who believe in freedom and democracy we are going to have to fight harder to reduce inequality and promote lasting economic opportunity for all people. (Applause.)
Now, I don’t believe in economic determinism. Human beings don’t live on bread alone. But they need bread. And history shows that societies which tolerate vast differences in wealth feed resentments and reduce solidarity and actually grow more slowly; and that once people achieve more than mere subsistence, then they’re measuring their well-being by how they compare to their neighbors, and whether their children can expect to live a better life. And when economic power is concentrated in the hands of the few, history also shows that political power is sure to follow – and that dynamic eats away at democracy. Sometimes it may be straight-out corruption, but sometimes it may not involve the exchange of money; it’s just folks who are that wealthy get what they want, and it undermines human freedom.
And Madiba understood this. This is not new. He warned us about this. He said: “Where globalization means, as it so often does, that the rich and the powerful now have new means to further enrich and empower themselves at the cost of the poorer and the weaker, [then] we have a responsibility to protest in the name of universal freedom.” That’s what he said. (Applause.) So if we are serious about universal freedom today, if we care about social justice today, then we have a responsibility to do something about it. And I would respectfully amend what Madiba said. I don’t do it often, but I’d say it’s not enough for us to protest; we’re going to have to build, we’re going to have to innovate, we’re going to have to figure out how do we close this widening chasm of wealth and opportunity both within countries and between them. (Applause.)
And how we achieve this is going to vary country to country, and I know your new president is committed to rolling up his sleeves and trying to do so. But we can learn from the last 70 years that it will not involve unregulated, unbridled, unethical capitalism. It also won’t involve old-style command-and-control socialism form the top. That was tried; it didn’t work very well. For almost all countries, progress is going to depend on an inclusive market-based system – one that offers education for every child; that protects collective bargaining and secures the rights of every worker – (applause) – that breaks up monopolies to encourage competition in small and medium-sized businesses; and has laws that root out corruption and ensures fair dealing in business; that maintains some form of progressive taxation so that rich people are still rich but they’re giving a little bit back to make sure that everybody else has something to pay for universal health care and retirement security, and invests in infrastructure and scientific research that builds platforms for innovation.
I should add, by the way, right now I’m actually surprised by how much money I got, and let me tell you something: I don’t have half as much as most of these folks or a tenth or a hundredth. There’s only so much you can eat. There’s only so big a house you can have. (Cheers and applause.) There’s only so many nice trips you can take. I mean, it’s enough. (Laughter.) You don’t have to take a vow of poverty just to say, “Well, let me help out and let a few of the other folks – let me look at that child out there who doesn’t have enough to eat or needs some school fees, let me help him out. I’ll pay a little more in taxes. It’s okay. I can afford it.” (Cheers and applause.) I mean, it shows a poverty of ambition to just want to take more and more and more, instead of saying, “Wow, I’ve got so much. Who can I help? How can I give more and more and more?” (Cheers and applause.) That’s ambition. That’s impact. That’s influence. What an amazing gift to be able to help people, not just yourself. (Applause.) Where was I? I ad-libbed. (Laughter.) You get the point.
It involves promoting an inclusive capitalism both within nations and between nations. And as we pursue, for example, the Sustainable Development Goals, we have to get past the charity mindset. We’ve got to bring more resources to the forgotten pockets of the world through investment and entrepreneurship, because there is talent everywhere in the world if given an opportunity. (Cheers and applause.)
When it comes to the international system of commerce and trade, it’s legitimate for poorer countries to continue to seek access to wealthier markets. And by the way, wealthier markets, that’s not the big problem that you’re having – that a small African country is sending you tea and flowers. That’s not your biggest economic challenge. It’s also proper for advanced economies like the United States to insist on reciprocity from nations like China that are no longer solely poor countries, to make sure that they’re providing access to their markets and that they stop taking intellectual property and hacking our servers. (Laughter.)
But even as there are discussions to be had around trade and commerce, it’s important to recognize this reality: while the outsourcing of jobs from north to south, from east to west, while a lot of that was a dominant trend in the late 20th century, the biggest challenge to workers in countries like mine today is technology. And the biggest challenge for your new president when we think about how we’re going to employ more people here is going to be also technology, because artificial intelligence is here and it is accelerating, and you’re going to have driverless cars, and you’re going to have more and more automated services, and that’s going to make the job of giving everybody work that is meaningful tougher, and we’re going to have to be more imaginative, and the pact of change is going to require us to do more fundamental reimagining of our social and political arrangements, to protect the economic security and the dignity that comes with a job. It’s not just money that a job provides; it provides dignity and structure and a sense of place and a sense of purpose. (Applause.) And so we’re going to have to consider new ways of thinking about these problems, like a universal income, review of our workweek, how we retrain our young people, how we make everybody an entrepreneur at some level. But we’re going to have to worry about economics if we want to get democracy back on track.
Second, Madiba teaches us that some principles really are universal – and the most important one is the principle that we are bound together by a common humanity and that each individual has inherent dignity and worth.
Now, it’s surprising that we have to affirm this truth today. More than a quarter century after Madiba walked out of prison, I still have to stand here at a lecture and devote some time to saying that black people and white people and Asian people and Latin American people and women and men and gays and straights, that we are all human, that our differences are superficial, and that we should treat each other with care and respect. I would have thought we would have figured that out by now. I thought that basic notion was well established. (Applause.) But it turns out, as we’re seeing in this recent drift into reactionary politics, that the struggle for basic justice is never truly finished. So we’ve got to constantly be on the lookout and fight for people who seek to elevate themselves by putting somebody else down. And by the way, we also have to actively resist – this is important, particularly in some countries in Africa like my own father’s homeland; I’ve made this point before – we have to resist the notion that basic human rights like freedom to dissent, or the right of women to fully participate in the society, or the right of minorities to equal treatment, or the rights of people not to be beat up and jailed because of their sexual orientation – we have to be careful not to say that somehow, well, that doesn’t apply to us, that those are Western ideas rather than universal imperatives. (Applause.)
Again, Madiba, he anticipated things. He knew what he was talking about. In 1964, before he received the sentence that condemned him to die in prison, he explained from the dock that, “The Magna Carta, the Petition of Rights, the Bill of Rights are documents which are held in veneration by democrats throughout the world.” In other words, he didn’t say well, those books weren’t written by South Africans so I just – I can’t claim them. No, he said that’s part of my inheritance. That’s part of the human inheritance. That applies here in this country, to me, and to you. And that’s part of what gave him the moral authority that the apartheid regime could never claim, because he was more familiar with their best values than they were. (Laughter.) He had read their documents more carefully than they had. And he went on to say, “Political division based on color is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one color group by another.” That’s Nelson Mandela speaking in 1964, when I was three years old. (Applause.)
What was true then remains true today. Basic truths do not change. It is a truth that can be embraced by the English, and by the Indian, and by the Mexican and by the Bantu and by the Luo and by the American. It is a truth that lies at the heart of every world religion – that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. (Applause.) That we see ourselves in other people. That we can recognize common hopes and common dreams. And it is a truth that is incompatible with any form of discrimination based on race or religion or gender or sexual orientation. And it is a truth that, by the way, when embraced, actually delivers practical benefits, since it ensures that a society can draw upon the talents and energy and skill of all its people. And if you doubt that, just ask the French football team that just won the World Cup. (Cheers and applause.) Because not all of those folks – not all of those folks look like Gauls to me. (Laughter.) But they’re French. They’re French. (Laughter.)
Embracing our common humanity does not mean that we have to abandon our unique ethnic and national and religious identities. Madiba never stopped being proud of his tribal heritage. He didn’t stop being proud of being a black man and being a South African. But he believed, as I believe, that you can be proud of your heritage without denigrating those of a different heritage. (Applause.) In fact, you dishonor your heritage. It would make me think that you’re a little insecure about your heritage if you’ve got to put somebody else’s heritage down. (Laughter.) Yeah, that’s right. (Laughter.) Don’t you get a sense sometimes – again, I’m ad-libbing here – that these people who are so intent on putting people down and puffing themselves up that they’re small-hearted, that there’s something they’re just afraid of. Madiba knew that we cannot claim justice for ourselves when it’s only reserved for some. Madiba understood that we can’t say we’ve got a just society simply because we replaced the color of the person on top of an unjust system, so the person looks like us even though they’re doing the same stuff, and somehow now we’ve got justice. That doesn’t work. (Cheers and applause.) It’s not justice if now you’re on top, so I’m going to do the same thing that those folks were doing to me and now I’m going to do it to you. That’s not justice. “I detest racialism,” he said, “whether it comes from a black man or a white man.”
Now, we have to acknowledge that there is disorientation that comes from rapid change and modernization, and the fact that the world has shrunk, and we’re going to have to find ways to lessen the fears of those who feel threatened. In the West’s current debate around immigration, for example, it’s not wrong to insist that national borders matter; whether you’re a citizen or not is going to matter to a government, that laws need to be followed; that in the public realm newcomers should make an effort to adapt to the language and customs of their new home. Those are legitimate things and we have to be able to engage people who do feel as if things are not orderly. But that can’t be an excuse for immigration policies based on race, or ethnicity, or religion. There’s got to be some consistency. And we can enforce the law while respecting the essential humanity of those who are striving for a better life. (Cheers and applause.) For a mother with a child in her arms, we can recognise that could be somebody in our family, that could be my child.
Third, Madiba reminds us that democracy is about more than just elections.
When he was freed from prison, Madiba’s popularity – well, you couldn’t even measure it. He could have been president for life. Am I wrong? (Laughter.) Who was going to run against him? (Laughter.) I mean, Ramaphosa was popular, but come on. (Laughter.) Plus he was a young – he was too young. Had he chose, Madiba could have governed by executive fiat, unconstrained by check and balances. But instead he helped guide South Africa through the drafting of a new Constitution, drawing from all the institutional practices and democratic ideals that had proven to be most sturdy, mindful of the fact that no single individual possesses a monopoly on wisdom. No individual – not Mandela, not Obama – are entirely immune to the corrupting influences of absolute power, if you can do whatever you want and everyone’s too afraid to tell you when you’re making a mistake. No one is immune from the dangers of that.
Mandela understood this. He said, “Democracy is based on the majority principle. This is especially true in a country such as ours where the vast majority have been systematically denied their rights. At the same time, democracy also requires the rights of political and other minorities be safeguarded.” He understood it’s not just about who has the most votes. It’s also about the civic culture that we build that makes democracy work.
So we have to stop pretending that countries that just hold an election where sometimes the winner somehow magically gets 90 percent of the vote because all the opposition is locked up – (laughter) – or can’t get on TV, is a democracy. Democracy depends on strong institutions and it’s about minority rights and checks and balances, and freedom of speech and freedom of expression and a free press, and the right to protest and petition the government, and an independent judiciary, and everybody having to follow the law.
And yes, democracy can be messy, and it can be slow, and it can be frustrating. I know, I promise. (Laughter.) But the efficiency that’s offered by an autocrat, that’s a false promise. Don’t take that one, because it leads invariably to more consolidation of wealth at the top and power at the top, and it makes it easier to conceal corruption and abuse. For all its imperfections, real democracy best upholds the idea that government exists to serve the individual and not the other way around. (Applause.) And it is the only form of government that has the possibility of making that idea real.
So for those of us who are interested in strengthening democracy, let’s also stop – it’s time for us to stop paying all of our attention to the world’s capitals and the centers of power and to start focusing more on the grassroots, because that’s where democratic legitimacy comes from. Not from the top down, not from abstract theories, not just from experts, but from the bottom up. Knowing the lives of those who are struggling.
As a community organiser, I learned as much from a laid-off steel worker in Chicago or a single mom in a poor neighborhood that I visited as I learned from the finest economists in the Oval Office. Democracy means being in touch and in tune with life as it’s lived in our communities, and that’s what we should expect from our leaders, and it depends upon cultivating leaders at the grassroots who can help bring about change and implement it on the ground and can tell leaders in fancy buildings, this isn’t working down here.
And to make democracy work, Madiba shows us that we also have to keep teaching our children, and ourselves – and this is really hard – to engage with people not only who look different but who hold different views. This is hard. (Applause.)
Most of us prefer to surround ourselves with opinions that validate what we already believe. You notice the people who you think are smart are the people who agree with you. (Laughter.) Funny how that works. But democracy demands that we’re able also to get inside the reality of people who are different than us so we can understand their point of view. Maybe we can change their minds, but maybe they’ll change ours. And you can’t do this if you just out of hand disregard what your opponents have to say from the start. And you can’t do it if you insist that those who aren’t like you – because they’re white, or because they’re male – that somehow there’s no way they can understand what I’m feeling, that somehow they lack standing to speak on certain matters.
Madiba, he lived this complexity. In prison, he studied Afrikaans so that he could better understand the people who were jailing him. And when he got out of prison, he extended a hand to those who had jailed him, because he knew that they had to be a part of the democratic South Africa that he wanted to build. “To make peace with an enemy,” he wrote, “one must work with that enemy, and that enemy becomes one’s partner.”
So those who traffic in absolutes when it comes to policy, whether it’s on the left or the right, they make democracy unworkable. You can’t expect to get 100 percent of what you want all the time; sometimes, you have to compromise. That doesn’t mean abandoning your principles, but instead it means holding on to those principles and then having the confidence that they’re going to stand up to a serious democratic debate. That’s how America’s Founders intended our system to work – that through the testing of ideas and the application of reason and proof it would be possible to arrive at a basis for common ground.
And I should add for this to work, we have to actually believe in an objective reality. This is another one of these things that I didn’t have to lecture about. You have to believe in facts. (Laughter.) Without facts, there is no basis for cooperation. If I say this is a podium and you say this is an elephant, it’s going to be hard for us to cooperate. (Laughter.) I can find common ground for those who oppose the Paris Accords because, for example, they might say, well, it’s not going to work, you can’t get everybody to cooperate, or they might say it’s more important for us to provide cheap energy for the poor, even if it means in the short term that there’s more pollution. At least I can have a debate with them about that and I can show them why I think clean energy is the better path, especially for poor countries, that you can leapfrog old technologies. (Cheers.) I can’t find common ground if somebody says climate change is just not happening, when almost all of the world’s scientists tell us it is. I don’t know where to start talking to you about this. (Laughter.) If you start saying it’s an elaborate hoax, I don’t know what to – (laughter) – where do we start?
Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up. They just make stuff up. We see it in state-sponsored propaganda; we see it in internet driven fabrications, we see it in the blurring of lines between news and entertainment, we see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more. Politicians have always lied, but it used to be if you caught them lying they’d be like, “Oh man.” Now they just keep on lying.
By the way, this is what I think Mama Graça was talking about in terms of maybe some sense of humility that Madiba felt, like sometimes just basic stuff, me not completely lying to people seems pretty basic, I don’t think of myself as a great leader just because I don’t completely make stuff up. You’d think that was a base line. Anyway, we see it in the promotion of anti-intellectualism and the rejection of science from leaders who find critical thinking and data somehow politically inconvenient. And, as with the denial of rights, the denial of facts runs counter to democracy, it could be its undoing, which is why we must zealously protect independent media; and we have to guard against the tendency for social media to become purely a platform for spectacle, outrage, or disinformation; and we have to insist that our schools teach critical thinking to our young people, not just blind obedience.
Which, I’m sure you are thankful for, leads to my final point: we have to follow Madiba’s example of persistence and of hope.
It is tempting to give in to cynicism: to believe that recent shifts in global politics are too powerful to push back; that the pendulum has swung permanently. Just as people spoke about the triumph of democracy in the 90s, now you are hearing people talk about end of democracy and the triumph of tribalism and the strong man. We have to resist that cynicism.
Because, we’ve been through darker times, we’ve been in lower valleys and deeper valleys. Yes, by the end of his life, Madiba embodied the successful struggle for human rights, but the journey was not easy, it wasn’t pre-ordained. The man went to prison for almost three decades. He split limestone in the heat, he slept in a small cell, and was repeatedly put in solitary confinement. And I remember talking to some of his former colleagues saying how they hadn’t realized when they were released, just the sight of a child, the idea of holding a child, they had missed – it wasn’t something available to them, for decades.
And yet his power actually grew during those years – and the power of his jailers diminished, because he knew that if you stick to what’s true, if you know what’s in your heart, and you’re willing to sacrifice for it, even in the face of overwhelming odds, that it might not happen tomorrow, it might not happen in the next week, it might not even happen in your lifetime. Things may go backwards for a while, but ultimately, right makes might, not the other way around, ultimately, the better story can win out and as strong as Madiba’s spirit may have been, he would not have sustained that hope had he been alone in the struggle, part of buoyed him up was that he knew that each year, the ranks of freedom fighters were replenishing, young men and women, here in South African, in the ANC and beyond; black and Indian and white, from across the countryside, across the continent, around the world, who in those most difficult days would keep working on behalf of his vision.
And that’s what we need right now, we don’t just need one leader, we don’t just need one inspiration, what we badly need right now is that collective spirit. And, I know that those young people, those hope carriers are gathering around the world. Because history shows that whenever progress is threatened, and the things we care about most are in question, we should heed the words of Robert Kennedy – spoken here in South Africa, he said, “Our answer is the world’s hope: it is to rely on youth. It’s to rely on the spirit of the young.”
So, young people, who are in the audience, who are listening, my message to you is simple, keep believing, keep marching, keep building, keep raising your voice. Every generation has the opportunity to remake the world. Mandela said, “Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.” Now is a good time to be aroused. Now is a good time to be fired up.
And, for those of us who care about the legacy that we honor here today – about equality and dignity and democracy and solidarity and kindness, those of us who remain young at heart, if not in body – we have an obligation to help our youth succeed. Some of you know, here in South Africa, my Foundation is convening over the last few days, two hundred young people from across this continent who are doing the hard work of making change in their communities; who reflect Madiba’s values, who are poised to lead the way.
People like Abaas Mpindi, a journalist from Uganda, who founded the Media Challenge Initiative, to help other young people get the training they need to tell the stories that the world needs to know.
People like Caren Wakoli, an entrepreneur from Kenya, who founded the Emerging Leaders Foundation to get young people involved in the work of fighting poverty and promoting human dignity.
People like Enock Nkulanga, who directs the African Children’s mission, which helps children in Uganda and Kenya get the education that they need and then in his spare time, Enock advocates for the rights of children around the globe, and founded an organization called LeadMinds Africa, which does exactly what it says.
You meet these people, you talk to them, they will give you hope. They are taking the baton, they know they can’t just rest on the accomplishments of the past, even the accomplishments of those as momentous as Nelson Mandela’s. They stand on the shoulders of those who came before, including that young black boy born 100 years ago, but they know that it is now their turn to do the work.
Madiba reminds us that: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart.” Love comes more naturally to the human heart, let’s remember that truth. Let’s see it as our North Star, let’s be joyful in our struggle to make that truth manifest here on earth so that in 100 years from now, future generations will look back and say, “they kept the march going, that’s why we live under new banners of freedom.” Thank you very much, South Africa, thank you
4 March 1861, Washington DC, USA
Fellow-citizens of the United States:
In compliance with a custom as old as the government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly, and to take, in your presence, the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, to be taken by the President "before he enters on the execution of this office."
I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement.
Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States, that by the accession of a Republican Administration, their property, and their peace, and personal security, are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed, and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this, and many similar declarations, and had never recanted them. And more than this, they placed in the platform, for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves, and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:
Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes."
I now reiterate these sentiments; and in doing so, I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause -- as cheerfully to one section as to another.
There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions:
"No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."
It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it, for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the law-giver is the law. All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution -- to this provision as much as to any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause, "shall be delivered," their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not, with nearly equal unanimity, frame and pass a law, by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?
There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by national or by state authority; but surely that difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him, or to others, by which authority it is done. And should any one, in any case, be content that his oath shall go unkept, on a merely unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?
Again, in any law upon this subject, ought not all the safeguards of liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced, so that a free man be not, in any case, surrendered as a slave? And might it not be well, at the same time to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States"?
I take the official oath to-day, with no mental reservations, and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws, by any hypercritical rules. And while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to, and abide by, all those acts which stand unrepealed, than to violate any of them, trusting to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.
It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President under our national Constitution. During that period fifteen different and greatly distinguished citizens, have, in succession, administered the executive branch of the government. They have conducted it through many perils; and, generally, with great success. Yet, with all this scope for [of] precedent, I now enter upon the same task for the brief constitutional term of four years, under great and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted.
I hold, that in contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper, ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our national Constitution, and the Union will endure forever -- it being impossible to destroy it, except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.
Again, if the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade, by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it -- break it, so to speak; but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?
Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that, in legal contemplation, the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution, was "to form a more perfect Union." But if [the] destruction of the Union, by one, or by a part only, of the States, be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.
It follows from these views that no State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union, -- that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence, within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.
I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken; and to the extent of my ability I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part; and I shall perform it, so far as practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means, or in some authoritative manner, direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.
In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none, unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion -- no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality, shall be so great and so universal, as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating, and so nearly impracticable with all, that I deem it better to forego, for the time, the uses of such offices.
The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all parts of the Union. So far as possible, the people everywhere shall have that sense of perfect security which is most favorable to calm thought and reflection. The course here indicated will be followed, unless current events and experience shall show a modification or change to be proper; and in every case and exigency my best discretion will be exercised according to circumstances actually existing, and with a view and a hope of a peaceful solution of the national troubles, and the restoration of fraternal sympathies and affections.
That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the Union at all events, and are glad of any pretext to do it, I will neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them. To those, however, who really love the Union may I not speak?
Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you hazard so desperate a step, while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you, while the certain ills you fly to, are greater than all the real ones you fly from? Will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?
All profess to be content in the Union, if all constitutional rights can be maintained. Is it true, then, that any right, plainly written in the Constitution, has been denied? I think not. Happily the human mind is so constituted, that no party can reach to the audacity of doing this. Think, if you can, of a single instance in which a plainly written provision of the Constitution has ever been denied. If by the mere force of numbers, a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution -- certainly would, if such right were a vital one. But such is not our case. All the vital rights of minorities, and of individuals, are so plainly assured to them, by affirmations and negations, guaranties and prohibitions, in the Constitution, that controversies never arise concerning them. But no organic law can ever be framed with a provision specifically applicable to every question which may occur in practical administration. No foresight can anticipate, nor any document of reasonable length contain express provisions for all possible questions. Shall fugitives from labor be surrendered by national or by State authority? The Constitution does not expressly say. May Congress prohibit slavery in the territories? The Constitution does not expressly say. Must Congress protect slavery in the territories? The Constitution does not expressly say.
From questions of this class spring all our constitutional controversies, and we divide upon them into majorities and minorities. If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the government must cease. There is no other alternative; for continuing the government, is acquiescence on one side or the other. If a minority, in such case, will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which, in turn, will divide and ruin them; for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority. For instance, why may not any portion of a new confederacy, a year or two hence, arbitrarily secede again, precisely as portions of the present Union now claim to secede from it? All who cherish disunion sentiments, are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this.
Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose a new Union, as to produce harmony only, and prevent renewed secession?
Plainly, the central idea of secession, is the essence of anarchy. A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it, does, of necessity, fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.
I do not forget the position assumed by some, that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court; nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case, upon the parties to a suit; as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be over-ruled, and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties, in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink, to decide cases properly brought before them; and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.
One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute. The fugitive slave clause of the Constitution, and the law for the suppression of the foreign slave trade, are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law can ever be in a community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly supports the law itself. The great body of the people abide by the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few break over in each. This, I think, cannot be perfectly cured, and it would be worse in both cases after the separation of the sections, than before. The foreign slave trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be ultimately revived without restriction, in one section; while fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be surrendered at all, by the other.
Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We can not remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced, and go out of the presence, and beyond the reach of each other; but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face; and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory, after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides, and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions, as to terms of intercourse, are again upon you.
This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I cannot be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the national Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the people over the whole subject to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it.
I will venture to add that to me the Convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions, originated by others, not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish to either accept or refuse. I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution, which amendment, however, I have not seen, has passed Congress, to the effect that the federal government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments, so far as to say that holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.
The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have referred none upon him to fix terms for the separation of the States. The people themselves can do this if also they choose; but the executive, as such, has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present government, as it came to his hands, and to transmit it, unimpaired by him, to his successor.
Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope, in the world? In our present differences, is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Almighty Ruler of nations, with his eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth, and that justice, will surely prevail, by the judgment of this great tribunal of the American people.
By the frame of the government under which we live, this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief; and have, with equal wisdom, provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals.
While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years.
My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well, upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you, in hot haste, to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new administration will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either. If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied, hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single good reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.
In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."
I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.