Obama’s speech seen from China

Written by Julen Madariaga on January 21st, 2009

The guests just left, what a night! The tense atmosphere of a final match in my Shanghai apartment; high expectations and a sense of History. Friends, all of different nationalities, sharing my wine and watching the first speech of President Obama. The silence during the 18 minutes was complete.

Is it only me, or the first half was more intense than the second? The former was full of the brave ideals we wanted to hear; the latter, more martial and patriotic, containing the obvious honesty, courage and loyalty, together with the reference to race.

It is 3am in China. I will leave it to American experts to analyze more deeply, I just want to highlight this passage which stands out from the rest:

We reject as false the choice between our safety and our Ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the Rule of Law and the Rights of Man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.


Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

“Rule of Law and Rights of Man”. Yes. And how to achieve them in the World? By the “justness of our cause, the force of our example”. That is exactly what we wished to hear. It has become true in the speech, and I sincerely hope it will become true in real life.

Many things can change in the World if our most powerful country -our 老大, or “eldest”, as many Chinese humbly refer to America- conducts itself according to these principles, abiding by those same laws that it proposed and signed, and creating new ones as its Ideals may require.

For, though the oath forgets to mention it, the responsibility of the highest political power on Earth is towards the whole of Humanity. And only a great man can be up to that position.

It looks like for the first time in many, many years, we have found our Man.

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  1. Year-End Edition 2009 (1): Measuring "China" | CHINAYOUREN