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Obama’s State Of The Union Speech: Half Full Or Half Empty?


Obama’s State of the Union speech certainly reflects the confidence of America that it is the world leader by virtue of its economic, industrial, financial, military and natural resource strength. Even the pledged critic of America will agree that America’s claim for world leadership by virtue of its various strengths cannot be doubted or disputed.

Nevertheless, in recent times, we find a situation that across the world, there are as many admirers of America as the critics. Perhaps, on certain occasions, the number of critics have exceeded the number of admirers.

Obama implied in his speech that world looks to America for leadership. At least some people who are not Americans would have thought as to whether Obama thinks that God has created America to police the world.

After eulogizing America and implicitly feeling satisfied that several countries in the world depend on America for several things, Obama went on to pass very adverse and insulting remarks against Pakistan and Afghanistan, clearly mentioning that both these countries would remain unsettled for quite some time. He did not cared to think that he should not affect the sensitivity of millions of people living in these countries, by making such sweeping remarks which virtually condemn these two countries as incorrigible in the immediate future.

In making several of such sweeping remarks about number of countries, it is true that Obama is talking to the American citizens particularly keeping his present political compulsions and the forthcoming Presidential poll in America in view. Nevertheless, one would expect that the President of a mighty country like USA should have balanced his observations, particularly while talking about other regions.

In recent times, there have been several unsavory incidents in USA also, such as racial attacks, gun shootings in schools killing innocent lives and perhaps, Obama should have been honest enough to find fault with his own leadership for such conditions. He has not done so for obvious reasons, though he has no hesitation in making critical remarks about happenings in other regions.

There are several ways of looking at America and its attitude and approach to world issues. The admirers of America argue that but for America’s interference in internal affairs of some countries and its dominating role in the world affairs, the world would have been a much more violent place and many more conflicts would have taken place in several countries upsetting the regional peace and putting millions of people in discomfort and suffering. The admirers also point out that America has also given aid and other forms of support to several suffering regions in the past, which has not been matched by any other country.

The critics often say that the approach of American government towards the world issues have been entirely based on protecting its national interests and it has adopted a self centered policy. Such critics think that with all the technology advancement and money power that America commands, it could have influenced the world events in much more productive and progressive manner and to this extent, leadership of America and Obama as President in particular, have failed to rise up to world expectations.

Of course, while the critics accuse America for several acts of omissions and commissions, the ground reality is that several of the countries with dominating influence in world affairs like China, Russia and even Saudi Arabia, have not adopted their policies with any particular lofty objectives and perhaps in the case of some recent events, the behavior of these countries have been much worse than that of USA.

Any country that wants to be known and acknowledged as the world leader have to be concerned about the larger good of the world and not adopt all policies purely on the basis of self centered approach. To what extent USA has adopted such policies and measures in the past and present can be a matter of unending debate and discussions.

All said and done, Obama who was honored with a Nobel Prize for Peace, could have used his last State of the Nation address with a little more care and long sighted view, raising his speech to a new level that the world would have remembered for a long time to come. Obama appears to have lost an opportunity.

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N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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