British Prime Minister Gordon Brown met with President Obama and spoke before a joint session of Congress yesterday. Here are some of his words from his eloquent, and uplifting speech:
Madam Speaker, Mr Vice-President, I come in friendship to renew, for new times, our special relationship founded upon our shared history, our shared values and, I believe, our shared futures.
I grew up in the 1960s as America, led by President Kennedy, looked to the heavens and saw not the endless void of the unknown, but a new frontier to dare to discover and explore. People said it couldn’t be done – but America did it.
And 20 years later, in the 1980′s, America led by President Reagan refused to accept the fate of millions trapped behind an Iron Curtain, and insisted instead that the people of Eastern Europe be allowed to join the ranks of nations which live safe, strong and free. People said it would never happen in our lifetime but it did, and the Berlin Wall was torn down brick by brick.
So early in my life I came to understand that America is not just the indispensible nation, it is the irrepressible nation.
At time when it seems that most have nothing nice to say about the US, especially Americans, I was more than pleased with Brown’s words and tone. Unfortunately, Brown was not welcomed to this country like his and his predecessor’s former visits as President Obama did not meet him at Andrew’s airbase for a ‘before the flag’ photo op, nor did he introduce him before a joint press conference, and US Press Secretary Robert Gibbs referred to a ‘special partnership’ not ‘relationship.’ These moves may seem trivial, especially if one adds Obama’s return of the Winston Churchill bust given to America by Tony Blair after 9/11, but to Britain, these slights cause much concern that the ‘special relationship’ may be thawing under this new American administration.
It can definitely be argued that Bush put a too emotional spin and emphasis on foreign relations (Putin, Koizumi, Blair, Howard), but I don’t see this as folly when it is with truly special partners, like the British. This is the nation that has sent its troops to fight along side ours in two difficult and controversial campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Unlike so many others, they have proven their worth and their commitment and this should be honored by our Head of State. It seems that Obama desires to be above old fashioned politics, but certain traditions should be honored. Though during their joint press conference Obama stated, “The special relationship between the United States and Great Britain is one that is not just important to me, it’s important to the American people,” it still did not convince me that he really sees the partnership as very much different then say the US’s relationship with France, etc. Obama tends to lean ‘realist’ in foreign issues and ‘realists’ do not think there are such things as ‘special relationships’ or alliances last very long. In many ways this is constructive and leads to prudent policy, but I think the linkages of history, culture, democracy, capitalism, and the fight for liberty attach Britain-United States in a special way. In Brown’s speech before Congress you can hear the earnestness of Britain’s appreciation for America and its view of the two nation’s relationship.
So let it be said of the friendship between our two countries; that it is in times of trial – true, in the face of fear – faithful and amidst the storms of change – constant.
And let it be said of our friendship – formed and forged over two tumultuous centuries, a friendship tested in war and strengthened in peace – that it has not just endured but is renewed in each generation to better serve our shared values and fulfil the hopes and dreams of the day. Not an alliance of convenience, but a partnership of purpose.
Alliances can wither or be destroyed, but partnerships of purpose are indestructible. Friendships can be shaken, but our friendship is unshakeable. Treaties can be broken but our partnership is unbreakable. And I know there is no power on earth than can drive us apart.
I think that says it all.
(Photo Source: New York Times)