You know how sometimes when you're angry at someone, you write a letter that you don't send just because writing it feels good? That's what I do when I get frustrated at what I'm hearing from politicians, except it comes out not as a letter but as a speech in the bombastic rhetorical style typical of candidates.
This is what I wrote last night...
Discuss "Making America Our Own Again" here.
My fellow citizens...
I come before you tonight to tell you what I think so many of us already know and feel: This is a time unlike any other in our lives, in the life of our country, and even a time unprecedented in the history of our world.
We have an opportunity to break the habits of the past that have held us back. So much is happening, so much is changing. We know in our hearts that we can change the world, we can lift it up. But, I'm afraid so many of us look at what we have done with this opportunity, and we're angry and sad and bewildered that we're throwing this chance away.
But it's not too late. We all feel this, too. I see it in every American I meet. I can see it in you tonight. It's not too late. We can step back from the steep hill we've been on. And we can step into the new world that's ready to happen. We can lead the world into this better place. We just have to make our country our own again.
The America that we grew up in, the one that we still believe in, the America that has stood for the best of what we humans can make of ourselves...that America is the land that can lead the world into the future. But the America that we read about in our own headlines, much less in the headlines of the countries that used to admire us, that America doesn't sound like ours any more. And the future the politicians and the newspaper paint for us doesn't sound like ours any more.
If we're going to take back the future, we're going to have to first make America our own again.
We are uniquely situated to lead. Never before in human history has a single country been so powerful militarily, so powerful economically, so rich in ideas and values, and so dedicated to using its power not to dominate, but to liberate. No country has ever before been in that position. Ever.
What an opportunity. The greatest country in history. We can do so much. We will do so much. This country was, after all, founded to move into the future, not to hold onto the habits and ideas of the past. For most countries, if you ask them what they are, what's unique and defining about them, they'll point to their past. Not us. Americans have always pointed to the future. If you want to understand us, look at what we're going to do. Americans face forward.
But you wouldn't know that if you were to judge us by the headlines in our newspapers over the past few years.
We hold prisoners without charging them, without letting them see a lawyer, without any of the rights that make this country great. Is that our America? No.
We give our secret agencies the right to spy on us, to intimidate librarians, to operate in the nighttime of unsupervised secrecy. Is that our America? No.
We promise AIDS relief to Africa, but we take it away if the programs talk about using birth control. Is that our America? No.
We let the oil companies write our energy policy and then our vice president goes to the Supreme Court rather than simply say who he met with. Is that our America? No.
Our government knowingly distorts the evidence to swindle Americans into supporting a war. Is that our America? No.
We censor the scientific reports we asked for when they come up with results we don't like. Is that our America? No.
We increase the amount of arsenic and mercury we allow in our children's environment. Is that our America? No.
We pass the first legislation in a generation to roll back a woman's right to control her body. Is that our America? No.
Our Secretary of Defense hears that some of our soldiers and the mercenaries he's hired are torturing prisoners and months later he still hasn't done anything about it. Is that our America? No.
When we find ourselves slipping in the polls, we tinker with the Constitution hoping it will distract us from the real issues by dividing us among ourselves. Is that our America? No.
No, my friends, we know what our America is. We know better than $200 million dollars worth of ads can ever redefine for us. We know better than anyone dressed up like a cowboy or dressed up like a pilot can tell us. We know what our America is.
Our America isn't afraid, despite the constant effort of our government to tell us that we are. Our America is the home of the brave. Brave Americans, like our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world. Brave Americans, like our fire fighters and our police. Brave Americans like everyone of us who gets up in the morning and does some good in the world against the odds...raising our kids without enough money, educating our children in underfunded schools, starting that small business and sticking with your employees even when you might make a little more money if you shipped their jobs overseas. We know what bravery is. We know what courage, real courage, is. We're not fooled by the flight suits on guys who, when it came their time to serve, ducked. Our America is brave.
Our America is free. We don't try to shut people up because we disagree with them, and we don't accuse them of being unpatriotic because they have a different opinion. We don't worry about people reading the wrong books. We don't set up our own internal secret jails. We do things out in the open in our America. We don't hole ourselves up in secret meetings with our cronies. Our America is open. Our America is free.
Our America is just. We don't grudgingly let people into the tent and make a big deal of it. We go outside, we meet them where they live, and we take them for who they are. And you know who they are? They're our neighbors. You know, our America hasn't always been good about this. But it is fundamental to our nation that we have learned. Immigrants from everywhere, people of color, women, gays and lesbians...The mistakes we made in the past don't define us. The way we have moved into the future of equality and justice and respect and dignity...that's what defines our America.
Our America is full of life. Not fear and doubt. We're a confident country. Confident enough that we know not everyone has to be like us, and not everyone is going to like us. That's ok. That's more than ok. That's life on this planet. We love it. We love to laugh. And we love to try things out. Come up with new ideas. Tinker. Invent. Innovate. Some of the ideas are just plain wrong. Doesn't matter. We'll invent some more. We're Americans. That's what we do in our America.
We're brave. We're free. We love justice. We love life. That's our America.
But is that the America you see peering back at us from our own headlines? Is that the America the world sees now?
No. They've tried to take our America from us. Big corporations have gotten into the halls of power. Laws are passed for the rich, and the middle class and the poor are supposed to say, "Thank you. May we have another?" We swagger our way through the world like a schoolhouse bully. And when the photos come out showing scenes that no American can stand to look at, our government is more interested in avoiding blame than in making it right.
But we can take back our America. And it's not just because we're going to vote in November. That's just the beginning. We can only take back our America because in our hearts we never lost it. We the people are still brave, free, just and full of life. Together, we will invent our new America, because that's what we do. The always new America. We will lift up the world by joining with it and leading it as exactly who we are as Americans - Brave, free, just, and in love with life.
That, my friends, is our America. And we will take it back, because it is ours.