Det blir gjerne sagt om Obama at han ikke representerer den amerikanske eksepsjonalismen, dvs. at han ikke mener at han leder «the greatest country on Earth». Sammenlignet med enkelte andre amerikanske politikere kan det godt hende han er mer avmålt i sin entusiasme, men om man dveler ved flere detaljer i hans tale om nasjonens tilstand her forleden, må man konstaterere at han er solid rotfestet i en patriotisk amerikansk tradisjon, hvor politisk uenighet overskygges av nasjonal samfølelse og stolthet, og det er langt fra begrenset til den rituelle, men trolig ektefølte, avslutningen «God bless the United States of America».
Allerede innledningsvis sier han blant annet dette:
It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation. […] We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled. That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation. […] At stake right now is not who wins the next election -– after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but the light to the world.
At ingen kan tenke seg en europeisk leder snakke på den måten, henger naturligvis sammen med USAs helt spesielle forhistorie, som Obama selv understreker:
What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -– the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That’s why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here.
Lenger ut i talen sparer han heller ikke på konfekten hva angår USAs kampvilje eller moralske rolle:
[W]e must defeat determined enemies, wherever they are, and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion. And America’s moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity.
Han er takknemlig over å bo i USA og hva det innebærer:
I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth. We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution. We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything is possible. […] That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.
Obama fikk i sin tid mye pepper da han på spørsmål svarte at «I believe in American exceptionalism, just as the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks in Greek exceptionalism», og kanskje var det dels for å stilne kritikk av denne typen at han smurte ekstra tykt på i år, men om man ser på talen for i fjor, ser man at den også har den samme patriotiske ånden.
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I sin tale for tre dager siden la den amerikanske presidenten ellers ikke skjul på at globaliseringen har gitt USA sterk konkurranse fra resten av verden, og han forespeiler ingen dans på roser:
The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age. And now it’s our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.
Obama fremhever barneoppdragelse og utdannelse som forutsetninger for å lykkes med denne oppgaven:
That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair. We need to teach them that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.
Optimismen ligger uansett i bunnen:
The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation. None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do — what America does better than anyone else — is spark the creativity and imagination of our people.