Often chided by my foreign-born girlfriend for my cynical tirades about the state of America without giving credit to the multitude of freedoms and opportunities available within our borders, I usually acknowledge that yes, I do live in a great country, and it is marvelous that I am able to freely criticize the government without (too much) fear of retribution. Then I talk about how it is patriotic to critique our leaders, and why it is important to not just engage in “feel-good reflections” about the state of our nation while only casting a quick and furtive glance to the dark pages of our domestic and foreign policy playbook.
Today, however, I do feel compelled to express my gratitude for living in this nation. There is a lot to be bitter about, and there is much room for improvement, but watching President Obama address the nation and the world, I took solace in the fact that, even if he falls short of his lofty goals, that the nation choose to elect a leader who so forthrightly proclaimed to the world:
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect.
I am cautiously optimistic that in the coming years we will see a strengthening of civil liberties, a broadening of social protections, and a multilateral approach to foreign policy. For now, I can say I am proud to belong to United States of America and hopeful about our future.