Speaking to a record-breaking inauguration crowd in Washington and the world at large, President Barack Obama enters the White House promising a new vision of global leadership for the United States.
America is a friend to every nation that seeks peace and dignity, he said, and it will extend a hand even to its adversaries if they are willing to unclench their fists.
In a serious tone matching the many challenges ahead both at home in the U.S. and overseas, the President said the nation faces hard choices, but is up to the task. Already on his first days in office he is meeting with his top advisers on plans to address the nation’s economic crisis, as well as changes in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
President Obama also said he will begin to work with old friends and foes to reduce the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.
“We are the keepers of this legacy,” he said. “Guided by these principles once more we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations.”
He appealed specifically to the Muslim world, an area that has viewed the U.S. and its policies skeptically in recent years:
“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, he warned that their people will judge them on what they can build, not what they destroy.
Mr. Obama’s speech recalled those of other presidents urging their fellow Americans to join together to meet the wars and other crises that faced them. The world has changed, though, since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, and America’s problems are often shared with the world.
Now is the time for a new era of international cooperation that strengthens old partnerships and builds new ones to confront the challenges of the 21st century: nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty, unresolved regional and sectarian conflicts, genocide and disease.
These problems are serious and they are many, Mr. Obama said. They won’t be met easily or quickly, but they will be met.