Obama delivers UN-bearable speech at United Nations


Photo Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his address on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016 during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York City, N.Y.

By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

nagelberghayleyPresident Obama took the world stage at the United Nations on Sept. 20 for his last time as the President of the United States. Despite my qualms over the upcoming election, I will not miss Obama’s U.N. addresses.

At one point in his speech, Obama said: “Time and again human beings have believed they finally arrived at a period of enlightenment only to repeat cycles of conflict and suffering. Perhaps that’s our fate.”

For a man who got his start on the national stage chanting “hope and change,” this line suggests a dramatic change of face.  To say in front of the whole world that it’s possible global fate is one of cyclical pain is an enormous proclamation.  More than that, it’s one that does nothing to move the world forward, rather it could easily aggravate all the millions of individuals working to end cycles of suffering.

Obama also managed to cause some of the world’s leading diplomats to laugh out loud as he bashed his own colleagues in Washington.  He said, “I’ve noticed as President that at times, both America’s adversaries and some of our allies believe that all problems were either caused by Washington or could be solved by Washington — and perhaps too many in Washington believe that as well.”

His speech was sharply critical of intense nationalism and populism.  His speech was also critical of America’s and other democratic nations’ failure to actually practice democracy.  He tried to play devil’s advocate and critique all sides of conflict, yet in doing so he didn’t offer concrete positions or steps that could be taken to advance change.  He tried to cement his legacy, but failed to say anything proving his legacy’s worth.

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Topics that in the past have received so much of Obama’s attention were largely ignored this year.  And these are not minute topics; they are massive international debates such as peace agreements, global climate change and nuclear weaponry.

The charismatic and witty Obama who captivated the millennial audience eight years ago is gone.  Perhaps I am too harsh a judge.

No president before has handled the smartphone era, where world news lies in the palms of such a vast majority of the world’s population.  No president has had to deal with the frenzied rate of communication thanks to the social media explosion.  No president has ever had to handle the entire world knowing his thoughts and feelings almost instantaneously.  No president has had to handle his family’s personal lives documented to the same extent as President Obama has.

Without a doubt, there are serious world issues to be addressed, and there are failures to be recognized. But given the opportunity to address the entire international community on a world stage, President Obama’s speech was not what was needed.

Hayley is a sophomore in ACES.          
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