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Obama's America

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Over the past year, Barack Obama has called emphatically for "change" in the United States, and on a range of issues he has offered (especially on his website) detailed analyses of the specific policies he would pursue as president. But many Americans still need to hear what would be the most enduring values of Obama's America. As one who confidently believes Barack Obama is the best choice for our nation, here is part of what I would like to hear him say in his acceptance speech:

It is time for change in America. But what do I mean by change? I mean a change back to "the better angels of our nature." I mean a change back to an America in which citizens once again ask "what they can do for their country." I mean a change back to an America that once again stands for the highest ideals of human civilization. I mean a change back to an America that inspires our own citizens and our friends throughout the world with our national purpose, our national values, and our national conduct.

It is time for change in America. It is time to reaffirm once again that in our nation the government "shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech," "the right of the people to be secure . . . against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated," no person shall "be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law," "no person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws," and the government does not inflict "cruel and unusual punishments" upon any person.

These are the fundamental truths, the elemental commitments, of our American constitutional system. They define the essential core of our society and our history. It is to attain these liberties that huddled masses yearn to be free; it was to guarantee these freedoms that the Framers of the Declaration of Independence pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor; it was to protect these rights that Americans have fought and died to free the slave, make the world safe for democracy, and unyoke the world from the tyrannies of fascism, communism, and radical Islam.

Sadly, in the last eight years we have lost sight of these freedoms, as we have fallen into an abyss of unrestrained government surveillance, brutal methods of interrogation, secret detentions, and secret prisons. We have lost our way as the world's beacon of justice. We must change in order to relight that beacon for ourselves, for the international community, and for our posterity.

We must also change in order to reaffirm that we are one nation. We are not red states and blue states, we are not blacks and whites, we are not Christians and Muslims, we are not the rich and the poor, we are not the straights and the gays -- we are Americans all. Each of us is precious, each of us is a valued member of our American family. And we are a family, a family that cares for -- that must care for -- one another. Our most fundamental responsibility is to treat others as we would have them treat us.

Because we are a great nation and a great people, we must be a family in which we cherish every American's worth and nurture every American's potential. That is not a Democratic idea. That is not a Republican idea. That is the American idea. It is the idea that informed the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Franklin Roosevelt. It demands that our government not only protect the interests of the rich and powerful, but also care for the meek, the oppressed, and the disadvantaged. That is what a family is, and that is what America is, and must be once again.

This principle of a national American community, with justice for all, will drive my economic policies, my health care policies, my environmental policies, my foreign policies, my tax policies and my judicial appointments. We must change in order to recapture the best of our nation, the best of our history -- a history that freed the slaves, granted women the right to vote, ended racial segregation, guaranteed religious liberty, and enacted laws to protect the rights of children, the elderly, and the disabled. Ours is a nation built on a spirit of empathy - on a capacity to see into the hearts of our fellow citizens and to understand what drives them, what sustains them, what makes them different, and ultimately what makes them human.

We need to change in order once again to be the America that aspires for what is best for all Americans, that reaches out a hand to those in need, that respects our most fundamental freedoms. As the descendents of those bold and optimistic men who mutually pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to one another more than two centuries ago, we can do no less today.