An imagined speech by President Barack Obama, delivered November 4, 2010
Two years ago tonight, you voted for change, and I accepted the responsibility of leading America on a new path, and in joining with you in the work of remaking this nation.
Two days ago, you sent a message, and that message is clear: the change you sought has not yet been delivered, and you are deeply concerned about the course we have taken and where it might lead.
We achieved health care reform, but you are worried about its impact on your families.
We steered away from the precipice of financial ruin, but have not delivered the jobs and economic security that would mean a true return to the prosperity you seek and deserve.
We have withdrawn combat troops from Iraq, but the war in Afghanistan is taking more American lives and the journey to peace remains long and uncertain.
Some of you believe I have not been bold enough, or stayed true enough to the hope you placed in me, and for you the trumpet of progress has sounded too softly…and on some issues has not been heard at all.
I say to you, my friends, we must aim high and dream big…I would not be here if I did not…but because politics is the art of the possible we must measure our progress by how far we have come, not how much farther we have yet to travel.
Others believe I have gone too far too fast, and you want to dig up the seeds that have been planted and go back to the way things were. My friends, the answers to our problems lie not in the way things were. The causes of our crises do.
Those who want to go faster must see the value in incremental change and those who want to go back must see the risk of reversing course.
And I must see the mistakes I have made as well. At times I have lectured rather than led…favored tactics over strategy. You want vision, not division. You seek common ground, not a battleground.
And I must do more to restore your faith in me, in our government and in the journey we must take together.
In this journey we must restore to our government that which has always existed in our people: a sense of shared purpose and destiny and a belief that we are obligated to turn over to a children a world that is better than the one in which we live today.
So where do we go from here? Sometimes Democrats and Republicans take the results of elections too personally. By that I mean, in victory, sometimes we make the mistake of assuming that the people have endorsed everything we believe and rejected all the things proposed by our opponents.
But in truth, in America the people choose not Democrats or Republicans so much as they choose leaders, and in so doing they put faith in us as leaders to work together to get things done.
It is in that spirit that I believe the American people spoke loudly and clearly yesterday, and said with one voice: give bipartisanship a chance.
And it is in that spirit I offer these ideas:
First, I am calling on the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic campaign committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives to cease-fire. I call on them to refrain from attacking Republicans for the next six months. I invite the Republican National Committee and their congressional campaign committees to accept such a cease-fire as well.
That means for six months we in Washington can try to work together in search of common ground without the distracting and debilitating partisan games that all of us have spent too much time playing up until today.
A rhetorical cease-fire does not put our parties out of business. They can still raise funds and recruit candidates and stake out positive positions on the issues we face. But at least in this singular moment of American political history we can take a step back and take a brief break from the kind of daily partisan duels that kill consensus and prohibit progress for the American people.
And second, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is scheduled to issue a report on how to solve our nation’s financial crisis on December 1. Today I am announcing my intention to convene a summit of Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and the Senate to hammer out a plan for speedy consideration and implementation of that Commission’s recommendations. We must take the bipartisan baton from the members of the Commission and demonstrate a unity of purpose in achieving the goal of financial stability once again.
The pundits are already predicting gridlock in the wake of the election results. But the problems we face as Americans are greater than the priorities of our political parties. The American people want patriotism, not partisanship. We must open a window of opportunity to redeem their trust in us.
The proposals I make tonight open that window just a crack. More can and must be done, by me and by all who have been elected to serve. But it is a start.
Two years ago tonight, speaking to you from Grant Park in Chicago, I said “we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States.” We are the United States.
And though the maps on the television news shows this week are colored in red and blue – a little more red than blue, I must admit – I still see one nation, under God, indivisible. And the promise of liberty and justice for all can only be fulfilled if we put politics aside and give bipartisanship a chance.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America.