Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gordon Brown's speech to Congress

Today prime minister Gordon Brown gave a speech to congress, one that I believe is well worth taking thirty minutes to listen to. Among the many statements that resonated with me were:

"The very creation of America was a bold affirmation of faith in the future, a future you have not just believed in but built with your own hands..."

"on 20 January, you the American people began to write the latest chapter in the American story, with a transition of dignity, in which both sides of the aisle could take great pride. President Obama gave the world renewed hope, and on that day billions of people truly looked to Washington DC as 'a shining city upon a hill'..."

"We have learned through this world downturn that markets should be free but never value-free, that the risks people take should never be separated from the responsibilities they meet..."

"In our families and workplaces and places of worship, we celebrate men and women of integrity who work hard, treat people fairly, take responsibility and look out for others. If these are the principles we live by in our families and neighbourhoods, they should also be the principles that guide and govern our economic life too.
In these days the world has learned that what makes for the good economy makes for the good society..."

"An economic hurricane has swept the world, creating a crisis of credit and of confidence. History has brought us now to a point where change is essential. We are summoned not just to manage our times but to transform them.

Our task is to rebuild prosperity and security in a wholly different economic world, where competition is no longer local but global and banks are no longer just national but international.
And we need to understand what went wrong in this crisis, that the very financial instruments that were designed to diversify risk across the banking system instead spread contagion across the globe. And today's financial institutions are so interwoven that a bad bank anywhere is a threat to good banks everywhere.

So should we succumb to a race to the bottom and a protectionism that history tells us that, in the end, protects no one? No, we should have the confidence that we can seize the opportunities ahead and make the future work for us. ..."

And so I say to this Congress and this country, something that runs deep in your character and is woven in your history, we conquer our fear of the future through our faith in the future.
And it is this faith in the future that means we must commit to protecting the planet for generations that will come long after us. As the Greek proverb says, why does anybody plant the seeds of a tree whose shade they will never see?

The answer is because they look to the future.

And I believe that you, the nation that had the vision to put a man on the moon, are also the nation with the vision to protect and preserve our planet earth.

And it is only by investing in environmental technology that we can end the dictatorship of oil, and it is only by tackling climate change that we create the millions of new green jobs we need
For the lesson of this crisis is that we cannot just wait for tomorrow today.

We cannot just think of tomorrow today. We cannot merely plan for tomorrow today. Our task must be to build tomorrow today..."

"And if these times have shown us anything, it is that the major challenges we all face are global. No matter where it starts, an economic crisis does not stop at the water's edge. It ripples across the world. Climate change does not honour passport control. Terrorism has no respect for borders.

And modern communications instantly span every continent. The new frontier is that there is no frontier, the new shared truth is that global problems need global solutions.
And let me say that you now have the most pro-American European leadership in living memory. A leadership that wants to cooperate more closely together, in order to cooperate more closely with you..."

"So once again I say we should seize the moment — because never before have I seen a world so willing to come together. Never before has that been more needed. And never before have the benefits of cooperation been so far-reaching.

So when people here and in other countries ask what more can we do now to bring an end to this downturn, let me say this - we can achieve more working together..."

"No one should forget that it was American visionaries who over half a century ago, coming out of the deepest of depressions and the worst of wars, produced the boldest of plans for global economic cooperation because they recognised prosperity was indivisible and concluded that to be sustained it had to be shared. And I believe that ours too is a time for renewal, for a plan for tackling recession and building for the future. Every continent playing their part in a global new deal, a plan for prosperity that can benefit us all. First, so that the whole of the worldwide banking system serves our prosperity rather than risks it, let us agree rules and standards for accountability, transparency, and reward that will mean an end to the excesses and will apply to every bank, everywhere, and all the time..."

"I am confident that this president, this Congress and the peoples of the world can come together in Copenhagen this December to reach a historic agreement on climate change..."

As I listened to Brown's speech, the dreamer in me again begins to stretch and stir. In this time of crisis, it is absolutely essential that we create a positive vision that we can believe in and can thus create. Surrounded by bad news and pointed fingers, I need to hear words of hope, of commitment, and of vision, not only from the leaders of my own country but from others who share this small, fragile, sacred blue world.

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