Obama Calls for New Nationalism in Heartland

Yahoo Contributor Network

President Barack Obama spoke in Osawatomie, Kan., on Tuesday. He spoke about the state of the U.S. economy and echoed the late Theodore Roosevelt with a call to reverse the inequalities and to give all Americans "a fair shot at success." In the speech, he talked about the taxes paid by millionaires, the salaries of CEOs and the need for the wealthiest citizens to contribute more.

The president blamed the recession of 2008 on "the breathtaking greed of a few with irresponsibility all across the system." He noted the nationwide protests, from the tea party to the Occupy movement. He challenged the nation to reclaim American values of "everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules."

In the president's speech he refers to a speech delivered by Theodore Roosevelt in that same community on Aug. 31, 1910. It was delivered at the John Brown Celebration and Old Soldiers Reunion. Many in Roosevelt's audience were veterans of the Civil War. His audience was some 30,000 strong. The speech was entitled "The New Nationalism."

One of the most famous portions of Roosevelt's speech talks about promises made by politicians, and what should be done about broken promises. "A broken promise is bad enough in private life. It is worse in the field of politics. No man is worth his salt in public life who makes on the stump a pledge which he does not keep after election; and, if he makes such a pledge and does not keep it, hunt him out of public life."

Roosevelt continued the oration by quoting Abraham Lincoln several times on labor, capital and work. He stated his wish for civil life was that men be brought forward who had earned the right, and drew on the Army experience of his listeners for the examples of men like Grant and Sherman.

Roosevelt cautioned against mob violence. Calling again upon his audience's military experience, he told them that "We grudge no man a fortune which represents his own power and sagacity, when exercised with entire regard to the welfare of his fellows." Later in the speech, the former president said "Also, friends, in the interest of the working man himself we need to set our faces like Mint against mob-violence just as against corporate greed; against violence and injustice and lawlessness by wage-workers just as much as against lawless cunning and greed and selfish arrogance of employers."

President Obama talked about the loss of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. He urged banks that were rescued by the taxpayer to devote more resources to keeping middle-class homeowners in their home. He stated that rebuilding this economy and growing the American middle class will require "fair play, a fair shot, and a fair share."

View Comments