Possibly for the first time, “development workers” made it into a State of the Union address.
United States President Barack Obama’s annual speech, his last as commander-in-chief, dedicated roughly 10 percent of its nearly 5,500 words to global development issues and attempted to link those issues to U.S. leadership and national security.
Considering the U.S. federal budget devotes only about one percent of its total to U.S. foreign assistance, the amount of time Obama spent on development issues could be more to inspire a future generation rather than promote or institute actual changes in the little time he has left in office.
Indeed, with one year remaining in his presidency, Obama has limited time to cement a global development legacy. Funding malaria eradication, leading by example on climate change, and advancing opportunities for migrants fleeing crisis would be major achievements. But to be successful, as Obama readily acknowledged, none of them will belong to the U.S. president alone.
Significantly, also, the US President mentioned that the attitude, knowledge, and tools the USA needs to sustain it’s greatness are already present among it’s people and institutions; that envisioned change will happen only when these work together. The take-away message there is that in planning for progress, nations need to look inward first and start the change from there.
In the President’s closing words, I was struck by these meaningful statements:
“I believe in change because I believe in you.”
“(that’s why) I stand here as confident as I’ve ever been because the state of our Union is strong.”
Truly, any head of nation accounting before citizens the state of the nation can confidently speak of the progress and strength of the nation to the extent that ‘you’ (i.e. citizens, individually and collectively) have done his or her part. In other words, in a democracy and republic, the nation’s ‘failure’ or ‘success’ cannot be accorded to just one individual.