June 1, 2008 Mitchell, South Dakota: Barack Obama addresses a rally on the street in front of the Corn Palace in the final days of the primary season Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty
I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. To reach the port of Heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it - but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, SR.
Marian Wright Edelman, President and founder, Children's Defense Fund:
A cartoon published in the early 1960s depicted a Black boy saying to a White boy: "I’ll sell you my chance to be President of the United States for a nickel." At the time the cartoon appeared, Barack Obama was a toddler. There were only five Black Members of Congress and about 300 Black elected officials nationwide. The Voting Rights Act hadn’t been passed and the overwhelming majority of Black Southerners were disenfranchised.
On the ballot this morning was a Black man for President of the United States, marking the culmination of a long evolutionary struggle for political empowerment among disenfranchised Americans. My fellow voters—of all races in every corner for America—will consider Obama’s presidential candidacy on the basis of his proposals, his vision and his intelligence.
This is a world-defining and nation-defining election. This morning as I stood in line to vote, I was moved by the realization that finally this is the day on which my fellow Americans are willing to do what Dr. King envisioned: vote for a President based on the content of his character rather than the color of his skin.
If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other islands, but a continent that joins to them.
Dennis Hopper, Academy Award nominated actor and filmmaker:
Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.
Madeleine Albright: A letter to the next President04/11/2008
Congratulations on your success. You have won an impressive victory – but with that victory comes the responsibility to guide a troubled America in a world riven by conflict, confusion and hate. Upon taking office, you will face the daunting task of restoring America’s credibility as an effective and exemplary world leader.
This cannot be accomplished merely by distancing yourself and your administration from the mistakes of George W. Bush. You must offer innovative strategies for coping with multiple dangers, including the global economic meltdown, two hot wars (in Iraq and Afghanistan), al-Qaida, nuclear threats and climate change. In every realm, you will need to recruit a first-rate team of advisers, apply the principles of critical thinking and develop a coherent strategy with a clear connection between actions and results.
Your first job as president will be to re-establish the traditional sources of international respect for America: resilience, optimism, support for justice, and the desire for peace. As you recognised during your campaign, America’s good name has been tarnished. Your message to the world should be that the United States, though unafraid to act when necessary, is also eager to listen and learn.
That first step is important, but you will need to do much more.
Starting on Inauguration Day, you must strive to restore confidence in the economic soundness and financial stewardship of the United States. The October crash proved that our current leaders have lost their way. All eyes are now on you. Pick the right people; show discipline; stick to the rules you establish; and push for an economic system that rewards hard work, not greed.
Overseas, you should begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. If you hesitate, you will be forced _ by an evolving consensus within Iraq _ to do so nonetheless. By initiating the process and controlling the timing, you can steer credit to responsible Iraqi leaders instead of allowing radicals to claim that they have driven us out.
The troops that remain as the redeployment proceeds should focus on further preparing Iraqi forces for command. Despite recent gains, the country is still threatened by sectarian rivalries. These have a long history and can be resolved only by Iraq’s own decision-makers. American troops cannot substitute for Iraqi spine. The time for transition is at hand.
In Afghanistan, an unsustainable stalemate has developed in which the majority of the population fears the Taliban, resents Nato and lacks faith in its government. Given the stakes, you may be tempted to “do more” in Afghanistan, but that alone would be a reaction, not a strategy.
Our own military admits that the current approach is not working. We cannot kill or capture our way to victory. We need more troops, but we also need a policy that corresponds to the aspirations and sensitivities of the local population. Under your leadership, Nato’s primary military mission should be to train Afghan forces to defend Afghan villages, and its dominant political objective should be to improve the quality of governance throughout the country.
Economic development is crucial, and you should encourage global and regional institutions to take the lead in building infrastructure and creating jobs. Diplomatically, you should concentrate on enhancing security co-operation between Islamabad and Kabul. Overall, allied efforts must go beyond killing terrorists to preventing the recruitment of cadre to replace them.
In addition to the Taliban, the reason we are in Afghanistan is al-Qaida, which remains an alien presence wherever it exists. Even its roots in Pakistan are not deep, and the failure of its leaders to articulate a positive agenda has reduced the allure of Bin Laden-style operations even to potential sympathizers. Al-Qaida, still dangerous, is beginning to lose the battle of ideas.
Targeted military actions remain essential, but you should avoid giving the many in the Muslim world who disagree with us fresh reason to join the ranks of those who are trying to kill us. This is, after all, an important distinction. Closing Guantánamo will help.
From the first day, you should also work to identify the elements of a permanent and fair Middle East peace. Cynics are fond of observing that support for peace will not pacify al-Qaida, but that is both obvious and beside the point. Your efforts can still enhance respect for American leadership in the regions where al-Qaida trawls for new blood.
Only effective regional diplomacy can persuade Israelis and Arabs alike that peace is still possible. In the absence of that hope, all sides will prepare for a future without peace, thereby validating the views of extremists and further complicating every aspect of your job.
The dangers radiating from the Middle East and Persian Gulf are sure to occupy you, but they should not consume all your attention. Just as an effective foreign policy cannot be exclusively unilateral, neither can it be unidimensional. You should devote more time and resources to regions, such as Latin America and Africa, that have been neglected.
As a leader in the global era, you must view the world through a wide lens. That is why I hope you will establish a new and forward-looking mission for our country: to harness the latest scientific advances to enhance living standards across the globe.
This initiative should extend to growing food, distributing medicine, conserving water, producing energy and preserving the atmosphere. It should include a challenge to the American public to serve as a laboratory for best environmental practices, gradually replacing mass consumption with sustainability as an emblem of the American way. Such a policy can serve the future by reducing our vulnerability to energy blackmail, while conveying a clearer and loftier sense of what the United States is all about.
Mr. President-Elect, the job once held by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and the Roosevelts will soon be yours. In years to come, you will be required to maintain your balance despite being shoved ceaselessly from every direction, and to exercise sound judgment amid the crush of events both predictable and shocking.
To justify our confidence in you, you must show confidence in us. End the politics of fear. Treat us like adults. Help us to understand people from distant lands and cultures. Challenge us to work together. Remind us that America’s finest hours have come not from dominating others but from inspiring people everywhere to seek the best in themselves.
Madeleine K. Albright was U.S. secretary of state from 1997 to 2001. She is the author of “Memo to the President: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership” (HarperCollins, 2008).
Via the UK Telegraph