“We’ve Got Each Others Back”

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Barack Obama, President of United States

Excerpted from President Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Speech.

(N)o matter what party they belong to, I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing right now:  Nothing will get done this year, or next year, or maybe even the year after that, because Washington is broken.

Can you blame them for feeling a little cynical?

The greatest blow to confidence in our economy last year didn’t come from events beyond our control.  It came from a debate in Washington over whether the United States would pay its bills or not.  Who benefited from that fiasco?

(There is a) deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street.  But the divide between this city and the rest of the country is at least as bad – and it seems to get worse every year.

Neither party has been blameless in these tactics. Now both parties should put an end to it.

We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common sense ideas.

Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our troops.  When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight.  When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails.  When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind.

One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden.  On it are each of their names.

Some may be Democrats.  Some may be Republicans.  But that doesn’t matter.

Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates – a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary; and Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for president.

All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics.  No one thought about themselves.

One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission.  It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job – the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs.  More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other – because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s someone behind you, watching your back.

So it is with America.

Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those fifty stars and those thirteen stripes.

No one built this country on their own.

This Nation is great because we built it together.

This Nation is great because we worked as a team.

This Nation is great because we get each other’s backs.

And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard.

As long as we’re joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.

Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States of America.


  1. Posted 25 Jan ’12 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    It is my belief that no matter how much President Obama does or his cabinet. The Republicans just seem to have a problem serving under an African American President. They have pressed against every major decision that he has tried to make for the betterment of society as a collective whole. This election is not suppose to be about competing against one another, it is about the people and for the people of the United States of America.

    What about the children and families who have lost their loved ones to the war in Iraq, and those who have taken their lives and the lives of their children, rather than see them starve. Congress should be ashamed of themselves and of the way they have made these last few years a media circus. Whiles lives are being lost, homes have been taken over by foreclosure and middle class is no more. One group is either rich while the other group is poor.

    But one thing we must all remember and that is every seed we have sown or will sow, we shall also reap one day. I would hate to be the one with a heart that has waxed cold, because that same fruit will sprout back in those lives as well one day.

    • Posted 1 Feb ’12 at 3:04 pm | Permalink


      Thanks for your note. Your perspective is shared by many others.

      However, I think things like race are akin to red-herrings. Leaders and citizens of various mixes of sincere ideals and less reflective ideologies get easily trapped into us v. them positions. These become increasingly polarized and isolated as all seek expedient answers. The irony is that expedience, while important, can lead to myopic answers that can’t tolerate ambiguity.

      The big picture in our culture is asymmetric. Due to the sheer complexity of it. Choice has permuted into chaos. Where chaos is perceived, people lock down. So it becomes easier to say “I will not support a black president,” or “I will not support an “establishment” GOP defense leader, like Bob Gates,” etc.

      In honesty, I’m with Obama here. We are all to blame, to an extent. When we invest energies in knock-down drag-out competition that serve little than mutual destruction, rather than, as you put it sow seeds of cooperation, we are complicit. Indeed, I’d take it further. Even if we talk a good game, if we don’t play well with the rest of the team of our country, we are all losers.

      Thus we all as people, not only the politicians, must engage with productive energies with other people in cooperative solutions we need. Some will naturally resist. But, as in sports, there are ways to stay in the game. Whether this means weaving around the obstructors, or simply keeping the ball (conversations and efforts) in the air until solutions emerge.

      This is not to suggest absolution of people whose job it is to cooperate in citizen’s behalf. But it is to be clear: for politics to change, we as people, must too. By not falling into the same polarizing traps, and to put tremendous energies to co-creating our country wherever and whenever we can. In this way, we might lead our country by catalyzing a grassroots restoration to dignity.

      That will sow deep roots to reap good for our future.


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