Secretary Clinton's Internet Freedom Speech

If there is any organizing principle or central theme to my 20 years in political life, it has been promotion of the idea that the technology and media revolution taking place across the world today had the potential to dramatically improve the human condition, perhaps on a scale never seen in human history. 

Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech about Internet Freedom that will be written about and discussed for years to come, and may be the most important speech I have ever personally witnessed.   I strongly encourage you to watch it and read the text which is available here. I won't try to dumb down the speech to a short post, for it needs to be read in its entirety.  It was a big speech, inspirational, smart, on target, and more than anything else began to reconnect the 21st century American center-left to the successful liberal internationalism of President Franklin Roosevelt and its mid-20th century past (If you'd like to read the original text of the Four Freedom Speech by FDR visit here). 

For those who follow NDN you will see many of the themes and ideas we've promoted in recent years in the vision and words of the speech.  Through our friends at State, and through the constant advocacy of these themes, I have no doubt that our work here helped inspire and inform the argument she made this morning.  And for that I thank all of the NDNers, here in the office, and throughout our national network who played a small role in this big speech today. 

For more on our work in this area please review this comprehensive aggregation put together by Sam Dupont earlier this week; review Sam's excellent writeup of the initial work of the transformative 21st Century Statecraft Initiative; enjoy this recent post on FDR's Four Freedoms: read this front-page Huffington Post essay I wrote in the spring, Obama: No Realist He; and check out a 2007 call from me and Alec Ross to make the promotion of internet freedom a central tenet of American foreign policy.  

I have known Secretary Clinton well for 18 years.  We first met when I was the Communications Director of the 1992 Clinton New Hampshire primary effort.  I have never been more proud of her than I am right now for delivering a courageous, vital and necessary speech updating America's foreign policy for a new and very promising century.

The Four Freedoms

Been thinking about the concepts of liberty and freedom a bit of late.  Wanted to revisit, with you, one of the great articulations of these ideas, FDR's Four Freedoms:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want--which, translated into universal terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants--everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

The Economic Logic in President Obama’s Speech to Congress

President Barack Obama's superb address Tuesday night had an underlying, unifying logic which some may have missed, but which hopefully those reading this will recognize.  

First, on the financial and economic crisis, he embraced the three basic steps we have urged since last September: on top of a stimulus aimed at long-term investments and helping the states – that’s now done – there will be new requirements that banks getting help from taxpayers use that assistance to expand their lending, and new steps to keep people in their homes and bring down foreclosure rates. It’s just economic common sense – but that’s precisely what most of official Washington casually casts aside in favor of scoring short-term, political points. (Take a look at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s empty and sneering response to the President’s speech. His repeated citing of Katrina as a model for government action, by itself, should be a career-ending act).

The President also laid out a domestic agenda for the rest of his first term, and it looks like the most sweeping since FDR and LBJ. I suppose that personal blogs, by definition, are no place for humility, so here it is straight. The three cornerstone Obama initiatives -- slow down our fast-rising health care costs, expand energy conservation and our use of alternative fuels, and give everybody new chances to upgrade their working skills -- are the exact prescription laid out more than a year ago in my book, Futurecast: How Superpowers, Populations and Globalization Will Change the Way You Live and Work. It’s also been a regular theme of this blog and a series of papers issued by NDN.  

Here, too, it’s just economic common sense, for a world being transformed by globalization.  The underlying logic of the President’s program springs from the fierce new challenges Americans face under globalization to their jobs and incomes. Globalization has made competition much stronger, and that competition leaves American businesses and their workers in a bind. Their costs have been rising very fast, especially for health care and energy, but intense global competition makes it harder for companies to raise their prices to cover these rising costs. The result is that the wages of most American stopped rising since about 2002, even as they became more productive. And most can’t find higher wages by getting new jobs, because before the current crisis began, the same forces had made this period the weakest for job creation since World War II.

The President understands that coming out of the current crisis isn’t enough, if we just return to another period of growth without wage gains or healthy job creation. He also understands another theme of Futurecast and NDN's work, namely that about half of Americans also need new skills if they aspire to jobs with a real future. That’s the basis for the third plank of the domestic agenda he laid out last night -- genuine, new access for young people to go to college or receive other, post-secondary training, and new opportunities for everyone else to upgrade their skills

President Obama’s first speech to Congress already ranks as the most serious and thoughtful presidential address on the economy in decades. Perhaps it took an historic crisis to break through the political cant and mental laziness that has gripped our economic agenda for so long. But the President is using this moment to put forward not only meaningful answers for the crisis, but serious, long-term remedies for much deeper economic problems which other politicians routinely ignore. That’s presidential leadership of the sort we haven’t seen since, well, FDR.

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