Two views of the U.S. and the World

Last week I found myself in New York City with our Advanced Management Program in Media & Entertainment and for people interested in the environment and geo-political thought, it was an interesting week.

Barak Obama’s View

On Tuesday, President Obama made his annual State of the Union speech in which he highlighted the positive achievements of his administration and tried to encourage the country to look ahead to the challenges of economic prosperity, new technology, geo-politics and security  with a more positive and inclusive political discourse.

About 7% of the speech discussed the challenge of climate change and Obama stressed that there was an opportunity for “American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future” and a need to “accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources”.

On the issue of the Islamic State and the situation in the Middle East, Obama talked about the region “going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia” and while he stressed the importance of destroying the Islamic State, he also said that the threat should not be overblown and that the group does not threaten the country’s “national exisitence”.


A Different Reality

Two days later, the top 7 Republican contenders spent two hours competing with each other to paint the President’s record as the worst in history and to stress how the world is dangerous and their jobs at pensions at risk.

In the 2 hour event, that was hosted and moderated by Fox News, there was no mention of climate change or the agreement to fight it reached in Paris. On the Middle East, the candidates took turns blaming the administration for the rise of the Islamic State and calling for its destruction at apparently any cost.

Over and over again, the candidates referenced recent terrorist attacks and the temporary detention of american sailors by Iran as proof that the world is dangerous and the american people needed to be protected.

A number of the candidates also seriously proposing banning moslem immigrants to the United States as the only way to keep potential terrorists from getting into the country.

Geo-political discourse

 Shepard FaireyBesides the political theatre, which is compelling for its own sake, these two events also show how political leaders shape the way people see the world.

The President talks about a complex world that has risks and problems but is still full of promise and hope. He tells people that the problems can and will be overcome through hard work, innovation, and international agreements and coalitions.

The republican candidates, on the other hand, paint the world as a very dangerous place and talk about a United States which is in decline and under attack.

Last night the three Democratic candidates held another debate. While the tone has become harsher in their  battle to win points before the nomination process starts in Iowa and new Hampshire, all three echoed a hopeful and green view of what the world can be.