promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pur- sue their full measure of happiness .” He proclaimed an agenda of “remak- ing America” by reviving and trans- forming the economy in ways that would provide better and less-expen- sive health care for all, foster envi- ronmentally friendly energy, and develop an educational system better suited to the needs of a new century .

Speaking to the international community, he pledged U .S . coop- eration in facing the problem of global warming . He also delivered a general message of international engagement based on compassion for poorer, developing countries and respect for other cultures . “To the Muslim world,” Obama said, “we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect .”

The speech revealed the wide scope of Obama’s aspirations . His rhetoric and his strong personal presence won wide approval—so much so that in October, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his goals . But, as always in the complex system of American representative govern- ment, it was easier to state large ambitions than to realize them .

At home, the administration ad- dressed the mounting economic crisis with a $787 billion stimulus act designed to bring growing un- employment down to manageable levels . The legislation doubtless saved or created many jobs, but it failed to

prevent unemployment—officially estimated at 7 .7 percent of the labor force when Obama took office— from increasing to a high of 10 .1 per- cent, then receding just a bit . The loans to large investment and com- mercial banks begun during the Bush administration with the objec- tive of restoring a stable financial system were mostly repaid with a profit to the government, but a few remained outstanding as the presi- dent began his second year in office . In addition, the government invested heavily in two giant auto makers —General Motors and Chrysler— shepherding them through bank- ruptcy and attempting to reestablish them as major manufacturers .

Obama’s other major objective— the establishment of a national health care system—had long been a goal of American liberalism . With large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, it seemed achievable . However, developing a plan that had to meet the medical needs of more than 300 million Americans proved extraordinarily difficult . The con- cerns of numerous interests had to be dealt with—insurance companies, hospitals, physicians, pharmaceuti- cal companies, and the large majori- ty of Americans who were already covered and reasonably satisfied . In addition, a comprehensive national plan had to find some way to control skyrocketing costs . In the spring of 2010, the president signed complex legislation that mandated health in-



surance for every American, with implementation to take place over several years .

In foreign policy, Obama sought to reach out to the non-Western world, and especially to Muslims who might interpret the Ameri- can military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a general war on Islam . “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition,” he told an audi- ence at Cairo University . In Tokyo, he reassured Asians that America would remain engaged with the world’s fastest-growing region . While hoping to distinguish itself in tone from the Bush administra- tion, the Obama government found itself following the broad outlines of Bush’s War on Terror . It affirmed the existing agreement to withdraw American troops from Iraq in 2011 and reluctantly accepted military plans for a surge in Afghanistan . In his Nobel acceptance speech, Pres- ident Obama quoted the celebrat- ed American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr to the effect that evil ex- isted in the world and could be de- feated only by force .

At the conclusion of his first year in office, Obama remained, for many Americans, a compelling per- sonification of their ideals of liberty and equal opportunity .

AFTERWORD From its origins as a set of obscure

colonies hugging the Atlantic coast, the United States has undergone a remarkable transformation into what political analyst Ben Watten- berg has called “the first universal nation,” a population of almost 300 million people representing virtu- ally every nationality and ethnic group in the world . It is also a na- tion where the pace and extent of change—economic, technological, cultural, demographic, and social —is unceasing . The United States is often the harbinger of the modern- ization and change that inevitably sweep up other nations and societies in an increasingly interdependent, interconnected world .

Yet the United States also main- tains a sense of continuity, a set of core values that can be traced to its founding . They include a faith in individual freedom and democratic government, and a commitment to economic opportunity and prog- ress for all . The continuing task of the United States will be to ensure that its values of freedom, democ- racy, and opportunity—the legacy of a rich and turbulent history—are protected and flourish as the nation, and the world, move through the 21st century .

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