The State of the Union: A Progressive Path Forward

President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday. We don’t expect the President to use the occasion to steer a more progressive course when it comes to making the world and our nation safer. But, if the President asked, here is what we would urge him to include in his message to Congress and the nation: 

“My fellow Americans, we are facing important challenges and opportunities to strengthen our nation’s security. I strongly believe that our best course is to learn from past mistakes and build a foundation for peace based on diplomacy, not war. We must recognize that the time has come to stop enriching well-connected Pentagon contractors who build weapons that don’t work, that we don’t need, and that we can’t afford. To assure our nation’s future, we must instead be willing to invest in the true foundation of our security: the strength of our families and communities.

“We have seen the cost of war. Thirteen years ago, this nation responded to the challenge posed by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein with military strength. Who would not agree that this approach was a historic mistake? Iraq is now a broken country and a source of instability in the world’s most volatile region. We paid – and continue to pay – a grievous price: we lost many thousands of our nation’s best and bravest – our men and women in uniform who served in Iraq. Thousands more suffer every day from mental and physical injuries, and we owe them a lasting debt.

“We know there is another way. Thanks to the historic nuclear agreement with Iran, we are now witnessing the power of diplomacy over war. This deal has made the region – and the world – a safer place by preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. This accomplishment was achieved without dropping a single bomb or risking the life of a single American hero in uniform.

“We have a moral calling to help those in need, and we will do so by emphasizing diplomacy over war. We will also be true to one of our greatest legacies: a willingness to open our nation and our hearts to those who are fleeing persecution, much as our nation’s founders did centuries ago. A welcoming America is a strong America. When politicians introduce legislation that portends to make us safe, but in fact makes it harder for families fleeing war–torn countries to create new lives, we are not showing our strength; we are showing our weakness and inviting our enemies to mock us. When we refuse to close Guantanamo Bay, we are not showing our moral standing; we are leaving the door open for enemies to use our fear against us. Responses born from fear are not strength, and they do not make us safe.

“The fact of the matter is that there are those who are unable or unwilling to learn the lessons of these two divergent paths. The historic Iran deal, a victory for diplomacy and security, is being threatened by the same war hawks who led us into the Iraq war. Let me make it very clear to all: I will oppose and veto every attempt to undermine our path to achieving a non-nuclear Iran through diplomacy, and I will continue to pursue the approach of peace and diplomacy to create a more stable, secure and just world.

“By restoring the power of diplomacy over war, we can restore our moral standing in the world and live up to the promise inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ We are at a turning point for our nation, one which gives us the chance to learn from the past missteps and meet the challenges of today. My fellow Americans, let us learn from our past and embrace the principles and values that make us a truly great nation. For we are a great nation. Let us embody our values by choosing the path of diplomacy and peace so that we might leave the world a better place for our children.”


By Drew Proctor, Advocacy Director of the Win Without War coalition