On Inauguration Day, in January, Americans of different political stripes will be happy to move on. A difficult, sometimes bitter, period in your history will end. A new one, fresh and full of the promise of the new, will begin. Your country’s best friends around the world will be watching closely, waiting for signals and hints, wondering what the next version of America will be like.
From Canada, to Europe, India, Japan, and in many places in between, one thing we’ll all be hoping is that the United States begins 2009 with confidence, not trepidation or hesitation. We don’t want a “chastened” America. So here’s a little hopeful advice from a friendly foreigner.
Don’t be afraid to lead.
No matter what you might hear, year to year from beyond your borders, the world works best when America is prepared to lead - to organize and mobilize the energies and best principles of her allies. There are growing uncertainties and even threats developing around the globe, on energy, the environment and the economy, on national sovereignty and the security of peoples. This is no time to withdraw from the world stage, or to slide even slightly into isolationism.
You must be prepared to use your muscles, should your diplomats, your economic power, or your military be needed to speak or act. America is not the world’s policeman. But you are the trusted big kid on the block, when the local bullies start to feel their oats. Learn from recent experience, but please don’t let it make you shy when you’re needed.
Don’t be afraid to lean on us.
You can’t go it alone, nor do you have to. Press forward with new treaties and accords and agreements. Seek new ways to work together in making the world a safer, more prosperous, greener place. Ask for our opinions and insights, listen, and consider carefully what we say. We share similar values, and we have some sharp minds, too. And don’t be afraid of trade, either. Sell to us, buy from us and compete with us. Fight the reflex, in a downturn, to build walls around your economy. That won’t protect your workers from change, and it will hurt the businesses large and small, at home and abroad, who are inventing the economy of the 21st century.
Don’t be afraid to think big.
Of the big things that have happened to shape the world in the last century – the good big things, at least – so many have come from, or started in America. Think of the scientific breakthroughs, the imperfect but indispensable United Nations, the Marshall Plan, NATO, the entry to orbit and space and even the Internet. In war and peace, in commerce and charity, in medicine and the environment, the world needs the United States to innovate and to dream big dreams. You have a way of making them happen, when you try.
You’re the collective owners of the most important, and the second best country in the world.* So launch the next administration with confidence and vigour, secure in the knowledge that your allies and friends are by your side, hoping for and expecting an America that will bring its best to the world, and shape this century in as many positive ways as it did the last.
* Canada is the best country in the world.
Cam Battley lives quietly in rural Ontario, Canada.