US President Obama made his final State of the Union address his most global citizen focused speech to date. Exchanging the usual focus on a laundry list of political priorities and reliance on cheering his special guests, the President chose to make a clarion call to humanity about grasping their future.

President Obama started his address saying his speech “would focus on our future.” With that goal the leader of the United States laid out a vision of a world filled with truly global citizens. A world admittedly in his words led by the United States, but with advice for how citizens from every corner of our planet can come together and step up for our collective future.

Here are 12 quotes from his speech that serve as a call to arms not for militaries, but for citizens of the world to take the future into our hands and shape the world we want to live in. (Bold added for emphasis)

1) We live in a time of extraordinary change — change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world. It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families. It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away. It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

2) Progress is not inevitable. It is the result of choices we make together. And we face such choices right now. Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?

3) That spirit of discovery is in our DNA. We’re Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver. We’re Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride. We’re every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley racing to shape a better world. 

4) Medical research is critical. We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources…the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve — that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.

5) On issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.

6) Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as part of our national security, not charity.

7) When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change — that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our children. When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend upon. When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick, that prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores. Right now, we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and we have the capacity to accomplish the same thing with malaria — something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.

That’s strength. That’s leadership. 

8) We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith. 

9) The future we want — opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids — all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together.

10)It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future. 

11) Our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. 

12) Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. 

Republican or Democrat. A citizen of the United States or a citizen of the world. Young or old. President Obama took his final stand on the floor of the US House of Representatives to speak to you. To call on you to step up for yourselves, for your community, for your nations and most importantly, for the future of all humanity.

He believes in the people. Take up that charge by making the Global Goals your resolution in 2016 and take on the challenge of shaping our collective future in TAKE ACTION NOW.


Demand Equity

12 times President Obama called on global citizens in the State of the Union

By Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer