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Weekly Remarks: McCain-U.S. must speak out on Iran; Obama-Happy 4th and we need health reform

July 4, 2009 |  3:00 am

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain

This week's Republican speaker may look somewhat familiar to Americans. John McCain was recently his party's unsuccessful candidate for president and is aspiring to earn a fifth term to the U.S. Senate in next year's November elections.

In recent week's he has taken up in no uncertain terms the cause of Iran's freedom demonstrators and made an emotional Senate speech about them and the slain young woman known now as Neda, as The Ticket reported here with a video.

Today he speaks out again, saying that on its 233d birthday, this country has a "mortal obligation" to speak in support of the courageous protesters in Tehran. McCain, who spent nearly six years as a POW without freedom in North Vietnam, dismisses outright the claim that Iran's current rulers will then blame the U.S. for the turmoil, saying they already are and we haven't spoken out.

The president's remarks also celebrate the nation's birthday. He uses the founders' brave spirit to say we need the same attitude now to change many things in this country including schools and the healthcare system.

He says, without naming names, that many would keep the existing healthcare system, although the recent debate seems more about how to change the existing system by adding the government component, not whether to keep it. And how much all this will cost Americans, at least those not covered by the broad congressional/federal plans.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Weekly Republican Remarks by Sen. John McCain of Arizona

Hi, I’m Senator John McCain.

Today, we celebrate our independence, declared 233 years ago, achieved through the trial of a long and difficult war, and preserved through the years with the blood and sacrifice of millions. It’s an occasion for Americans to reunite with family and enjoy a mid-summer holiday with picnics and barbeques, ballgames and golf, and other recreation. 

Our appreciation for what happened on a hot summer day in Philadelphia all these years ago is often limited to a fleeting, warm feeling about an ancient generation of Americans who....

...against great odds, stood up to a powerful oppressor, and claimed their natural right to liberty.

This is an accurate but incomplete understanding of the revolution begun that day. For written on that piece of yellowed parchment is not only the bold assertion that thirteen former British colonies were and forever would remain free and independent states, but also the once radical idea that history has a right side and a wrong side, and that Americans stood and would always stand on the right side.

The signers put their names and ransomed their lives to a universal, not just a national ideal; that all human beings everywhere, not just Americans, not just the mostly well-off white men gathered in Philadelphia for the occasion, ‘are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ 

We’ve not always been true to that ideal, and the rights guaranteed by our Constitution. Slavery, Jim Crow, the disenfranchisement of women were betrayals of the principles enshrined in our founding documents, and had to be conquered before we could claim without qualification to be firmly on the right side of history.

But we overcame our faults, corrected our mistakes and in the unfinished story of our Republic, we continue our progress toward ‘a more perfect union.’ And, in the struggle to do so, we have achieved greatness.

Our wealth and power, unequaled by any nation before or since, are not the cause of our greatness. Our ideals have made us great. We are strong and prosperous because we are free, not the other way around. We have marched, in fits and starts, toward the right side of history and have ascended to a most exalted station in the affairs of mankind – ‘leader of the free world.’ It’s a great tribute to us, but also a great responsibility.

We share a kinship of ideals with every man and woman on earth who struggles for their God-given rights. The world must never doubt where we stand in the liberation struggles of our time. We stand with those who risk the anger of tyrants and their lives for the proposition that just government is derived from the consent of the governed; that all people are entitled to equal justice under the law.

Today, we stand with the millions of Iranians who brave batons, imprisonment and gunfire to have their voices heard and their votes counted. They do not ask us to arm them or come to their assistance with anything other than public declarations of solidarity, and public denunciations of the tyrants who oppress them.

We have a moral obligation to do so.

There are those among us who warn that a strong and unequivocal declaration of moral support for Iranians would be used by the cruel regime in power there to convince their subject people that the United States is behind the civil unrest they have attempted to hide from the world. But the regime will make that claim no matter what we say or do.

Do they really believe Iranians don’t know why they’re protesting and who is oppressing them? Do they think Iranians whose votes were discarded, whose voices have been ignored, whose lives have been threatened by the regime they wish to be rid of will think America has put them in that position; that the CIA caused a brave and idealistic young woman to step out of her car to join their protest, only to be instantly murdered by the henchmen of the regime?

Iranians know the truth. They know who is oppressing them and why. It’s a government that governs without their consent, which beats them, imprisons them and threatens their lives to preserve its own hold on power, and not to resist some imagined foreign enemy. 

They are not fools, these brave and determined Iranians. They are on the right side of history, and the cynics among us, who think them fools, are on the wrong side. Liberty and justice will someday be theirs. Let us hope they will have reason to remember then, who their friends were in their struggle for freedom.

This is John McCain, wishing you a happy and meaningful Fourth of July.    ###

The White House at Dawn

Weekly Remarks by President Barack Obama

Hello and Happy Fourth of July, everybody. This weekend is a time to get together with family and friends, kick back, and enjoy a little time off. And I hope that’s exactly what all of you do. But I also want to take a moment today to reflect on what I believe is the meaning of this distinctly American holiday.

Today, we are called to remember not only the day our country was born – we are also called to remember the indomitable spirit of the first American citizens who made that day possible.

We are called to remember how unlikely it was that our American experiment would succeed at all; that a small band of patriots would declare independence from a powerful empire; and that they would form, in the new world, what the old world had never known – a government of, by and for the people.

That unyielding spirit is what defines us as Americans. It is what led generations of pioneers to blaze a westward trail. It is what led my grandparents’ generation to persevere in the face of a Depression and triumph in the face of tyranny.

It is what led generations of American workers to build an industrial economy unrivalled around the world.
It is what has always led us, as a people, not to wilt or cower at a difficult moment, but to face down any trial and rise to any challenge, understanding that each of us has a hand in writing America’s destiny.

That is the spirit we are called to show once more. We are facing an array of challenges on a scale unseen in our time. We are waging two wars. We are battling a deep recession. And our economy – and our nation itself – are endangered by festering problems we have kicked down the road for far too long: spiraling health care costs; inadequate schools; and a dependence on foreign oil.

Meeting these extraordinary challenges will require an extraordinary effort on the part of every American. And that is an effort we cannot defer any longer.

Now is the time to lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity. Now is the time to revamp our education system, demand more from teachers, parents, and students alike, and build schools that prepare every child in America to out-compete any worker in the world.

Now is the time to reform an unsustainable health care system that is imposing crushing costs on families, businesses, large and small, and state and federal budgets. We need to protect what works, fix what’s broken, and bring down costs for all Americans. No more talk. No more delay. Health care reform must happen this year.

And now is the time to meet our energy challenge – one of the greatest challenges we have ever confronted as a people or as a planet. For the sake of our economy and our children, we must build on the historic bill passed by the House of Representatives, and make clean energy the profitable kind of energy so that we can end our dependence on foreign oil and reclaim America’s future.

These are some of the challenges that our generation has been called to meet. And yet, there are those who would have us try what has already failed; who would defend the status quo. They argue that our health care system is fine the way it is and that a clean energy economy can wait. They say we are trying to do too much, that we are moving too quickly, and that we all ought to just take a deep breath and scale back our goals.

These naysayers have short memories. They forget that we, as a people, did not get here by standing pat in a time of change. We did not get here by doing what was easy. That is not how a cluster of 13 colonies became the United States of America.

We are not a people who fear the future. We are a people who make it. And on this July 4th, we need to summon that spirit once more. We need to summon the same spirit that inhabited Independence Hall two hundred and thirty-three years ago today.

That is how this generation of Americans will make its mark on history. That is how we will make the most of this extraordinary moment. And that is how we will write the next chapter in the great American story. Thank you, and Happy Fourth of July.    ####

Photo credits: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times; Ron Edmonds / Associated Press.