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President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the dais behind him, on April 28, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images)

What If? A Speech for President Biden in These Dark Times

Could Biden lift the shadow of a world darkened by war, suffering and the looming threat of nuclear annihilation?

Jeff Vogel

The war in Ukraine continues to rage and threaten world peace with the dark shadow of a potential nuclear holocaust. Could President Biden lift that shadow? What if he dared to step before the cameras and address the nation — and the world — with words like these… 

My fellow Americans, I have been thinking long and hard about the situation in Ukraine. I now fear that the path we’ve been following risks a nuclear weapons exchange with consequences beyond comprehension. I am therefore changing course. We will continue sending humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian people, but, starting today, we will approach this crisis from a significantly different perspective.

That perspective requires no small amount of humility on our part. For far too long, our own nation has been guilty of doing exactly what we find so horrific about Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, with our disastrous invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq only the most recent examples. We have become, as a nation, what President Eisenhower’s extraordinary 1961 farewell address to our nation warned us about. We see the world through the lens of our military industrial complex.

Our failure to heed Eisenhower’s warning has left us with a military budget nearly as large as the rest of the world combined. We now stand as the largest supplier of weaponry to the rest of the world, and the wars these weapons wage have only one set of winners: the corporations that profit from the weaponry.

The weapons we make, of course, don’t just go to wars between nations, as the recent horrific mass murder shootings in New York,Texas and Illinois so horrifically remind us. We face a grisly, connected reality: On top of our gargantuan military budget, our nation has nearly as many guns as the rest of the world combined.

Our great nation can change this reality. We can advance the cause of world peace by setting a peaceful example ourselves. I am now asking Congress to reduce our military budget by 50 percent. The hundreds of billions saved will be directed at fighting the single gravest threat to our true security: the unfolding climate catastrophe now endangering our Earth’s life support systems.

We are all citizens of planet Earth. At this stage of human evolution, nationalism simply must combine with a deep planetary consciousness. We should be in the forefront of this urgently important expansion of humanity’s perspective. Our nation’s courageous Apollo 8 astronauts, remember, gave the world the magnificent and humbling first picture from space of our priceless planetary home.

Pope Francis, in his Laudato Si encyclical, calls upon all of us to defend God’s wondrous creation, Mother Earth. Over recent decades, our most far-sighted have asked us to make the rescue of our environment “the central organizing principle for civilization.” If we take words like these to heart, we may yet find a way to live in peace and harmony on this amazing spaceship we call planet Earth.

I hope the new approach I have outlined here may help inspire both sides in the war in Ukraine to establish a ceasefire and reach a negotiated settlement to end this terrible conflict. Only then will we be able to turn our full attention to the most crucial challenges all humanity faces.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Jeff Vogel

Jeff Vogel

Jeff Vogel, a retired respiratory therapist, sings for peace and justice with the New York City Labor Chorus.

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