The message Barack Obama delivered to the United Nations Wednesdaywas one of his trademark clarion calls, a well-argued and delivered speech. It detailed the world's challenges and argued that neither we nor other members of the UN can afford to ignore them: global poverty, health and infrastructure, climate, education, the aggression of nations and, topmost in our thoughts, violent extremism.
Obama delivered a vision of the United States and other stable nations united in addressing every major obstacle. It was a message of exceptionalism in direct opposition to the isolationism many Americans craved after our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. It came as we sense that our lack of commitment in stopping Russia's aggression in the Ukraine and supporting moderate opponents of the Assad regime in Syria may have been mistakes. And Obama delivered the message as our nation, as part of a coalition, delivers bombs in Iraq and Syria to destroy terrorists destabilizing the region and the world.
Foremost in his message was an attempt to make leaders of nations that sponsor terrorism and align themselves in a "network of death" understand that teaching children hatred and violence will eventually destabilize every nation's security. That it was a superb speech is not surprising: Obama has long shown the ability to deliver such messages when attention is high. What he has shown less often is an ability to quietly focus on addressing these thorny policy issues day in and day out, when attention is not high.
It's the grinding, incremental work of consistently pursuing goals that changes the world. And with two years left in Obama's presidency, that's what the nation and world need from him.