In his first address to the General Assembly at the U.N. on Tuesday, President Biden mentioned “global” 17 times, and that comes as no surprise to this annual gathering of nations. And when he connected global to unity, diplomacy and world peace it had its deepest, most meaningful resonance.
He spoke passionately about the world’s collective future, citing the need to “ending this pandemic; addressing the climate crisis; managing the shifts in global power dynamics; shaping the rules of the world on vital issues like trade, cyber, and emerging technologies; and facing the threat of terrorism as it stands today.”
For the most part it was a standard speech that was careful not to miss any of the critical concerns facing the people of the world, though he gave considerable time and importance to the menacing COVID-19 and what needed to be done to curb its spread and devastation.
We must work together to save lives, Biden stressed, and to defeat the virus, “and take the necessary steps to prepare ourselves for the next pandemic where there will be another one, or when we fail to harness the tools at our disposal as more virulent and dangerous variants take hold.”
A similar resolve must be had together he said, “to meet the threat of challenging climate, the challenging climate we’re all feeling already ravaging every part of our world with extreme weather, or will we suffer the merciless march of ever-worsening droughts and floods, more intense fires and hurricanes, longer heatwaves, and rising seas?”
As expected, Biden asserted the United States’ continuing support to Israel’s security but added that he still believed a two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future “as a Jewish democratic state living in peace alongside a viable sovereign and democratic Palestinian state.”
That dream of harmony was symbolic of Biden’s call for an adherence to the U.N. Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He made this point even more direct with his promise to wage a relentless quest for diplomacy. “Simply put,” he said, “we stand, in my view, at an inflection point in history, and I’m here today to share with you how the United States intends to work with partners and allies to answer these questions and the commitment of my new administration to help lead the world toward a more peaceful, prosperous future for all people.”
The president mentioned Africa on several occasions, singling out Ethiopia and the conflict there and Zambia, which he said the young people there had harnessed the vote for the first time, perhaps dismissing the leadership by the presidents, particularly Kenneth Kaunda.
“We will lead not just with the example of our power,” Biden said near the end of his address, “but, God willing, with the power of our example.”
Many will hope that example will pertain in the equal dispensation of funds from the infrastructure bill and an immigration policy with clout and fairness for all.