Urging a common effort to restructure the world economy and rebuild international alliances, President Barack Obama did not hesitate on Friday to call out his own country for "arrogant" patriotism and Europe for "insidious" anti-Americanism.
"In America, there is a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive. But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual, but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what is bad. On both sides of the Atlantic, these attitudes have become all too common. They are not wise. They do not represent the truth. They threaten to widen the divide across the Atlantic and leave us both more isolated. They fail to acknowledge the fundamental truth that America cannot confront the challenges of this century alone, but that Europe cannot confront them without America."
These were, perhaps, the sharpest and most condemning words that Obama offered to the largely adoring crowd. Speaking at a town hall meeting in France, the president outlined and pledged a new internationalism, one forged on commitments from disparate nations and melded around common interests. In this frame, he pledged a united front tackling climate change, the war in Afghanistan, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the global financial crisis. He also noted several changes that his administration has already made that put American more in line with international sentiment. The list included the impending closure of Guantanamo Bay and the outlawing of torture, both of which -- when announced -- drew great applause from the crowd. "America is changing," he declared at one point, "but it cannot be America alone that changes."
Time and again, however, he reverted to need to move beyond divisions that had marked the presidency prior to his. Stressing a "renewed relationship for a new generation" his speech brought the crowd to applause on several occasions.
"It's more difficult to break down walls of division than to simply allow our differences to build and our resentments to fester," he said. "So we must be honest with ourselves. In recent years, we've allowed our alliance to drift. I know that there have been honest disagreements over policy, but we also know that there is something more that has crept into our relationship... This is our generation, this is our time, and I am confident that we can meet any challenges as long as we are together."