President Obama, addressing an audience in Estonia, turned to the rhetorical flourishes that helped him so much during his rise to political power in the United States.
“I say to all of you here today, especially the young people, do not give into that cynicism,” Obama said during a speech in Tallinn, the Estonian capital. “Do not lose the idealism and optimism that is the root of all great change. Don’t ever lose the faith that says, if we want it, if we are willing to work for it, if we stand together, the future can be different; tomorrow can be better.”
Obama has been waging the war on cynicism for awhile. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow praised a 2012 campaign speech as a “cynicism eraser,” and he teed up the subject in his victory speech when he won reelection in November 2012.
“We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe,” Obama said. “We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America.”
It’s not all the way erased, though, as he acknowledged during a July trip to Minnesota
“It’s easy to be cynical; in fact, these days it’s kind of trendy,” Obama said. “Cynicism passes off for wisdom. But cynicism doesn’t liberate a continent. . . . Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice.”
During Wednesday’s speech, Obama promised that the United States would protect Estonia from Russian aggression, adding that the U.S. also stands with Ukraine.
“Now, Ukraine needs more than words,” he said. “NATO needs to make concrete commitments to help Ukraine modernize and strengthen its security forces.”
Obama has refused to give the Ukrainians weapons that they could use to fight Russian forces destabilizing their country.
A prominent Senate Democrat called for Obama to change that policy. “There are those in Europe and elsewhere who [say], you know, we don’t want to provoke Putin,” Senator Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez of New Jersey said Sunday on CNN. “Well, Putin doesn’t need provocation. In this case weakness is a greater provocation for Putin to act.”