I was listening in the background and only heard part of it (here’s the promised transcript), but Keith Olbermann had as his second-worst person in the world Brian Sussman, who was going after Obama for calling himself a citizen of the world. MSNBC’s stealth research department had the story first at MediaMatters.com, of course. Indeed, Reagan did use the phrase. Here’s the link to the entire speech at the United Nations. An excerpt:
Mr. Secretary-General, Mr. President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen:
I speak today as both a citizen of the United States and of the world. I come with the heartfelt wishes of my people for peace, bearing honest proposals and looking for genuine progress. . . .
America has no territorial ambitions. We occupy no countries, and we have built no walls to lock our people in. Our commitment to self-determination, freedom, and peace is the very soul of America. That commitment is as strong today as it ever was.
The United States has fought four wars in my lifetime. In each, we struggled to defend freedom and democracy. We were never the aggressors. America’s strength and, yes, her military power have been a force for peace, not conquest; for democracy, not despotism; for freedom, not tyranny. Watching, as I have, succeeding generations of American youth bleed their lives onto far-flung battlefields to protect our ideals and secure the rule of law, I have known how important it is to deter conflict. But since coming to the Presidency, the enormity of the responsibility of this office has made my commitment even deeper. I believe that responsibility is shared by all of us here today.
On our recent trip to Europe, my wife, Nancy, told me of a bronze statue, 22 feet high, that she saw on a cliff on the coast of France. The beach at the base of the cliff is called Saint Laurent, but countless American family Bibles have written it in on the flyleaf and know it as Omaha Beach. The pastoral quiet of that French countryside is in marked contrast to the bloody violence that took place there on a June day 38 years ago when the Allies stormed the Continent. At the end of just one day of battle, 10,500 Americans were wounded, missing, or killed in what became known as the Normandy landing.
The statue atop that cliff is called “The Spirit of American Youth Rising From the Waves.” Its image of sacrifice is almost too powerful to describe.
The pain of war is still vivid in our national memory. It sends me to this special session of the United Nations eager to comply with the plea of Pope Paul VI when he spoke in this chamber nearly 17 years ago. “If you want to be brothers,” His Holiness said, “let the arms fall from your hands.” Well, we Americans yearn to let them go. But we need more than mere words, more than empty promises before we can proceed.
We look around the world and see rampant conflict and aggression. There are many sources of this conflict — expansionist ambitions, local rivalries, the striving to obtain justice and security. We must all work to resolve such discords by peaceful means and to prevent them from escalation.
Anyone who thinks that Obama’s use of the phrase and Reagan’s use of the phrase were identical needs to seek immediate medical attention, as the speeches could not have been more different.
UPDATE: Transcript link added.