Last summer I was privileged to join President Obama, then Senator Obama, on his second visit to Israel. I followed him as he studied each wall at Yad Vashem. I looked on from a distance as he slipped a personal prayer into the stones of the Western Wall, the Kotel. I witnessed the courage and endurance of the citizens of Sderot and touched the remnants of the countless Hamas rockets that are their ever-present terror.
This week, I am back in Israel representing the Administration at a conference hosted by President Peres and meeting with key Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
I carried a message from our President about a vision of the world that lies within our grasp — if we have the courage to seize it.
The right place to start is with a common vision—not of some distant future but of the world we seek for our children and our grandchildren. Our view of that world is rooted in a truth that my nation has long held to be self-evident: and that is that all people are created equal—of equal worth, of equal consequence, and with equal rights.
This is a belief that’s deeply rooted in the American experience, but it’s also one with universal power. We cannot afford to write off vast swathes of the world as somehow marginal or irrelevant or doomed. We wouldn’t tolerate it for our own children, and we shouldn’t accept it for someone else’s. The belief that we all matter equally carries powerful implications. It means that no child should be left to drown in conflict and despair. It means that, in a moral sense, all of our fates are bound together.
But this bedrock belief in human equality and human dignity also has powerful geopolitical implications in our interconnected age. It drives us toward a foreign policy that is principled and pragmatic—one that recognizes not only the moral claim placed upon us by our common humanity, but also the strategic realities that we face in our interlinked world. Today, transnational security threats such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, pandemics, and climate change can cross borders as freely as a storm. So the days when we could view our own interests in isolation are over. The days when we could focus on our own security and prosperity without regard for that of others are past. More and more, our fates are bound closer together. More and more, we live in a world where we rise and fall together, where zero-sum politics no longer fit today’s hard realities, where what’s good for others is often good for us.
A realistic view of the world thus requires an ambitious approach to the world. We must tackle the great problems that we face together. We must find cooperative solutions to challenges that pay no heed to borders. We must think strategically rather than just acting tactically. And we must recognize that there is a growing sphere where our interests and our values converge.
[Ed. Note: Click here to read the full speech delivered by Ambassador Rice at the Israeli Presidential Conference 2009, Facing Tomorrow, Jerusalem]
Susan E. Rice is the United States Ambassador to the United Nations