My fellow Americans

1.- An End To Extreme Poverty

Our generation's unique challenge is to live peacefully and sustainably on a crowded planet. I commit America to work with all the world to end extreme poverty in our generation, convert to sustainable energy and ecosystem use, and stabilise the world's population by 2050, before our numbers and resource demands overwhelm the planet and our fragile capacity to co-operate. Our wars are distractions from these challenges; today's enemies will become tomorrow's partners in shared prosperity.

By Jeffrey Sachs, professor of economics and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also a special adviser to United Nations secretary-general on the millennium development goals.

2.- No More Arms Races

The cold war ended nearly 20 years ago. We and our adversaries no longer target each other. More and more we need to join hands to tackle threats facing the whole world: financial disarray, climate change, diseases, nuclear proliferation, and terrorists or governments acting erratically. The US must remain militarily strong but will gain in security and save sorely needed resources by avoiding new arms races and reaching global agreements on arms control.

By Hans Blix, head of UN inspections in Iraq in 2003.

3.- Let Science Inform Faith

It is my profound hope that in the years to come, we may find ourselves united in love of our shared home, not only defence of the homeland; in reverence for the constitution, not merely obeisance to the nation-state; in collaborative debate as well as decisive action; and in peace, not only pacification. Let us also ensure that science informs our faith, and that our faith not be blind to the rich diversity of community and human need.

By Patricia Wiliams, a professor of law at Columbia University, New York.

4.- Creating Opportunity In Crisis

In the midst of crisis, we can prime the credit pump and push consumers back into the mall. Or we can turn the fiscal disaster into an opportunity to change habits and attitudes and create a new and green sustainable economy; encourage saving not spending; invest in education and culture; lower energy consumption and slow growth; give government help to homeowners and job-holders, rather than banks and corporations. We should put our pain to the purposes of birthing a new democratic civil society in which the economy serves us, not the other way round.

By Benjamin Barber, the author of Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults and Swallow Citizens Whole.

5.- Influence Trumps Force

In international affairs, I will always bear in mind the words of George Kennan, neglected prophet of cold war America, who believed our nation would exercise its greatest influence by manifesting civilised values rather than by trying to impose them on others through military force: any message we try to bring to others will be effective only if it is in accord with what we are to ourselves, and if this is something sufficiently impressive to compel the respect and confidence of a world which, despite all its material difficulties, is still more ready to recognise and respect spiritual distinction than material opulence.

By Pankaj Mishra, an Indian author and writer of literary and political essays.

6.- A Commitment To Peaceful Multilateralism

I commit my administration to peaceful multilateralism. Politically, the US will not resort to military intervention until all other solutions have been explored. I will work for lasting and just peace in the Middle East, beginning with quick action to stop the carnage in Gaza. Economically, we will strongly back international moves to regulate finance, to make trade less unequal and to allow greater policy autonomy for developing countries. My government's fiscal stimulus package will be oriented to making production and consumption patterns within the US more sustainable and will address problems of excessive resource use and climate change.

By Jayati Ghosh, professor of Economics at JawaharlalNehru university, New Delhi, and the executive secretary of International Development Economics Associates (IDEAS)

7.- Redress For Criminal Wars

My fellow human beings, I pledge on this historic day that the US will cease its multiple acts of aggression against humanity and withdraw immediately from Iraq, Afghanistan and 770 military bases around the world. I will instruct the international criminal court that the US no longer shuns its authority and have instructed that 30 names from the Bush administration be submitted for immediate prosecution.

By John Pilger, a war correspondent, film-maker and author.

8.- Just Treatment For Prisioners

Much can be known about a country by the way it treats its prisoners. If there is a disparity between the values that we say we stand for and our actions internationally then we have become a dissonant society that does not practise what it preaches. We must stand for what we believe in: a society that cares about all people. There can be no reconciliation with and redemption for those we have inhumanely incarcerated, wrongfully imprisoned and tortured without truth-telling and justice. Only then will we have the energy to go forward and, by example, work to shift the world in real ways because we have clean hands.

By Saffron Burrows, an English actress and former fashion model.

9.- We All To Accept Blame For The Financial Crisis

Right here and now I'd like you all to stop placing all the blame for the current mess on my predecessor. Every last one of you who bought a house in the past 10 years knew that the whole thing was a scam, that the inflated value of your house was the result of the subprime con-job. Every single one of you who invested in the stockmarket knew the whole thing was a house of cards, that when stocks are trading at 40 times current earnings the market is rigged. Every last one of you tolerated George Bush when he made you rich, just as our British friends tolerated Maggie Thatcher and Tony Blair and only turned against them when things started to go south. The fault lies not in the stars nor in the yellow rose of Texas, dear Brutus. It lies in us.

By Joe Queenan, a cultural critic and movie reviewer, living in New York City.

10.- A Middle East Resolution

Although it will be difficult to make a decisive break with the policies of the past administration in the Middle East, I intend to do so. Without a solution to the Palestinian problem, no stable or promising future in this region will be possible, including long-term security for Israel. I hope my Jewish fellow Americans recognise that the major obstacle to such a solution is the unwillingness of Israel to accept a viable Palestinian state. Since Israel is largely dependent on the US, I propose to exercise pressure to change Israel's policies.

By Eric Hobsbawn, British Marxist historian and author.

11.- Change Must Come From All

And to the people who brought me to the presidency: remember that it was your power that gave me mine and that it is now your task not to surrender that power, either by believing that I will do the work of forming a more perfect union and a more just society for you, or by believing that your goal has been accomplished. I will be your president, but you must be my civil society, pushing me onward to the radical changes we need to make. Hope in me, but do not trust me; make me.

By Rebecca Solnit, an activist and cultural historian.

12.- Without Justice For Women, There Is Justice For None

I would like to affirm the words of my new secretary of state at her confirmation hearings: of particular concern to me is the plight of women – the majority of the world's unhealthy, unschooled, unfed and unpaid. Violence against women, within their families and from the outside: this is not culture. This is not custom. This is criminal. If half the world's population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal, and social marginalisation, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity is in serious jeopardy. The US must be an unequivocal, unwavering voice in support of women's rights in every country on every continent.

By Robin Morgan, a co-founder of The Women's Media Center.

13.- Impose A Two-State Solution

After 1967, the Arab mainstream said: no peace, no recognition, no negotiations. The Israeli mainstream said: no PLO state, no "internationalisation of the conflict", no imposed solution.
Five of those noes have gone. They've become the province of extremists, enemies of peace. These very days, Israel urges the return of PLO rule to Gaza, and of international forces to its border. My administration, committed to Israel's security and to Palestinian independence, will use its best endeavours to impose a solution – the two-state solution that all sane people want – on the two nations. And I will expect and assist both to impose it on their respective enemies of peace.

By David Landau, recently stepped down as editor of Haaretz and is now a member of the editorial board.

14.- Leading By Moral Example

To the rest of the world, I say that we are your friend. The US has been most successful when it has led by moral example, not by coercion or force. In the coming years we will hew to this standard. I am as resolved to isolate and defeat our enemies as any American could be - no one should misunderstand that - we will do that best when we adhere to our highest principles; that's when the people of the world will see most clearly that our way - freedom of speech and worship, equality for women, the rule of law - is the best way, and the people of America will see those striving people across the world as brothers and sisters in the fight for liberty and dignity.

By Michael Tomasky, the editor of Guardian America.

15.- The Lesson Of Lassie

A joke the late, great Lenny Bruce used to tell is: "What's the difference - in a movie - between Lassie and a black man? At the end of the movie, Lassie lives." In other words, the dog who didn't talk got a chance to serve another day. That's the way it was, and there are many of you in this audience today who know the deep meaning of Bruce's joke, and who know what I mean. Now I can't say that that movie is quite over yet... but the credits are well and truly rolling!

By Bonnie Greer, a playwright, author and critic based in London.

16.- Seek Economic Development, Not Fraud And Fiction

The conventional wisdom is that more regulation and better ethics would have prevented this economic apocalypse. But it's a mistake to believe that either one offers perfect protection. In the wake of Enron, Congress enacted new rules. Sarbanes Oxley did nothing to prevent the current crisis, because regulation tends to be a modern Maginot line. As for the oxymoron of corporate ethics, put faith in that at your peril. What might work? Change the incentives. Reward our business leaders when they build companies that are successful over the long term. Make it more difficult for fortunes to be made on the backs of short-term profits that turn out to be totally illusory. Then you might get real economic development, not fraud and fiction.

By Bethany McLean, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and co-author of The Smartest Guys in the Room.

17.- It's Time To Re-Imagine America

America is today something the Founding Fathers could never imagine. It is not enough to say we will torture no more. We won't. It is not enough to say Guantánamo must close. It will. It is not enough to say no more wars based on lies. Those wars will end. But these are things we stand against. What do we stand for? Free healthcare, for all. Free education, for all. A living wage for honest work. The development of wind and solar power. The shoring-up of our infrastructure. It is time to re-imagine America.

By Jonathan Farley, a professor of mathematics at the California Institute of Technology.

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