State of the Union, in Dutch

Americans tend to think of the State of the Union as our singular event. But while it is a special night, it’s not unique. In fact, leaders around the world deliver a yearly address in which they step onto the podium to score points, lay out agendas and offer up a flourish or two. So how does American rhetoric measure up? Read the following excerpts (taken from official transcripts and translations of speeches given in the last few months), listen to the president tonight and then decide.

President Dmitri Medvedev
Address to the Federal Assembly
Nov. 12, 2009 (11,944 words)

Citizens of Russia… the foundation of my vision for the future is the firm conviction that Russia can and must become a global power on a completely new basis. Our country’s prestige and national prosperity cannot rest forever on past achievements. After all, the oil and gas production facilities that generate most of our budget revenue, the nuclear weapons that guarantee our security, and our industrial and utilities infrastructure — most of this was built by Soviet specialists. In other words, it was not we who built it. It is still keeping our country afloat today, but it is rapidly depreciating both morally and physically. The time has come for today’s generation of Russians to make their mark ….

Today we are talking about modernization — this is the essential aspect of my address today — about our desire to be modern. We must remember of course that modernity is a fluid notion. It is not a final stage of progress at which point you can rest and relax, as we say — quite the contrary. A truly modern society is the one that seeks constant renewal, continuous evolutionary transformation of social practices, democratic institutions, visions of the future….

I note that in August this year, Russia registered its natural population increase for the first time in the last 15 years. This growth is still only small — just 1,000 people — but still, it is an increase nonetheless. This result was achieved above all thanks to the National Project on Health and the new demographic policy we have been implementing….

Go, Russia!

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg
New Year’s Address
Jan. 1, 2010 (2,045 words)

Among the first public buildings we know of from the earliest civilizations are granaries. They were used to provide emergency relief in years when crops failed. We remember the story of Joseph advising Pharaoh to build up a store of grain because the seven good years would be followed by seven years of famine. This is ancient wisdom: we should save when times are good so as to be prepared for hard times.

Over the last year, the world has experienced the most severe economic crisis since the 1930s.

This international crisis has also affected Norway. We have a small, open economy, and half of what we produce is sold abroad. When export markets disappear, people at home are hit. Some of those who used to manufacture car components, smelt aluminum or build ships lost their jobs because people abroad stopped buying these goods.

Losing a job is first and foremost a blow for the person concerned. But unemployment also harms the community. With fewer people producing goods, there is less to go round. During this crisis, we have injected a great deal of extra funds to keep the wheels in motion. We have been able to spend more during these difficult times because we were careful when times were good. In this respect, you could say that we have followed the advice Joseph gave to Pharaoh, albeit in a rather different way. The Egyptians built granaries. We built the Government Pension Fund Global.

Queen Elizabeth II
Speech From the Throne
Nov. 18, 2009 (735 words)

My lords and members of the House of Commons, my government’s overriding priority is to ensure sustained growth to deliver a fair and prosperous economy for families and businesses as the British economy recovers from the global economic downturn….

The Duke of Edinburgh and I look forward to our visit to Bermuda and our state visit to Trinidad and Tobago and to the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in this, the Commonwealth’s 60th anniversary year. We also look forward to receiving the president of South Africa next year. …

My government will continue to work closely with the devolved administrations in the interests of all the people of the United Kingdom. My government is committed to the Northern Ireland political process and will continue to work with Northern Ireland’s leaders to complete the devolution of policing and justice and to ensure its success.

In Scotland, my government will take forward proposals in the final report from the Commission on Scottish Devolution. My government will continue to devolve more powers to Wales….

My government will work for security, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and for peace in the Middle East. Legislation will be brought forward to ban cluster munitions….

My lords and members of the House of Commons, I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

The Netherlands
Queen Beatrix
Speech From the Throne
Sept. 15, 2009 (1,574 words)

Members of the States-General … the economic recession has exposed ethical shortcomings in the way market and society operate. The government has identified flaws in the financial sector both inside and outside the Netherlands, and drawn up proposals for stricter standards and better supervision. Binding agreements will be made on limiting excessive salaries and bonuses.

In these difficult times, the government believes it is important to continue working toward a society in which people feel a sense of togetherness, respect one another and share responsibility. A good upbringing and good education are the foundation of responsible citizenship.

Over the past two years, the government has taken measures to promote social cohesion, safety and security, stability and mutual respect. A persistent, multiyear approach is required to achieve results. The government will therefore continue to devote special attention to youth and young people, civic integration and vulnerable neighborhoods in the big cities.

The lack of integration of certain groups in society, widespread disrespectful and offensive behavior in public places and criminal behavior by groups of young people are stubborn problems that cause a great deal of annoyance. The government is therefore not only taking consistent action against offenders but also tackling the causes of unacceptable behavior.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
State of the Nation Address
July 27, 2009 (4,373 words)

A few days ago Moody’s upgraded our credit rating, citing the resilience of our economy. The state of our nation is a strong economy. Good news for our people, bad news for our critics.

I did not become president to be popular. To work, to lead, to protect and preserve our country, our people — that is why I became president. When my father left the presidency, we were second to Japan. I want our republic to be ready for the first world in 20 years…. To those who want to be president, this advice: If you really want something done, just do it. Do it hard, do it well. Don’t pussyfoot. Don’t pander. And don’t say bad words in public. …

We inherited the longest-running communist insurgency in the world. Leah de la Cruz is one of 12,000 rebel returnees. She was only 16 when she joined the New People’s Army…. She was captured in 2006. She is now involved in an L.G.U.-supported handicraft livelihood training of former rebels. We love you, Leah!…

We inherited an age-old conflict in Mindanao, exacerbated by a politically popular but near-sighted policy of massive retaliation…. There is nothing more that I would wish for than peace in Mindanao. It will be a blessing for all its people, Muslim, Christian and indigenous peoples. It will show other religiously divided communities that there can be common ground on which to live together in peace, harmony and cooperation.

South Africa
President Jacob Zuma
State of the Nation Address
June 3, 2009 (4,545 words)

Fellow South Africans …since 1994 we have sought to create a united cohesive society out of our fragmented past. We are called upon to continue this mission of promoting unity in diversity. … We must develop a common attachment to our country, our Constitution and the national symbols. In this spirit, we will promote the national anthem and our country’s flag and all other national symbols.

Our children, from an early age, must be taught to pay allegiance to the Constitution and the national symbols, and know what it means to be South African citizens. …

Sport is a powerful nation-building tool. Working together we must support all our national teams from Bafana Bafana to the Proteas and the Springboks; from Banyana Banyana to Paralympians.

Our teams can only do well with our support. Allow me to use this opportunity to congratulate our national teams for their performances in the past week, indeed in pulling off a hat trick. The country’s women’s netball team has done us proud by winning the Tri-Nations Netball Challenge. Congratulations to the Sevens Springboks who have become the I.R.B. Sevens World Series champions — and not forgetting the Blue Bulls who have won the Super 14 finals in a convincing fashion!

We take this opportunity to wish the Springboks well in the upcoming series against the British and Irish Lions.